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During my short career as a researcher I observed a few seemingly unethical behaviors by Editors and Associate Editors:

  • being asked to include a particular new author in order to be accepted
  • being asked to cite articles with no apparent link with my article
  • being told by the conference TCP (one of the top conference) to reject all the articles I review
  • In one unique case, I reviewed an article and recommended strong rejection, it was subsequently accepted without revision. Reviewing the authors profile and handling editor, I found one of the author is an Associate Editor for another journal. It appears that both help each to publish articles in their journals.

All the above experiences were observed in well-reputed journals and conferences. Given all this, how what can I do to "clean this mess" in academic the journal/conference review process?

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    How do you deduce that I want opinion or discussion? I want to hear the answers from other members. By the way instead of closing you can make edits in my question. – MBK Oct 25 '18 at 4:45
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    OP has absolute right to share his/her story, and I hope they do it. However, SE is not a blog for sharing stories. This is a Q&A forum, and this story is not a good Q so far. – Dmitry Savostyanov Oct 25 '18 at 7:22
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    No-one said OP's story is not important. It is very important. But OP does not have a clear, answerable question here, so it does not fit SE format. If OP can turn their story into a question, it will be welcome here. But I am not OP and I can't ask question based on their experience. – Dmitry Savostyanov Oct 25 '18 at 10:52
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    I don't see why this question can't be answered without invoking opinion. "How to fight back and clean this mess from academic journals/conferences?" - "it can't be done" is such an answer. Open to changing my mind, but I'm voting to reopen for now. – Allure Oct 25 '18 at 11:17
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    Short answer while the question is still closed: Switch to a more ethical research area. (I have never experienced any of the situations you describe.) – JeffE Oct 25 '18 at 15:56
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There is not a lot that you can do change the system. However, there are certain things you can do in the various instances you describe:

being asked to include a particular new author in order to be accepted

If the person has no good claim to authorship, I would politely refuse such a request and explain why this person is not an author. If they refuse to publish your paper, then submit elsewhere.

being asked to cite articles with no apparent link with my article

If there is no apparent link, then you can't cite it. I would respond with something like "We do not see how this article is related to our work. If the reviewer wishes to explain the relationship, we can include a citation."

being told by the conference TCP (one of the top conference) to reject all the articles I review

There is little point in reviewing the papers if the decision has already been made. You can politely refuse the review request.

In one unique case, I reviewed an article and recommended strong rejection, it was subsequently accepted without revision. Reviewing the authors profile and handling editor, I found one of the author is an Associate Editor for another journal. It appears that both help each to publish articles in their journals.

It's up to the editor to make the accept/reject decision, not the reviewer. Sometimes reviewers get it wrong and the editor has good reason to ignore their recommendation. However, it sounds like you believe this to be a case of corruption. There is little you can do about this other than refusing to have further interactions with these journals. You can tell others about what you have witnessed. Presumably others have witnessed it too. If news of this spreads, then it will (deservedly) harm the reputation of the editor.

All the above experiences were observed in well-reputed journals and conferences.

This is unfortunate. Such behaviours should bring journals and conferences into disrepute.

On the individual level, you can choose where to submit your articles and which review requests to accept. There are many factors to consider when choosing where to submit. Of course, prestige is a big factor, as publications in prestigious venues helps advance your career. However, you can include reviewing practices as a factor. You can also refuse review requests from venues that you believe will ignore your reviews. And, if there are venues that you believe are doing a good job, you can support them by submitting and reviewing.

If enough people begin to avoid venues with questionable practices, then that will have an effect on them. Likewise, if people support venues with good practices, then those will go up in the prestige rankings.

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I am putting my answer here and will like to hear from community members as well. I hope there are people out there who will like to take practical steps as well.

I my opinion its hard to change the people but we can change the system. To assure fairness of review process it should be mandatory to publish article along with whole review process, including reviewer's comments, author's responses, and identity of handling editor.

  • Do you suggest revealing the identities of the reviewers as well? – Joel Reyes Noche Oct 25 '18 at 5:09
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    I think only revealing the identity of handling editor is enough. it will push editors to have better review process. However, revealing reviewers identities after the completion of review process is also good suggestion. – MBK Oct 25 '18 at 5:18
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    I have seen journals where the handling editor is named with each paper, so that part of your suggestion is already being practiced in some journals. – Joel Reyes Noche Oct 25 '18 at 5:22
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    @MBK - Please take advantage of the Markdown formatting. Two returns makes a <p> break. You don't need to manually add <br> tags. You can click "edit" to see my changes and see how it works in the live preview. – eykanal Oct 25 '18 at 15:58
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    This does not answer the question. OP describes their "short career", which means they likely don't have the influence or seniority to enact the changes you propose. This is just not something OP can do (at least, not yet). – JeffE Oct 25 '18 at 15:59

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