I am a Ph.D. student. My supervisor frequently tells me if you want to do a review for journals, login into my account and perform the review. He never reviews any paper. He is very lazy and I have to do all of the submission of my articles into journal system myself using his account.

A while ago, I wanted to check a journal and I saw a pending invitation for review from a famous researcher, which I love his works very much, as associate editor of that journal. I accepted review and downloaded manuscript. I read the manuscript and wrote a detailed review of it, six pages long!. I recommended a major revision. It takes a lot of my time to read the references and perform the review. In my review, I suggested a set of improvements to the authors which I think will help them improve their work.

Today, I wanted to submit the review using my supervisor account. I suddenly noticed that my supervisor submitted a review. I am very upset as it took much of my time to perform this task. I read his review, a very short note to reject the manuscript, less than half a page long. Other anonymous reviewers recommended a minor revision.

What should I do? Is there any way to make the best use of my review? not to waste my time.

Disclaimer: Please don't be so judgmental. Assume someone in such a situation. He didn't know it is unethical not even a bit until asked this question. He even guesses his supervisor himself not knows this. Since there was never any evil intention by any of them.

Here we want to ask questions and consult/educate ourselves from members; not judging people. He just worked hard to help some other researchers and nothing else. Not a first-year Ph.D. student.

  • 37
    You used your supervisor's account to review a manuscript under his name without his knowledge - and now you are upset??? This is a serious misconduct on your part, and if I were your supervisor I would probably stop my supervision (if possible).
    – Bitwise
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 11:35
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    No, He frequently wanted me to do so. He granted me the full authority for this tasks.
    – user85361
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 11:36
  • 8
    He wants you to login to his account, accept reviews and submit reviews all without his knowledge?
    – Bitwise
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 11:38
  • 95
    That is ethically questionable on so many levels.
    – MHL
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 12:04
  • 7
    Yes. He is forcing us to submit our manuscripts from his account since this is our university rule that corresponding author must be faculty members. Otherwise, they didn't accept our paper for graduation.
    – user85361
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 12:38

4 Answers 4


I understand that this proxy review may be a cultural norm where you are. Nevertheless, it is considered malpractice in many places, and admitting to doing this can land you in trouble. Keep that in mind, because a publisher like Elsevier is massively cross-cultural, so they may take umbrage to something like this if it is reported.

Now, coming to what you get out of it. Your learning has happened anyway; I'm sure you expanded your understanding by reading all the references etc. At no point were you getting any credit for it - certainly not from journal, probably not from supervisor (I understand this particular review was not done with his knowledge). So there's no reason to be upset. I would suggest conserving your energies. If anything, you could show your supervisor your review, just so he knows how hard you worked. But if he is as lazy and uninterested as the question makes him sound, he may dismiss it.

Bottom line is, don't be upset. You volunteered to do the review by proxy and didn't inform supervisor what you were doing - so it's hard to find fault with anyone else. Learn from this incident and move on.

  • Is it a good idea to send the review using an anonymous email to authors so at least they can use it? for their goods.
    – user85361
    Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 12:40
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    Don't risk it; the authors are likely to report this to the journal, and then your supervisor will be in hot water. I appreciate your eagerness to help someone, but this can lead to a big mess. Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 12:57
  • "You will find the word you want is uninterested, all good policemen are disinterested." (credit David Mitchell)
    – DRF
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 14:16

Talk to your supervisor. If he doesn't mind (and I don't see why he would object) he can write to the editor saying his student also wrote a review for the article. The editor can then register you and invite you to review the article using your own account.

  • 24
    If the supervisor was not supposed to show the article to the student it can be phrased as "I think my student user85361 would have useful comments on this" or, more generally, a recommendation to make the student a reviewer in the future. Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 13:27
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    +1 Dont let your work go to waste (in respect to what the author would gain from your review), and try to get yout supervisor to do that!
    – Lot
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 7:59
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    +1 This would also allow the student to get some recognition for their present and future work.
    – magu_
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 18:00
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    +1 This is the way out for everyone, if phrased well. Journals I review for (the APS family) explicitly allow having someone help you preparing a review, and they are thankful for recommendations on new passionate referees. They would surely welcome such contribution, even if it's too late for them to act on it anyhow.
    – The Vee
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 7:26

I have a serious problem with the professor's modus operandi. He should not be allowing/asking students to submit reviews from his account over his signature, whether or not the publisher is OK with this.

A graduate student (in fact, anyone) deserves credit and recognition for the work he or she does. The professor should ask the editor if he can pass the review request along to a graduate student to be submitted directly by the student. That's a good public endorsement of the student.

That said, it's hard to know what the OP should do with this particular professor if/when the next review opportunity comes up.

  • 6
    +1 because this is the only answer so far that even mildly gets to the point that this is massively unethical behavior, and an outright fraud victimizing the journal, the authors whose work is being reviewed, the University being represented, the students being forced to work in this way, and so on...
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 15:43
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    @Mike Thanks. My ethical objection was indeed too mild. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 17:12
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    I'd also be concerned that the student reviewers may not have the necessary level of expertise to notice flaws in the research. I've done reviews where I've informed people that I'm only dealing with specific portions that I know (and making sure acronyms are defined, stupid stuff like that) ... but I would argue that a student review is not peer review
    – Joe
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 21:44
  • 2
    @Joe It's part of the supervisor's job to know when a student is ready for any particular professional task. The editor can then say yes or no when asked if the delegation is OK. That's not what's happening here. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 22:40

Talk to your supervisor about your review. Fortunately, you failed to actually submit it, so it's just a matter for discussion between the two of you. Consider yourself lucky.

There are two completely separate issues that have become muddled in the question and in the comments: submission of "articles" (also called "manuscripts" or "papers") on one hand, and submission of "reviews" on the other hand. Just to be clear, an article is original work intended for publication under the OP's name (evidently with the supervisor as corresponding author and possibly with other coauthors). Meanwhile, a review like the OP describes in the question will not be published; it is a pre-publication assessment of another person's article, that is communicated via the journal's editor directly to that other person. This is also called "refereeing" or "peer review".

Just to confuse things a little, it's also possible to publish a "review" — particularly in journals (e.g., Mathematical Reviews) that specialize in such things. These are reviews of works (books, papers, etc.) that are already public and — where relevant — have already gone through peer review. The OP mentions that the other reviewer "reject[ed] the manuscript", which means that this isn't the type of review under consideration. So the question is really asking about refereeing / peer review.

I'm not too surprised that the supervisor asks his students to submit articles (articles that he presumably has some familiarity with and generally approved of) using his account, but I am in utter disbelief that he might have suggested that students independently write and submit a review of another article using his account without his input. Those are two wildly different actions. The first is not entirely proper but is not unheard of, while the second is enormously unethical and inappropriate for so many reasons I can't list them. You and your professor could get a minor slap on the wrist for the first, but you could both get into serious trouble for actually doing the second — ranging from public shaming that could harm your professional trajectory, to formal punishment and loss of funding, to outright firing, possible loss of government funding for your university, and even legal repercussions if the journal or the authors whose work you were trying to review chose to make an issue of it. Misrepresentations like these are fraud and may even cross the line into crimes, with real harm being done to the journal and the authors whose work you reviewed.

For these reasons, I suspect that your supervisor did not actually intend for you to do this review yourself and try to upload it. I really hope you misunderstood what he told you. On the other hand, if your supervisor really did tell you that you could do this, don't. Just do your work to finish your Ph.D., and get away from him as quickly as possible so that you can establish an independent career before he drags you down with him. If you feel that you are being pressured to do something you shouldn't, talk to someone else in a position of authority at your university.

This is not an issue of cultural differences; it is an issue of basic standards in academic publishing. I've worked closely with colleagues from all around the world, and have never heard of anything remotely like this except in the context of professors who have lost their positions because of misconduct. Don't take up your supervisor's patterns of misconduct.

  • 1
    Well, these things are part of student life in some places. Getting doctoral student to grade undergraduate exams unofficially (off the record, no credit) is another example. It's great that we didn't have to do all this, but some students do, and they may deserve some sympathy along with due condemnation. Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 17:27
  • 4
    @user153812 First of all, active complicity does not deserve sympathy. The OP specifically says "if you want to do a review", meaning that it's optional. In fact, it sounds like the professor never would have heard about this review if the OP's plan had succeeded. Second, grading an exam (presumably with some form of an answer key and supervision) is very different from writing a six-page review of an academic paper without any supervision whatsoever. Third, the existence of some ethical lapses does not excuse all others.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 18:02
  • 1
    Condemnation is due, without doubt. I believe it should be directed primarily at the supervisor, who has no excuse, and no business opening his account up to students. A student, especially during initial years, may not have the judgement or knowledge of accepted practice required to make a call. Not that ignorance is excusable, but conscious malpractice is certainly worse. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 1:04
  • 1
    As for grading exam sheets- from an ethical standpoint, it is equally shady: (1) Is someone doing something that you are paid for? Yes. (2) Are they receiving any form of remuneration/compensation? No. (3) Would you be uncomfortable if this act of yours was common knowledge? Probably. Providing an answer key only ensures that the results are more accurate, it doesn't address the means. Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 1:08
  • 1
    @Mike, Until I post this question here for some helpful suggestion, I didn't know, not even guess a little that some people may think it is unethical. My supervisor himself asks us to do so and he is so busy which doesn't want to be bothered by something like I want to do a review, that why he asks us to do so. I certainly have to be more careful about this. But before knowing, what a person know and be forced to do, please don't judge so harshly. At least here.
    – user85361
    Commented Apr 24, 2018 at 5:15

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