5

This question is a follow up to How to handle a paper by a reviewer who wants to be paid? Most actions by a reviewer are logged in the editorial management system, such as:

  • Whenever a reviewer agrees or declines to review
  • Reasons for declining (if given)
  • The text of the review itself
  • The date of submission of the review, which allows one to work out whether the review was early or late.

This information is visible to other editors of the journal. Depending on settings, it can also be visible to editors of other journals who are sharing the reviewer pool. Quite often, other editors are appreciative of this data, for example the following things are all things an editor would want to know before inviting a reviewer:

  1. If the reviewer says "I can't review this paper because my research interests have changed".
  2. If the reviewer says "I can't review this paper because I'm busy until [this date]".
  3. If the reviewer has an ongoing review.
  4. If the reviewer has reviewed five papers in the last five months.
  5. If the reviewer says "This paper is acceptable, but you should cite these papers written by me". The review itself might not be visible, but the editor can leave a note on the reviewer's profile that this happened as a warning to the next editor.

For the first two points, the reviewer is likely to appreciate editors sharing the data, since it saves his time. #3 and #4 helps editors not overload a reviewer, #5 helps get a constructive review.

In this case the reviewer left a controversial reason to decline to review, and I'm wondering if it's ethical to share it, especially with other journals. If I share it, then who knows how far it'll spread, and other journals might wind up dealing with the same issue as in the linked question. It could give others negative impressions of the reviewer (c.f. Fortnite's answer), even though the reviewer might have expected them not be aware of the decline reason.

On the other hand I can't tell the scope of the reviewer's intention. It's possible he only wants to be paid to review for this journal or publisher. It's possible he wants to be paid to review for all subscription journals (this wouldn't make sense, but not mine to reason why). It's possible he's declining for all journals. If any of these are true, then the other journals will want to know, so they can save time. It could even be that he would rather we broadcast his decline reason so he can inspire other reviewers to follow his example.

Some of the things I can do are:

  1. Delete his reviewer profile, leaving only a note not to invite this reviewer again.
  2. Keep the decline reason, but for editors of this journal only. No other journal will learn about this (via the system at least - they still might via word of mouth, or e.g. if the same person is an editor for two different journals).
  3. Do nothing, and if another editor/journal discovers it, let them figure out what to do.
  • 1
    Interesting question. I suppose that if the reason for declining is sufficiently contentious (e.g. sexist or racist reasons) one can even make an argument that it'd be unethical not to share this information as a warning for others. – Anyon Sep 28 '18 at 1:36
  • @Anyon For another realistic example, it could be political reasons. For instance, Elsevier has suggested in the past that US reviewers avoid papers by Iranian authors to conform to trade sanctions. – Federico Poloni Sep 28 '18 at 13:21
1

I think that the journal needs a written policy on what they retain and it should be visible and obvious to all, especially all reviewers. A request to review can/should point to the policy.

Then there should be no issue at all here. If a reviewer wants to make a statement about why they refuse they know beforehand whether it will be public or not.

If an editor gets a reason that they think should be handled differently (outside the policy), then it can be negotiated with the reviewer. In an extreme case, the review, itself, could be rejected. But a notice of "outside the policy handling" is part of the stated policy as well.

If you make it clear and flexible there won't be an ethical issue.

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