Authors are often asked to suggest reviewers for their article. In my own experience, the principal domain experts I can suggest are often the authors whose work I have cited, but suggesting them might present a conflict of interest.

As an author, should I suggest my sources as reviewers?


3 Answers 3


The fact that you cite their work, and that you use their work to inform your work, does not present a conflict of interest, and it's fine to suggest them as reviewers. Doing so might even be a good idea, since they might be naturally qualified to assess your work.

An exception might apply if your work stands in some way in direct competition to their work -- for example, if you developed a technique for addressing the same problem, and you claim that your technique works better than theirs. I've seen a few listings of conflict-of-interest criteria that include a conflict type "competitor", and other listings that don't. If this applies, I would recommend to look for the conflict-of-interest criteria of the target journal/conference. If you can't find anything, you might want to contact the editors/chairs.


You might argue that there is a small conflict of interest arising from the citation, namely that your paper being published slightly boosts the citee’s bibliometric scores. However, if reviewers were excluded due to this, many of the most qualified reviewers would be among them to the extent that it may be impossible to find any remotely qualified reviewer in smaller, citation-heavy subfields. Moreover, whom you cite is obvious to the editor, so if they really want to take this into account, they can.

Of course, a connection between your work and another that results in a citation may as well as reflect a conflict of interest that is not obvious or comprised by what is obligatory to report (as per the venue’s rules), but that has nothing to do with the citation per se.

That being said, there can be tactical reasons not to suggest authors you cite as reviewers: When an editor has to select reviewers, your citations are a primary source of inspiration. (Some authors even carefully arrange their citations due to this.) Thus, suggesting somebody you prominently cited is redundant and potentially wastes a suggested-reviewer slot which you could have used to suggest somebody who is an excellent match for your paper but whom you did not cite prominently or at all. I think of the suggested-reviewer list as a list of reviewers who would be very suited to review the paper but are not an obvious choice.

Moreover, many editors make a point of choosing at least one reviewer you did not suggest. Thus it can be beneficial to leave them some obvious choices to “discover” by themselves.


Citing someone’s work and recommending this person as referee is generally not a conflit of interest: unless there are special circumstances it is not terribly clear how this referee would benefit from your manuscript in any material way. (Simple citations are NOT a material benefit.)

Problem cases typically arise when a supervisor suggests a former student, a recent graduate suggests a former thesis advisor, or the suggested referee has recents publications or collaborations or grants with the current author (or one of the current authors).

If anything there’s no guarantee the person you suggested will actually referee the manuscript. In addition, the first thing the handling editor will do is check the list of references and cull for names of prospective referee so surely there is no harm in suggesting names from that list yourself.

Finally, it is usually the job of the referee to declare conflicts and withdraw (if appropriate), not the job of the author.

  • 1
    Finally, it is usually the job of the referee to declare conflicts and withdraw (if appropriate), not the job of the author. – In general yes, in particular since it would be quite tedious to provide a list of everybody conflicted. But this is about suggesting referees and here you should not suggest a referee with a blatant conflict of interest (more than just being cited). If the editor chooses that referee and they fail to disclose their conflict of interest, this will be at least to some extent on you, while otherwise it would have been on the referee and editor only.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 15, 2020 at 11:06

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