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I have been serving for several years as a reviewer for both Mathematical Reviews (MathSciNet) and ZbMath.

Earlier this year, I received an invitation for a paper for MR which I already reviewed for ZbMath. I dug up my old review and submitted it to MathSciNet without giving it much thought.

But there seems to be a pattern emerging. I received an invitation from MR for two more papers I already reviewed for ZbMath.

So here are my questions:

  • Do the editors of MR know/check who reviewed the paper for ZbMath in order to find suitable reviewers?
  • What do I do about the double reviews?

My idea was to just refuse to write the reviews. But if the answer to the first question would be yes, then the editors know that I have a thorough review lying around. Just resubmitting this one would save a colleague from writing a new one.

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    @BryanKrause I think these are different topics: this is about reviews (after publication) and the other one about referee reports. – Christian Nov 28 '18 at 6:34
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    Many times I've seen ZbMath reviews (indeed, print versions from 1990s and earlier) that indicated, either at the beginning or at the end (I think it was at the end), that the review was from Math. Reviews, maybe something like "(MR 86c:30018)" (parentheses included; since this is almost certainly a true review number, I'm not claiming what I'm saying is the case for this review). However, I never knew whether such cases are as you describe or whether they just asked to use the MR review because they couldn't obtain a suitable review for some reason. And I've seen the reverse also. – Dave L Renfro Nov 28 '18 at 8:38
  • @DaveLRenfro I wrote one of these (more recently). zbMath assigned me the same item (by chance I think) and they offered that I could submit the same review as to MR (see my answer below for more details) – Christian Nov 28 '18 at 8:50
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The Math Reviews Guide for Reviewers addresses this explicitly:

Reviews in other publications. You may find yourself asked to write a review of the same item for another publication. In general, the community is best served by reviews written independently. If you have already been asked by another publication to review an item, please let us know and we will transfer it to another reviewer.

So, if you have already reviewed the article for Zbmath, you should decline to review it for MR. I didn't find a similar rule on the Zbmath side, but I would say the converse should also hold.

Also, per your agreement with Zbmath, when you submit a review to them, you grant them "exclusive exploitation rights". So if you submit the same review to MR, you're infringing Zbmath's copyright. I doubt they will sue you over it, but this shows it's actually illegal as well as unwanted.

In view of this, you may want to contact MR and ask them to withdraw your previously submitted review.

Evidently, one should not assume that the MR editors will check who reviewed the article for Zbmath in order to avoid inviting the same person, since they apparently failed to do so in your case. (Another possibility is that they did check, but your Zbmath review hadn't been posted yet.)

  • 1
    In my experience zbMath wants to know about when they ask the same person as MR but might not transfer the item and even offer to accept the same review. – Christian Nov 28 '18 at 6:37
  • Great answer! Do you know where one can access the corresponding agreement with Mathscinet, by the way? – Federico Poloni Nov 28 '18 at 13:46
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    I think we had another question about it. I don't think it's online; they send it to you directly when you first start to review. – Nate Eldredge Nov 28 '18 at 15:30
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    @FedericoPoloni I think Nate is referring to this recent question; the accepted answer (by the Executive Editor of Mathematical Reviews) mentions copyright and what Mathscinet allows you to do (which seems to correspond to Christian's answer), and it also contains an extract of the reviewer letter, apparently. – Arnaud D. Nov 29 '18 at 10:48
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I was in a similar situation but in the other order: I reviewed a paper for Mathematical Reviews and then was asked by zbMath to review the same paper. I told zbMath about this and they agreed that it is not ideal but they asked me to write a review nevertheless and told me that they are fine with getting the same review as Mathematical Reviews. I asked MR for permission to do this and was told that they always grant it provided they are the first one to publish it. They asked me to make sure to tell the editors of zbMath that MR published the review first and that they would know how to handle it. It seems that this situation happens from time to time.

Note that this situation is different since Mathematical Reviews‘ terms are more permissive than zbMath‘s.

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