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I was reviewing a journal paper recently that is closely related to work a colleague and I are doing. We are currently in the process of writing up our paper, and I plan to cite the paper I reviewed in ours. The paper I reviewed has been accepted after two rounds, but has not appeared in print yet. The author does not have a preprint on their website (or other preprint services). We don't build on the reviewed paper I want to cite directly, but our work is closely related. In the future we will probably start building on the reviewed paper, so I want my co-author to be aware of it as soon as possible.

Can I send the last version of the reviewed paper (that I saw) to my colleague? Can I cite the paper as "(in press)" if I submit our paper before the reviewed paper finally appears in print?

  • Is that a journal paper? Because for a conference paper, you should be able to cite a paper presented but in press (typically when there post-proceedings). – user102 Jun 15 '12 at 13:18
  • @CharlesMorisset it is a journal paper and there was no earlier conference version (it is in a field that does not really use conferences in the way say CS does). I edited the post to clarify. – Artem Kaznatcheev Jun 15 '12 at 13:20
  • I wouldn't see any big ethical issue if you send it to your colleague, but I don't know for the citation, good question :) – user102 Jun 15 '12 at 13:55
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    Incidentally, this makes a good argument why you should always post preprints of submitted papers. If the paper is good, you'd like the reviewer to be able to share and publicize it. But if it's not public, her hands are tied. – Nate Eldredge Jun 15 '12 at 14:09
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    I would consider contacting the editor with this request, or asking the editor to put that request to the author on your behalf. A well-worded request could even make it past the editor to nudge the author into posting the preprint! – E.P. Jul 17 '13 at 15:58
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No, you cannot. Until the paper is publicly available you cannot show it to anyone nor even acknowledge its existence. The only slight exception I would make is that if a colleague was going to pursue similar/identical research, I would tell them they might want to contact the author. I would assume that this would result in my identity as a reviewer being revealed.

Your options are:

  1. Submit your manuscript as is, but add the citation as soon as it become public.
  2. Reveal your identity as a reviewer and ask the author for a preprint.

Option 1 is reasonable since you believe the existence of the paper is not critical to your paper. Option 2 is okay, but remember the reviewers of you manuscript will not have easy access to the cited material.

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    another option is to ask the editor or author for permission. – David LeBauer Jun 16 '12 at 20:39
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    While option 2 is nice for getting an "official" version of the reviewed manuscript, I wouldn't cite it in a submitted paper. As a reviewer, I automatically dislike papers containing references to publications I have no way to look at. – silvado Nov 19 '12 at 12:43
  • @silvado I did point out that reviewers won't have access. If you don't cite it, you run the risk of it becoming public during the review process which can also cause problems. – StrongBad Nov 19 '12 at 13:13
  • @DanielE.Shub, yes, I saw that, and just wanted to emphasize the problem in this situation. On the other hand, I don't think that it will be a problem if one doesn't cite and it becomes public in the mean time, since reviewers will see the submission date and must assume that you haven't seen the paper (if they are aware of it becoming public at all). – silvado Nov 19 '12 at 14:55
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You can't cite the paper till it's in print or somewhere publicly available. As for sharing with your colleague, I think there are degrees. If the colleague is sitting in your office and you show them a hard copy, that's less of a problem than emailing a copy to a colleague (remote or local) which I would not do.

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    Showing someone a hard copy in your office is less serious in the sense that it's giving them less information then they could get by examining their own copy at length, and it leaves no proof behind. However, it could still be problematic if the authors genuinely care about confidentiality, and it's certainly violating the journal's expectations. At the very least, you should make sure your colleague aware that this information is confidential, so they don't accidentally think you were showing them a public preprint and go talk with other people about it. – Anonymous Mathematician Jun 15 '12 at 16:09
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    That is absolutely correct. I should have clarified that the confidentiality should be emphasized even if you do show them a copy. – Suresh Jun 15 '12 at 17:33
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Since the paper will appear soon (it's been accepted!) and it is not essential for the present article, why not follow StrongBads' advice, namely submit your article as is, and add the citation in the proofs. Discussing the future with your collaborator can wait a couple of weeks.

Since you sound in a big hurry, I will elaborate in another direction now.

I have always been very adamant about keeping reviewer information confidential. Other people... not: in my discipline (theoretical physics) people have told me that they reviewed my paper or (worse) the paper of somebody else. In short, it is not unheard of to reveal such information, especially when the outcome is acceptance. Is it good for the trade? That's another topic for discussion.

So if you are in a HUGE hurry to discuss with your colleague you may follow Suresh above: if your colleague is not in a different city and you trust each other, you may decide to share the confidential information confidentially, which is to say, just show them the article which you in fact judged positively, discuss it, destroy the evidence. (I've seen that too, and without the destruction-of-the-evidence part.)

Though I personally would just wait...

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    It might not appear soon, depending on publication times. It is possible that the OP's paper would be accepted and fully proofed before the other paper appears. – Tobias Kildetoft Sep 25 '14 at 9:28
  • I see. Then if it's cited (in press) the reviewer's identity will be revealed. I think the author and the editor may agree to this after simple consultation with them, depending how strict their policies are. BTW in my field this problem is rarely encountered, because most of us submit our preprints (before or just after acceptance) to the arXiv or personal websites so people can cite them before publication. – ppapakon Sep 26 '14 at 1:28

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