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I was recently asked to review a paper, and ended up recommending a rejection of the paper. The journal has, apparently, asked the authors to revise their paper, and the journal has come back to me asking me to review the revised paper. There is, however, no option offered for me to decline. I will likely recommend rejection again as I see that the main problem with the paper is still not addressed. What should I do in this case? Should I write to the journal that I am not willing to review this paper again, or should I go ahead with the review and recommend rejection for the second time? Since I need to provide my comments to the authors again, what should I write while still being constructive? This was my first time recommending a rejection.

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It's probably good that you were re-invited to review the paper. It'd be worse to have someone who doesn't see your objection review the paper on the second round and weaken your confidence in the review process! –  Matthew G. Feb 27 at 17:44
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2 Answers

up vote 19 down vote accepted

This has happened to me a couple times. As Peter Jansson has pointed out, what probably happened is that, while you recommended rejection, reviewers 2 and 3 said "it's actually publishable if the authors solve such-and-such problems". This is the kind of situation where a sympathetic editor will make a "revise and resubmit" decision.

In this particular case, you have it easy. Just write a very short review along the lines of "in my first review, I recommended rejection of this article because of [problem that made you recommend rejection]. As the authors have not addressed this problem, I'm regrettably forced to maintain my previous evaluation".

[FWIW, one of the times I reviewed a paper like this, the journal actually ended up publishing the paper in question, with the problematic section still exactly as it was when I reviewed and rejected it. Go figure]

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I am actually able to see the other reviewer's recommendation, which was major revision. But yes, I understand that the editor is free to make his decision. –  adipro Feb 27 at 21:46
The suggested comment is helpful, but would you write the same comment to the authors as to the editors? It does sound hard for the authors. –  adipro Feb 27 at 23:31
You can pretty up the comment a little: "In my first review, I wrote the following about the paper ... , which I viewed as grounds for rejection. In this version of the paper in X, Y, and Z, my concerns were not addressed. As such, I cannot recommend this paper for publication." Note that as part of the review process most journals require authors to submit a "response to reviewer comments" letter, so you should also check that to see what their justification for leaving the changes in are. In direct answer to your question, I would not refuse unless you're super busy & can't turn in a review. –  Irwin Feb 27 at 23:53
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That the paper was not rejected probably depends on the second (or more) reviewers comments. I would consider it normal to ask if reviewers wish to review the paper again. That you were still asked may be a mistake, most electronic systems would require you to make a decision on that point. There may also be a flaw since a rejected paper would not need a second review and the paper was not rejected based on your suggestion. One can only speculate. I would consider it only fair to write to the editors and state that you are not interested in re-reviewing the manuscript. You could state that your impression is that a similar result would be likely were you to do the job. But, honestly, why you decline the review is no-ones business and you should have been asked before being faced with the task.

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Do you not think that a brief review along the lines suggested by Koldito in his answer (posted a few hours after yours) is a better option than just refusing to re-review? –  David Richerby Feb 27 at 23:25
Whether you want to review or not is a personal question. If you have the time and want to provide information to the editors, that is of course gratefully received by the editors. But, there is no better or worse way as see it. Just because you get a request you have no obligation to put more work into it. Most people will, in my experience, provide more than a "No thanks" in a reply. –  Peter Jansson Feb 28 at 8:49
OK. It's just that, in this case, the reviewer has already put in enough effort to conclude that the paper should be rejected, so the only work remaining to do is to write the one-sentence review, "I recommend the paper be rejected because the reasons I previously gave for rejecting have not been addressed." That seems to be no more effort than declining to re-review. –  David Richerby Feb 28 at 13:08
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