In order to ensure the widest range of high-quality content, users are able submit their content in three ways:
- Under their real name. This is exactly what it sounds like. If the user is Sally Jones, her name will show up as the author of the the relevant review or comment (or any other content).
- Anonymously. In this case, the author of Sally's submission will only be listed as 'Anonymous'. Any user can post anonymously.
- Under an Alias. An alias is a pseudonym or username that is uniquely associated with an actual user, but is not required to be their real name. This can be used to protect the user's identity. For example, Sally might choose the name "SuperSynth" to be her alias. This alias will then be uniquely associated with her submissions - only she can post under that name. The difference here is that both the Alias and the real user will have their own profile pages.
Why would you provide provide users the option to hide their identity?
While we believe it's important to make sure people don't misrepresent themselves, we believe it's also important to make sure people feel comfortable posting information that - while scientifically accurate - might be politically sensitive. For example, a grad student might want to critique their professor's work (or vice versa), but for some reason may be uncomfortable doing so. By allowing users to post anonymously or under an alias, we hope people feel comfortable posting the highest-quality content possible. (It should be clear, however, that we will not tolerate personal attacks.)
If people can hide their identity, what's to keep them from just negatively rating papers of people they don't like?
First, if you've read how we calculate the aggregate ratings for papers and reviews, you know that if tends to be a particularly nice or harsh rater in general, we take that into account when combining their ratings with others. You also know that we have ways to identify when a user seems to rate a given author particularly nicely or harshly relative to others and have ways of determining when we think this might be unfair bias versus just an honest difference of opinion. (While we try to err on the side of transparency in terms of how we do things, there are somethings - like how we try to detect personal bias or vendetta - that we don't share, when sharing might help people 'hack' the system and get around the very thing we're trying to avoid).
In terms of anonymous or alias submissions, therefore, the main point to understand is that, even when someone posts under an alias or anonymously, those submissions are still tied to that user's account in our database. Because of that, we are still able to use all of the same quality-assurance techniques, regardless of how the user posts.
Second, if you've ready about how we calculate user ratings on their profile page, you know that, if we find someone intentionally trying to unfairly boost or damage someone's score, it will negatively affect that user's karma points and therefore their overall score and may ban them from the site. Again, because all the accounts are tied to the real user on the backend, any bad behavior a user engages in anonymously or under an alias will negatively affect their user rating on their 'real' profile page.