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I was recently asked to review a paper. I liked the paper a lot and eventually recommended it for publication after minor revisions. The paper inspired me to do further research on some questions motivated by the paper. I did the research parallel to writing the report and quickly made progress (theoretical field, i.e., no experiments, etc.) I have now returned my report, and my research should be submitted/preprint-ready in 2-3 weeks.

Ethically, I think there is no problem. There is a preprint version of the paper that I refereed, so I did not use "insider knowledge" to advance my research. Also, the problems that I tackled were substantial and separate from the original paper, so there is nothing to ask the authors to add to their paper.

However, I am now pondering the timing of submitting/disseminating the preprint of my work. Should I (morally speaking) wait until the original paper is published? Until it is accepted (editor's decision still outstanding)? Also, should I submit to the same venue, or will this be met with disfavour?

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Also, should I submit to the same venue or will this be met with disfavour?

Submitting to the same venue may actually have some salutary effects here, insofar as it makes acceptance of the other person's paper all the more likely. If you write to the editor to say that you are doing your own paper building on this work, and will be citing that work, then it acts as evidence of immediate impact to the previous paper. I see no reason that would be met with disfavour --- surely an editor would be thrilled to see that a paper submitted to their journal (and perhaps being published) is generating interest that leads to follow-up papers and citations.

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    Also, submitting to the same venue might allow for better visibility of the final published work, since the editors may decide to put both papers in the same issue if there aren't huge delays in the review process.
    – mcianster
    Sep 21, 2022 at 17:16
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In principle, you should have judged the paper under review and limit your brain to that. Unfortunately, we are humans and our brain does not work in tight compartment, so there was some crosspollination between your current work and the work under review (please note: working on the same issue made your review even more valuable, so you actually provided a good service to the authors and their work under review).

An honest way of proceeding would be to delay your pre-print or paper submission.

Why?

You worked on questions that were triggered by the paper under review. How long did you work on them? let's say 67 days. Now you have just to wait the publication of the paper you reviewed, read the paper, wait 67 days more, submit your manuscript for peer review.

This way may look inefficient, but the only reason you feel guilty, is because you had privileged access to the paper (and you were "forced" to look at it with great attention because of your peer-reviewer role). Removing the priviliged access, your work is ... normal science: your goal is the expansion (or the confutation :D) of someone else work.

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  • downvoters are welcome to comment
    – EarlGrey
    Sep 23, 2022 at 11:54
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    I think the "wait 67 days advice" takes a strange view of academic ethics. It seems to suggest that academic work is a contest or race that must be conducted under "fair and equal conditions" in order to be valid. But in what way is academic research actually regulated to ensure that everyone is working under equal conditions? Some people have more resources / time / abilities / insightful colleagues / etc. than others. Mar 15, 2023 at 20:36
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    Also: the OP has already done the work, so they should wait to see if someone else can do the same thing? If I were working on the same problem as someone else, I would want to know as soon as possible about the work they had already done, not after enough time has elapsed to give me "a sporting chance," because I want to do work that is actually new, not just work that I think is new. I think the only real ethical obligation here is to the authors of the paper being refereed. The OP cannot try to "scoop" the authors or proceed in any way without acknowledging their priority. Mar 15, 2023 at 20:38

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