It is common practice in my field to remove self-citations completely in a manuscript for consideration. Even if you use neutral language like: “Author A said XYZ” (with Author A being myself), it is frowned upon. One of my senior colleagues was telling us she got a review that said she needed to read more works of Author A and cite Author A more and her not mentioning her shows a distinct lack of the literature! (She is Author A.)

This is quite an amusing situation but while it is under revise and resubmit still, she is considering withdrawing it and submitting elsewhere because saying “Hey, I am Author A and I think I know my own work quite well” wouldn’t really cut it, right? How would you respond to this largely negative review without compromising anonymity? Or would you just let the editors know?

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    Did the paper cite relevant work from A? If so, I would correspond with the editors - they make the final decision, not the reviewer.
    – Jon Custer
    Apr 27, 2018 at 13:32
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    Yes, a common problem. One of my postdocs once wrote a paper and, for double-blind review, meticulously elided any ever so slight reference that we could be the authors, but cited ourselves in a subdued way as if we were a 3rd party. The reviewers were furious about <anonymous> us not giving properly emphatic credit to <named> us. It's nice to have reviewers so committed on our behalf, but, on the other hand, the paper was rejected. We were not sure whether we should laugh or cry. Apr 27, 2018 at 13:41
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    This is a legitimate question for the editor, as it is impossible to solve this just between you and the reviewer. For the editor this is one of the "nicer" problems, as there is no one to blame. It is also an easy one to solve: (s)he can just ignore all remarks by the reviewer on this topic. Remember, reviewers only give advise, the editor is the one who decides. Apr 27, 2018 at 13:55
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    @CaptainEmacs ouch!
    – MHL
    Apr 27, 2018 at 14:40
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    This problem seems to be the result of citations becoming a sort of currency. Originally, they were only there to help the reader, so there was no reason to avoid self-citation. It still seems counter-productive to do so. Apr 27, 2018 at 16:21

1 Answer 1


If it's a wide practice in your field to remove self-citations at the submission stage, and a well-known practice, then reviewers should be aware that the conscious omission of author A should be a sign that author A might be an author of the work under consideration. This suggests that the reviewer may not be aware of the convention—perhaps it was written by someone relatively new to your field.

I would just proceed by incorporating the comments, and explaining to the editor why you broke with convention.

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    This seems really strange, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t one be expected to self cite in the field they work in? In any case, if the reviewer requests it, why not break convention? What field is this?
    – HEITZ
    Apr 30, 2018 at 21:35
  • This might not be @aeismail 's field but in my field (social sciences), several of the top journals make it explicit that self citations must be removed (but can be added later when the reviews come back and if it is good to be published)
    – MHL
    May 3, 2018 at 16:20
  • You did your part to remove self-citations when you submitted. The reviewer is demanding you address it. This is a catch-22. The only other advice is to ask the editor how to respond to this.
    – aeismail
    May 3, 2018 at 16:30
  • And maybe the reviewer hasn’t submitted to the journal and doesn’t know the policy?
    – aeismail
    May 3, 2018 at 16:31

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