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(My field is Computer Science, where conference publications are the norm.)

I reviewed a paper submitted to conference A six months ago. The paper was borderline, and was eventually rejected. I wrote a reasonably lengthy review.

I've now been asked to review a re-submission of the same paper from the same authors for conference B. At first glance, the differences between the versions A and B are quite minor.

While I would have no problem reviewing the re-submission, I am worried about any bias (real or potential) that could occur from having access to a previous version of the work. This may be seen as preventing version B from standing on its own merits and having a "fair" shot at this conference.

It's possible that my review of paper B will have the same comments as paper A, or at the very least my review will be written in a similar style. As such, while the reviewers are anonymous, it's quite possible the authors will realize the same person reviewed the two versions of the paper.

Should I accept this review, or suggest an alternative referee?

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Yes, accept. You can start your review by stating:

I reviewed version A of this paper @ [previous conference]. The differences between versions A and B are quite minor. My review remains largely unchanged:

You can then provide a revision of your previous review.

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    Is there a chance that this will bias acceptance at B - since you are telling them A rejected the work already? – anything Apr 17 '18 at 10:19
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    @anything Reviewers write reviews independently, so the OP's review will not bias other reviews (before the discussion phase). I like to think that there is no bias during the discussion phase either, but perhaps that's optimistic... I suppose any such bias could be avoided by providing just a revision of the previous review, but then the authors might think the OP's review is lazy, because it is largely copy-and-paste, whereas the above opening makes the OP's position clear. – user2768 Apr 17 '18 at 10:26
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    "I reviewed version A of this paper @ [previous conference]. " Careful there, this has a high risk of revealing the identity of the PC member who assigned the review. – lighthouse keeper Apr 17 '18 at 11:16
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    @lighthousekeeper The list of PC members isn't secret and I don't see how providing the text of a previous review reveals any information at all about which PC members might have handled the paper. – David Richerby Apr 17 '18 at 15:07
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    @user2768 Now we're just going round in circles. Who cares about the identity of the PC member? And who cares about preventing people from making deductions when everybody should know that those deductions are false? I really don't see where you're coming from. – David Richerby Apr 17 '18 at 16:24
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Did you receive the full manuscript or just an abstract when you were invited to review? In some fields, potential reviewers are sent the abstract alone, and based on this they choose whether to review. Only if the reviewers who consent are sent the full manuscript.

If this matches your case, you should go ahead and review. If not, consider the following:

(1) Did most of your review comments in the first review deal with accuracy and use of good scientific methods?, or,

(2) Did most of your review comments in the first review deal with originality, scope and relevance?

If the answer to (1) is yes, then you should review, and mention your previous review as suggested by @user2768. The reason is simple- if there are factual mistakes, they ought to be pointed out, irrespective of history. In fact, it shows that the authors are trying to conceal mistakes/shortcomings and hoping to get lucky with a lenient review.

If the answer to (2) is yes, then maybe forget about the first review, and evaluate how different the two conferences are. It is possible that one may demand greater originality and the other may demand greater rigour, and so on. Similarly, scope and relevance expectations could be quite different. If you find yourself unable to evaluate this, possibly you are being biased by your previous review, and you should consider declining the review. Otherwise, by all means, accept the assignment.

  • In both cases I received the full paper with the review request. Most of the comments were about originality (2), and since both conferences are relatively similar, I worry that my second review would be similar to the first since the two paper versions are similar. – Felix Apr 18 '18 at 7:46
  • If its an originality issue, and a borderline case, I think I would give the benefit of doubt and let it pass on to another reviewer (i.e. refuse to review). Probably depends on how strongly you feel about the (lack of) originality - if you have a strong opinion, put it forward, if ambivalent, refuse to review. – user153812 Apr 18 '18 at 9:22

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