Let's say that you thank Professor X in your paper that you will submit to a Journal Y for providing you some insightful comments. It is never possible to know but let's assume that Professor X is the anonymous referee for your paper. This is possible since you make a list of potential referees (this is quite common for some journals).

What would be the reaction of an editor?

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    Such people should be listed as conflict instead of suggested reviewer. – koalo Sep 23 at 15:57
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    @koalo, That's a bit too far. While I agree that such people should not be listed as suggested reviewers, having previously read and commented on a manuscript is not conflict of interest in and of itself. – WetlabStudent Sep 24 at 3:59
up vote 34 down vote accepted

As an editor in both computer science and biology, I would generally consider a person listed in the acknowledgements to be involved enough to have a conflict of interest, and therefore would not invite them to be a reviewer.

It is also worth noting that I usually solicit a review from precisely one of the recommended reviewers, since recommended reviewers are often "close" in the network of the authors, and I want to have more independent perspectives as well. It's still worth listing multiple recommended reviewers, since some may be unavailable, but it's not useful (for editors like me) to make a very extensive list.

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    That’s interesting about the conflict of interest convention. Is this an absolute rule, or does it depend on the nature of the acknowledgement? I’m asking because I think there was a discussion here at some point of an unethical practice of mentioning someone in the acknowledgements of your paper for the express purpose of ensuring that they do not get asked to referee it. It seems that a blanket rule about “acknowledgement conflict of interest” is an invitation for abuse of this type. – Dan Romik Sep 23 at 18:24
  • @DanRomik I would call this a heuristic rather than an absolute rule. Furthermore, I'm dubious about how much concern one should really have about abuse --- in general, the pool of reviewers is large, and it's not hard to respect even a substantial number of exclusions. – jakebeal Sep 23 at 18:57
  • Wouldn't it be rather easy to exploit that rule to make sure that someone is not going to review my paper? – FooBar Sep 24 at 7:53
  • @FooBar that's probably why it's "a heuristic rather than an absolute rule". After all, there's a difference between a quick chat at a conference with someone you don't know well and a former colleague whose lab you just visited for a week. – Chris H Sep 24 at 8:20
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    @FooBar It's a practice that definitely has been exploited before (I can't say how common it is - hopefully not very). If I can find the link I'll comment it - but there's been a question here about that before, where a group was repeatedly ackowledging an individual (that had no relation to them) to avoid ever having them review their papers. – Bilkokuya Sep 24 at 10:13

Nothing would happen. In my area (math) it is quite possible that X will end up being the referee in spite of the fact that you mentioned them. Providing someone with insightful comments is not considered to be a connection strong enough to constitute a conflict of interest, so the editor would not normally have any reason for concern.

I should note that in math, authors submitting papers for publication are not typically asked to suggest names of potential referees, so perhaps that makes the answer less relevant for you.

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