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I have recently accepted an invitation for reviewership. I was asked to review a paper submitted to a well-known conference. Because of my carelessness (or laxness, if you will), I didn't realize that one of the authors is my former colleague whose name appears on several papers as a co-author.

I always try to be objective, and objectively the manuscript is borderline at best. However, if the paper somehow gets accepted, and the editors find out my relationship with one of the authors, I feel like my academic integrity will be damaged.

Should I just send the editors an email explaining the situation and rejecting the reviewership, or should I write this fact as a note after I finish my review? If neither, then what should I do?

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If you've co-authored papers together, it would certainly be considered a conflict of interest. It also sounds like the journal sent you the author list before you accepted the review. In this case you may already have committed a transgression, though unwittingly.

Considering that co-authorship is also easy to detect, it is quite likely that this may be found out, and damage your standing somewhat. On the other hand, unilaterally rejecting the review offer after initial acceptance may incur some displeasure from the editor.

My suggestion would be the middle path, i.e. write to the editor, mention that the acceptance was made without due diligence, and seek their advice on how to proceed.

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I think your review is an honest review and the editors are aware of this fact also, so I would suggest that you write your review and send it to the editors along with a note about your relation with a co-author.

After that it will be up to the editors what they decide about it.

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