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While going through some papers in my research area. I have noticed the presence of an author X with a high citation record (+3000), on several research papers. Digging deeper, I have discovered that, in addition to papers in my research area, X has published other papers dealing with problems in applied mathematics, physics and computer science. Moreover, most of these papers have spent two months in the peer-review process, which is rare when it comes to fields such as pure and applied mathematics.

As it turns out, one of my former colleagues was a co-author on one of the papers. After asking him about X, expressing being impressed on how a researcher can master different fields at the same time, he informed me that X rarely does any contribution in the papers that they're co-author in and that the other co-authors basically add him to increase the chance of the paper being accepted in the highest-reputed journals and shorten the period of the peer-review process, basically since X is known within the scientific community and has many Editor in Chiefs as colleagues. Furthermore, he told me his personal experience of one of his papers being rejected by a reputed journal without giving any feedbacks on the reasons of rejection. Later on, after adding X to the list of co-authors and submitting the paper to the same journal, it was accepted.

This raises the following question in my mind:

Does adding a researcher with a high citation record and influence affect the peer-review process (acceptance, period of peer-review, etc.)?

Remark: Note that I'm note questioning the validity of the results of the papers co-authored by X, but rather the possible influence they might have on the editors, which may affect the peer-review process.

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    If the peer review process is double blind, adding or not adding an author shouldn't have any impact at all on the review process. Aug 29 at 13:55
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    @Sursula-they- Double blind review is uncommon outside of a couple fields.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 29 at 14:07
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    It certainly works the other way round. I once had a paper rejected because of a criticism that was demonstrably wrong, and the editors response to my refutation was that they sided with the reviewer because they were very eminent. These sorts of things shouldn't affect peer-review, but it is inevitable that they will because we are only human. Aug 29 at 14:29
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    @DikranMarsupial I kind of disagree: they happen because we are human but some humans think extremely high of themselves and do these things because they think they are less human than the others. Sometime they even says about themselves they are rational and without bias.
    – EarlGrey
    Aug 29 at 15:45
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    Some of these prolific authors are simply quality checker. They point out mistakes that would kill a paper. Hence, if a paper passes their checks, then it will likely be of 'good' quality. In my experience, at least in my areas, many authors have no idea how to write high quality papers. So these authors are valuable for that reason. Note, you may argue they shouldn't be a co-author -- that's a different discussion.
    – VitaminE
    Aug 29 at 20:39

1 Answer 1

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Adding an author solely to impact peer review and not because they contributed authorship to a paper is unethical.

However, yes, reviewers seem likely to be biased by names (and institutions) on a paper. Some references:

Okike, K., Hug, K. T., Kocher, M. S., & Leopold, S. S. (2016). Single-blind vs double-blind peer review in the setting of author prestige. Jama, 316(12), 1315-1316.

Tomkins, A., Zhang, M., & Heavlin, W. D. (2017). Reviewer bias in single-versus double-blind peer review. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(48), 12708-12713.

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    Agree with this comment, I would add that I think it unlikely that the additional author in question provided zero input — hopefully they, at minimum, reviewed it and perhaps asked for an edit or two where they felt it was appropriate prior to putting their name on it.
    – Greenstick
    Aug 29 at 22:20
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    @Greenstick Sure, though there have also been cases where additional authors were added that actually had zero connection to the other authors and had never seen the paper (not that this pertains to the individual OP refers to). Importantly, though, reviewing a paper and asking for an edit or two is not sufficient grounds for authorship. An acknowledgement in the form "the authors thank X for helpful comments on a draft of the manuscript" would be fine.
    – Bryan Krause
    Aug 29 at 22:25
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    There has even been at least one "fun" case where an additional famous author was added without any knowledge of the paper, and then the actual authors asked to remove the famous name during revision, apparently all to avoid desk rejection. retractionwatch.com/2016/11/28/…
    – Anyon
    Aug 29 at 23:20
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    @BryanKrause Yes, I’ve heard the term “gift authorship” to describe some of these cases. And agreed w.r.t. reviewing and edits, though I had in mind the notion that these edits were sufficient to rise to the degree of a meaningful intellectual contribution, not just a “reference this” or “re-word that” kind of edit.
    – Greenstick
    Aug 30 at 7:02

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