A journal article I submitted to a highly reputable journal has been returned with a number of revisions requested, most of which are useful and helpful and will improve the quality of the article. However, two of the three reviewers have also suggested articles that should be added as references to my paper. These articles are not appropriate to reference in the paper; I have tried at length to find relevance but cannot. I assume that the reviewers are authors of these papers and wish to increase their citations.
The email from the (unnamed) journal editor asking for revisions is pro forma and includes a line asking for any inappropriate requests for citations to be referred to the editor.
Analysis of the authorship of the requested articles suggests that the two reviewers in question are affiliated with the same institution. Two members of the editorial board of the journal are at the same institution, so it is at least possible and perhaps likely that the editor shares an affiliation with the 2 reviewers.
My supervisor (and co-author) suggests I try and find the suggested paper that is least inappropriate and reference it in our article ‒ "throw them a bone."
I feel that we should address the other revision requests comprehensively but decline to reference the articles, giving our reasons.
Ethics vs Pragmatism, yes, but I also want to get the article published and this may not be the hill to die on. Will my approach mean rejection? Do I have any recourse if it does? Should I call this out to the Editor in Chief?
I'm interested in other people's experiences.