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As a recent example, Vladimir Putin's daughter continued publishing papers in Western journals after the start of the Ukraine war, despite being under sanctions in the US:

U.S. and Swiss scientific journals are continuing to publish scientific papers authored by Maria Vorontsova, the eldest daughter of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, Russian media outlet Mozhem Obyasnit reported on its channel on Telegram on Sep. 5.

Vorontsova has a PhD in medicine, and is an endocrinologist by education. The outlet clarifies that links to her publications in Western scientific journals are available on the Moscow State University’s Istina (Truth) website, which collects scientific texts by all university staff.

"She writes articles on endocrinology and medicine for U.S. and Swiss publishers: The Endocrine Society and MDPI Publishing. Four papers by Vorontsova were published in 2022 and 2023", writes the outlet.

Is it considered good practice for journals to validate the background of the authors of submitted papers? Or are they supposed to be completely neutral and publish good papers with a complete disregard for what the background of the author is?

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    – cag51
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 20:25

8 Answers 8

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In short, the answer is negative. There exists no convention prohibiting journals from publishing works by authors of a questionable or even outright blemished reputation.

The example of Maria Vorontsova is, in my opinion, irrelevant, because to my best knowledge she never participated in politics or propaganda or financial schemes.

A relevant precedent is the case of Valery Fabrikant, a well cited expert on mechanics of solids, who is now serving a life sentence for four first-degree murders. In jail, he has continued his research and has published dozens of papers and a monograph.

This case was discussed, e.g. in this article.

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    "Vorontsova leads state-funded programs that have received billions of dollars from the Kremlin" - United States Department of the Treasury, 2022. So yes, she and her research are part of Russian "financial schemes", as you call them. Hardly anyone would believe that any random researcher can get such grand grant money.
    – Mołot
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 11:57
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    Another example is Andre Bloch: ''Bloch killed three of his family members, for which he was institutionalized in a mental asylum for 31 years, during which all of his mathematical output was produced''.
    – Tom
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 13:48
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You have a poor example. Is there evidence that she, as opposed to her father, is a "person if ill repute"? That sounds like guilt by association.

Since she is in medicine, suppose that she develops a breakthrough treatment for some serious widespread disease? Does the world forgo the treatment?

In reality, even a person who has themself done bad things, could still produce good and valid scholarship. I think the editors and reviewers need to disassociate themselves from such considerations and consider only the validity and value of any such publications.

Many journals use double blind review, so the reviewers won't be influenced in that case. Should an editor use their own value systems to decide who is "worth" publishing. I think that would lead to bad outcomes. If they are denied publication is it ok to plagiarize them so that their work becomes known?

Seems like there are too many downsides to this. If the person is truly evil, lock them up. That is an appropriate sanction.

And, of course, where do you draw the line? And is there no such thing as rehabilitation in such things.


I know nothing of the daughter or her views or actions. If she should be punished, though, it should be for actions. The sanctions, on the other hand, are to prevent the use of others to monetize actions in support of the regime and the war and to put pressure on the principals. Even infants would be sanctioned, I'd guess.

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    The US certainly thinks that his daughters are of "ill repute": npr.org/2022/04/07/1091340068/… Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 20:49
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    @JonathanReez, actually all of his family and many of his associates are sanctioned, but not all for individual actions. That said, I know nothing of the daughter herself.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 21:25
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Putin's daughter is in an unusual situation, being under US financial sanctions. This is a much more specific situation than just generally being a "person of ill repute". In the sanctions announcement, she is described as:

These individuals have enriched themselves at the expense of the Russian people. Some of them are responsible for providing the support necessary to underpin Putin’s war on Ukraine. This action cuts them off from the U.S. financial system and freezes any assets they hold in the United States.

As a result, it may be illegal for institutions (including journals) that do business in the US to derive revenue from publishing her research. I do not know the legalities, and such a question may be better suited to law.se. This is not fundamentally about checking the background of the submitter, but about determining whether it is legal for the journal to accept her research at all. It's not really about research at all - it's a basic requirement for any institution doing business in the United States.

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    More likely it would be illegal for business to compensate her for publishing, not for deriving revenue themselves. Authors seldom get a financial benefit from publishing papers. Books would be a different issue, given royalties normally paid.
    – Buffy
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 22:13
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    @Buffy One could argue that the positive attention conferred by publishing someone's research is a form of in-kind compensation, given that publications are typically critical to a researcher's professional success. I don't know which way that would be ruled in court, but I don't think it's so cut-and-dry.
    – isaacg
    Commented Sep 5, 2023 at 22:38
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    @JonathanReez That would assume she is an American citizen... Publisher themselves are not expressing opinions through the authors, authors do.
    – Greg
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 2:37
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    @JonathanReez probably not, publishers are specifically publishing the speech of others, not hosting their own. This would be violating free speech of the author, not the publisher, someone who isn't protected by American law. Under free speech, they wouldn't be able to restrict the publishing house talking about the individual's work and analysing the implications, but that's not publishing someone's work. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 7:19
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    @NAMcMahon as a classic example imagine the US trying to ban Mein Kampf from publication. On the surface it would be restricting a German’s speech but the courts would still throw out such a law. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 11:20
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The brief answer to the title question is 'no'. A paper by a "person of ill repute" might attract more attention from the journal's editors, but they are (in theory) supposed to base their decision on the work presented and not who the author is.

Putin's daughter is a different case from "person of ill repute", however. The law can prohibit journals from working with that person. That makes this a legal question, and the answer to that would depend on the exact sanction.

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I do not recall any "instructions to authors" that asked authors not to submit if they were family members of world leaders who started wars, nor instructions to reviewers to evaluate such things.

In some areas, it is feasible that conflicts of interest would arise from authors' connections to world politics, and journals should be vigilant for these, though policing conflicts of interest is mostly the job of the broader scientific community, and journals do not have investigative resources, they mostly set policies and rely on author self-disclosure.

I think it would put everyone involved in quite a difficult position: what are the criteria? what are the boundaries? Who decides if your war is sufficiently legitimate? Who is a close enough family member to be included in the circle of exclusion? Children and spouses only? What about nieces and nephews? How about kth-degrees and nth-removal of cousins?

In some cases, economic sanctions may apply, but these are not really the decisions of journals but rather laws that apply within some political jurisdiction.

If not only relatives of certain world leaders, which individual crimes are sufficiently bad to exclude authors? Murder? What about mere manslaughter? Sexual assault? Is a conviction necessary, or only sufficient suspicion? Which committee is responsible for deciding?

More broadly, the principle of academic freedom would seem to set the bar quite high for what would exclude an author from publishing entirely.

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The only cases where the background of an individual author is relevant is if they have shown themselves to have academic dishonesty. If they gained "ill repute" by publishing fraud, committing perjury, or otherwise being dishonest, then they deserve stricter scrutiny, not an automatic rejection or disassociation. The whole question is whether the paper is approaching the truth of the matter or is just a bunch of lies and deceptions packaged up to look like the truth.

There are many, many documented cases where the past criminal or immoral actions of a researcher do not mean that scholarship created before, during, or after the course of such immoral actions is at all less likely to be a better approximation of the truth.

The classic case in the future will almost certainly be research papers in a few years from former president Trump's legal team. When does a previous pattern of what are widely perceived as lies about constitutional law and elections discredit a lawyer from publishing on unrelated fields of law or other study. Does past lying mean they're likely making up their study on the history of university swimming pools? Or should that scholarship be taken at face value? The answer likely is somewhere in the middle.

This doesn't even approach the question of how the experience of doing actions that being "ill repute" might assist in taking truthfully about the reality of those actions.

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You've omitted a very important part of the news article you quoted:

Vorontsova publishes articles not by herself, but in co-authorship with colleagues from Moscow State University, in particular from the Faculty of Basic Medicine, where she has been the deputy dean since 2022.

In other words, Vorontsova is almost certainly just adding her name to actual researchers' work - and those researchers almost certainly have no choice in the matter, given who her father is. Therefore, blacklisting a paper simply because her name appears in its author list would not be hurting her so much as the real researchers.

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Putin's daughter is an individual, she has nothing to do with the Russia-Ukraine dispute. There is no evidence that she is involved in the war. A journal only interferes with the originality and suitability of an article, not with the history of an individual. The journal does not impose restrictions on the character of authors. A journal is not an international court to judge the crime of an author, but only to judge the quality of an article. Not only Putin's daughter but also Putin himself can submit an article to a journal, and in that case, the journal must show a valid reason to reject his paper.

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  • BUT See @Molot's comment on Michael_1812's answer. Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 13:41
  • @RussellMcMahon, i have seen. My answer is for general concern. Journal would judge the quality of article not the quality of author. As Buffy answered "Since she is in medicine, suppose that she develops a breakthrough treatment for some serious widespread disease? Does the world forgo the treatment?"
    – learner
    Commented Sep 6, 2023 at 13:49
  • I removed some side-discussion about censorship (ironic, I know). If you have concerns about the moderation, please post on meta. But this post has a "controversial" notice, so it should be clear that "You may use comments ONLY to suggest improvements."
    – cag51
    Commented Sep 8, 2023 at 20:30

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