I had reviewed a manuscript two months ago. Though the manuscript was interesting and well written there were some minor flaws.

I had pointed to the author the flaws and asked them to correct them.

I had also mentioned three papers, which I co-authored, and which I feel should be cited in the paper.

But today I find that the article has been published by the journal. Though all my suggestions were incorporated, I find that the articles I co-authored and which I had asked the authors to cite have not been cited.

Should I write to the editor of the journal to take steps against the author for not following what I said? Will it be ethical to write to the editor to not send me any paper again for peer review since my suggestions were not obeyed? Also the Editor is a good friend of mine.

I feel let down that though I had asked them to cite some papers, the authors did not say what I said but still got the paper published in the journal.

What steps shall I take now as a reviewer? Should I do the following:

  1. Ask the Editor to withdraw the paper from the journal as I know the Editor well.
  2. Never ever peer-review for that journal.
  3. Boycott the authors works in future from any journal i receive.

4 Answers 4


You seem to misunderstand the review process. The authors are not obliged to follow your suggestions. Typically, when authors submit a revised version of their paper, they also include a 'response to reviews' in which they explain what they have done as a result of reviewer comments. If they wish, they can argue that certain comments or suggestions are misguided/unnecessary/etc. It is then up to the editor to decide whether to accept their paper or send it back for further revision.

You ask what steps you should take: forget it, and move on.

  • 6
    It depends on the severity of the omission. If the works are so closely related that not mentioning them leads to a misrepresentation of the paper's novelty, OP has a point. Jun 16, 2020 at 8:47
  • 5
    OP may have justification for being irritated with the editor for letting things slide. OP may decide not to bother reviewing for this editor/journal in the future, if OP feels their report hasn't been taken seriously. However, I don't think the authors can be blamed for this situation - certainly not without seeing what they wrote in their 'response to reviews' - and in any case the ship has sailed.
    – avid
    Jun 16, 2020 at 8:54
  • 6
    I would have sided with OP if they had included in their question a better justification of why the paper should have been cited. "Because I asked them to", alone, is not sufficient. Jun 16, 2020 at 9:10
  • 1
    i dont think the references are closely related but I felt that those works could be cited
    – Charlotte
    Jun 16, 2020 at 9:16
  • 8
    @Math_Freak "Could be cited" means a lot. It can mean "It's my papers and I wish them to be cited." "It's papers that a student in my class should read" "Not citing them shows how ignorant the authors are" "They - meh - could be cited, but then, also not." If the authors do not misrepresent novelty by not citing them, or if citing them does not shorten proofs drastically, and if the authors were otherwise cooperative in incorporating your reviewing suggestions, your anger may be misplaced. Frankly, it's their paper, if not citing these does not make it outright unpublishable, why worry? Jun 16, 2020 at 12:08

Your enthusiasm and dedication are commendable, but you are misunderstanding the peer review process.

You are not a gatekeeper. You are a participant in a collaborative process to identify publishable papers and improve them. This process involves the authors, the peer reviewers (plural), and is mediated (if necessary) by the journal editor.

Let's talk only about papers which are accepted-with-revisions or minor-revise-and-resubmit. You and at least one other reviewer have made suggestions. The authors receive those and respond. When those suggestions are good ones, and they usually are, they address and/or incorporate them. In other cases, they respond, explaining why they didn't incorporate them, or why they addressed the underlying issue in a different way than a reviewer recommended. The rationale may be anything from the fact that the reviewer misunderstood (the response may then include clarifying some other language so others don't misunderstand), concern about scope creep or length, or just inconsistency between reviewer feedback.

For references in particular, there is a balance to be found from extensive and comprehensive literature review, through pointing to a set of representative articles anchoring the results in the broader field, to merely pointing to specific prior knowledge on whose shoulders the new results were developed. The authors may have just viewed it differently than you, or faced different feedback (e.g. even "this paper should cut down on the references, there are too many of them" from the 2nd reviewer).

If there is significant pushback from the authors, and/or disagreement between reviewers, the editor may send a revised version back to the reviewers. But that is up to them. It seems in this case they felt this was not necessary. Frankly, having briefly been an editor myself, if a reviewer made substantive suggestions, plus recommended a few additional references, and the author addressed the suggestions but pushed back with any reasonable explanation against the additional references, I would consider it a success and publish, as seems to have been the case.

What to do?

  1. Regarding this paper, nothing. That ship has sailed. Unless omission of the papers creates a plagiarism situation, or truly egregiously omits the most important relevant reference in the field, no one is going to retract or print a correction about a potentially missing reference.

  2. In the future, consider adding more explanation in your review why additions (whether literture or others) are important. This is for the benefit of both authors and editor. Shift from gatekeeper to persuader mindset. This might also affect your language more broadly. We don't know the context, of course, but personally I found your phrasing in the question, refering to "minor flaws" and "asked them to correct them" a bit concerning already. Perhaps it is appropriate, but as an erstwhile author, reviewer, and editor I would have preferred to see it positioned instead as "suggested improvements and recommendations", unless they are literally a gaping hole in the logic.

  3. If you continue to find that certain journals and/or editors seem to pay insufficient attention to whether authors incorporate and/or address important reviewer feedback from you, refocus your time and energy on those who do.


Asking to include these references was wrong in the first place. According to your comments to the question(1) and to the accepted answer, the literature you asked to cite :

  • is co-authored by yourself
  • is "not closely related" to the paper under review.

As reviewer, you should only suggest to discuss closely related literature. Moreover, before suggesting to cite your own work, you should apply careful judgement for two reasons. First, as reviewer you obviously must not abuse your influence to boost your citation count. Second, even if your reference suggestions are well-intended, your desire to be cited might lead you to overestimate the relevance of your work.

The authors of the paper under review most likely explained in their response letter why they consider your literature suggestions irrelevant. The editor was apparently satisfied with this response. It probably has not escaped his or her attention that the irrelevant literature you asked the authors to cite was co-authored by yourself, shedding a bad light on the objectivity and integrity of your review. Asking to retract the paper after your initially positive review, only because the authors did not cite your work, would just add insult to injury.

(1) I've now edited these comments into your question, because they are highly relevant.

  • 2
    +1 Note that one of the first things that people will do when getting a long list of references is to check them for common authors and then infer something from this. If the papers are not directly relevant, this inference will be the name of the reviewer and the fact that said reviewer is mainly interested in themselves as in good science, so all their other comments should be taken with a grain of salt as well. Even worse, doing so too often might lead to a reputation, as people tend to gossip. And in the end, the right reputation is more important than the right number of citations.
    – mlk
    Jun 17, 2020 at 9:38
  • I don't mind the downvote, but I'd be interested to know the reason for it.
    – henning
    Jun 17, 2020 at 17:48

Although you don't have any ground for your request to the editor (most probably they will simply not do anything), I do believe your sentiment is correct (at least in many case it is).

I find the problem of not citing papers much more ubiquitous than the problem some academics are used to complain about of "being forced to cite papers".

In my experience, there is a huge problem of stinginess by some authors; they emotionally feel as if they loose something just by citing other work, even justifiably so. It is clear that from the readers' perspective a long full literature review is highly beneficial and academically justified, than a partial incomplete list of references.

Citing unrelated work is wrong. But citing relevant work is a must.

  • 1
    Citing related work is a must, but citing all related work is not. For an average paper in my field, the number of papers that is in some way related would easily go into the thousands. Jun 17, 2020 at 6:00
  • Possibly. This shows the difference that exists in different fields. In many fields the number of related papers are much fewer and it is evident that some authors are either too lazy or stingy to bother to cite intimately related them.
    – Dilworth
    Jun 17, 2020 at 12:34

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