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Assuming the process isn't double-blind, do you often look at other work by an author out of curiosity, and do you think this should influence your decision on a paper?

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    This seems like an "it depends" question. Can you clarify? What are you hoping to find? How might that be relevant?
    – Thomas
    Aug 1, 2021 at 0:05
  • If you are referring to 'reputation', then famous authors indirectly convey that information ; in my area, the title 'Fellow' conveys that a paper is of high quality (in theory). Having said that, personally I do not really care about the standing of authors. I judge a work purely based on what's presented to me. I've rejected papers from many famous authors. It is especially disappointing if these papers are sub-par, meaning these famous authors have essentially sold their reputation/name -- they get a down vote from me. Aug 1, 2021 at 0:14
  • As a referee, you don't make a decision on the paper.
    – user151413
    Aug 1, 2021 at 23:58
  • I wonder what legit reasons you would have to factor in the previous works of the author(s). It is not like a paper suddenly becomes a bunch of lies if the previous paper or the author was a low impact one. Can you give examples where you think it may count?
    – Greg
    Aug 2, 2021 at 15:19

3 Answers 3

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As a reviewer, is it appropriate to look up other work by an author and factor that into your decision?

No, this is not appropriate.

I would argue that this is one of the exact things double-blind review is supposed to prevent. In the context of double-blind reviewing I have heard the following scenarios / arguments, all of which I feel are invalid:

  • "If the authors have a history of writing bad papers, I should be more critical." No, you shouldn't. You should judge the paper in front of you, not previous papers the authors have written.
  • "If the authors are more famous than me, I am nervous that my criticism may be wrong." Uh oh. If you are unsure, don't criticize. If you are sure, criticize even if the authors are the most famous in your field. And don't worry, even the best researchers (and their students) get things wrong.
  • "If the authors have a history of academic misconduct, I should be more critical (e.g., not give them the benefit of doubt if data is not entirely provided)." I understand the sentiment here, but I would argue that you are overstepping your role as reviewer once you start judging the trustworthiness of researchers as people, and then apply different standards to the manuscript based on your assessment. Given that much reviewing in the sciences in practice operates on a certain basis of trust, and given that we also know that a minority is abusing this trust, there is likely a level where we need to take prior behavior into account, but individual paper reviewers are almost certainly not the people who should be making these decisions.
  • "If the authors are presenting many similar papers (or many papers building on top of each other), we should rather reject to prevent salami slicing": Ultimately, if a paper would have sufficient contribution if written by somebody else, it should also have sufficient contribution if written by the same authors. Conversely, if the contribution is very minor in comparison to existing work it should be rejected independently of who exactly wrote said earlier work.
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  • The OP specifies not double blind.
    – Buffy
    Aug 2, 2021 at 14:36
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    @Buffy yes, and the same principles apply regardless, it's just that double blinding makes them more likely to be followed. I guess this could be pointed out in the answer. Aug 2, 2021 at 15:11
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One of your jobs as reviewer is to determine the novelty of the work. For that you should acquaint yourself with what was known prior to it (if you are not already very familiar with the field), both due to the work of the same author and of others. To that end it can be useful to browse the author's earlier work.

It would not be ethical to let your judgement of the author's earlier work influence your opinion on the quality of the work under review just following the "logic" that the previous work was "meh", so this can't be any good either, or that this is such a famous author that the work under review must surely be great.

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    Checking originality is indeed a good reason to check literature, though strictly speaking it is not much to do if the previous (possibly overlapping) results were made by the authors or by others.
    – Greg
    Aug 2, 2021 at 15:21
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Indirectly yes as I like to read or browse through some papers in the bibliography, which often contains papers by the submitting authors. This is pure intellectual curiosity, is independent of the review style (single or double blind): I often discover (or rediscover) unknown, unfamiliar or forgotten interesting papers.

I will also sometimes quickly read recent papers of the author (or group) to understand how the current submission is different from previous work. I did this more regularly in the past because, when I was associate editor, I was regularly floored by the amount of self-plagiarism and duplication in some of the submissions I had to handle (the journal had access to a specialized plagiarism detection software). Now I am more selective with my reviews and the journals I tend to review for usually check ahead of me for plagiarism, but I still do this on occasions.

Of course if I suspect (or detect) plagiarism it will influence my report.

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