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I am trying to get an idea about general best practices and productive reviewing in the context of a specific situation.

Consider that I am reviewing an article that is a follow-up of a previous (peer-reviewed and published) article. Both present good, publishable results. In my view, however, there is an important issue of the general method that has not been discussed in the original article. I want to know to what what extent or if at all I should bring this up in my review.

By "important" issue I mean that it makes one of the claims of both articles significantly weaker, but does not invalidate the method as a whole, which still constitutes an important advance. As such, I do not believe that the issue is sufficiently severe to warrant a comment or correction of the original article. For concretenes, consider tthe issue as a kind of loophole that is only relevant in certain situations.

In this context, my question is: When reviewing such an article, how should one go about pointing out the issue with the previous article that also affects the one under review? Should one ask for a discussion of the issue? Should one point out that it also affects the previous article?

The situation becomes even more interesting when one considers that the authors of the follow-up may not be the same as the authors of the original article. While this should not matter from a scientific perspective, it would feel somewhat strange to ask the authors of the article under review to clarify an issue of an article they did not write. It would also put the authors in an interesting situation with regards to implementing the requested revision. However, it is of course scientifically important to have this discussion, especially when the field is interdisciplinary, where researchers may not be aware of the full literature.

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  • I do not think you should consider the opinion of people who did not read the articles. Dec 27, 2021 at 18:01

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You aren't reviewing the original article, only the one before you. Yes, you can/should point out the issue and even say that you think it should have been raised earlier. It is possible, however, that things have been learned in the meanwhile that would have made that harder than in seems today.

Explain the issue, but don't ask for a "discussion." you might need to suggest a major revision, though you think the current paper is already worthy of publication.

If the current authors decide to tackle the issue, then fine. If not then a decision will need to be made by the editor, of course. And, if not, then there is an open issue that someone could address in some future paper.

But call it like you see it. Let the current authors decide how to address the issue.

Hiding it would probably be an ethical lapse, however.

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