When a manuscript is submitted to an academic journal, it generally undergoes peer review. That is, the manuscript is read by other researchers who rate the quality of the manuscript, suggest improvements, etc. Based on these peer reviews, the editor of the journal then either rejects the paper, or accepts it for publication, usually after one or two rounds of revision.
A thorny question in this process is whether reviewers should remain anonymous, or whether they should disclose their identity by signing their reviews. There's a wide-spread belief that signing reviews is dangerous, because authors may not appreciate your critical comments, and may even retaliate, for example by trashing your manuscript when it's their turn to review. This would be especially dangerous for early-career researchers, who don't have permanent positions, and are therefore vulnerable to career damage.
A few days ago, Hilda Bastian voiced this concern in a blog post. I feel that her post is somewhat alarmist, in the sense that it starts from the assumption that signing reviews is indeed dangerous. (Although she also points out that it can in some cases help to build a reputation.)
And this prompted me to share my own experiences here.
Robert De Niro as an easily offended author.
I have signed all of my reviews, starting from the very first one, which I believe was in 2011 when I was still a junior PhD student. Since then I've reviewed about 100 manuscripts and grant proposals, most of them undergoing multiple rounds …