I am peer-reviewing an article "A" and I found something interesting. The authors use a mathematical lemma (which is just an inequality) for which they cite article "B". I have used this inequality before for many years, but noticed that "B" is an article from 2019, so evidently this inequality wasn't discovered/derived for the first time in "B". I was curious so I managed to obtain this article "B" and noticed that they use the same inequality by citing article "C". A similar thing happens in "C" by citing "D", and so on until we get to "F". Notice that in this whole "citation tower" no new information is added: the mathematical lemma remained essentially the same.
Moreover, some of the same authors appear in some of the works A,B,...,F but not in all and not consecutively. However, an author of "A" is also an author of "F". Finally, in "F" (which is an article from 2011) the authors provide the mathematical lemma, and provide a proof for it. However, I have seen other works in the literature which uses this result even before 2011, and actually I can track it all the way until I reach a famous (but OLD) book "Z" which provides the same inequality but not necessarily using the same notation.
Do you think this "citation tower" (is there another name for this practice?) is a bad enough practice to point it out in my review? Up to now I am considering the following things to do with my review (regarding this issue only):
Do nothing. The authors are using a result from the literature by appropriately citing it.
Just suggest them to cite "F" instead of "B".
Suggest them to cite "Z" instead of "B".
However, since an author of "A" is also an author of "F", under the assumption that this citation tower is indeed a bad practice, and that the result was given in "F" as if it was discovered there even when this result was known many years before, there is a fourth option:
- Point them out this issue describing it as a bad practice in order to help preventing it in the future. Moreover, I was thinking in asking the reviewers to cite "F" and adding a note in the final manuscript saying that the result was shown in "F" using modern notation, but it was known to be true since "Z".
EDIT AFTER SUBMITTING MY REVIEW: It is very hard to chose a correct answer, since I don't believe there is a single one. There are very nice answers here, but I will mark as correct the one that mostly resembles what I did at the end.