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I recently got a review back from consideration. One review was a little odd in that the reviewer(s?) consistently referred to themselves using "We" and "Our". It seems highly unlikely this is the royal we. Notably, it is just this review, the other reviews all use singular pronouns.

Is it typical for a manuscript review request, which is typically only sent to one individual, be reviewed by multiple people? I am not sure how reasonable it is from an ethical perspective.

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6 Answers 6

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In academic writing, authorial 'we' is very common, where the authors always refer to themselves in the first-person plural even if the there is only a single author. Although this is less common in reviews, the reviewer likely just used this authorial 'we' to refer to him-/herself.

See also Choice of personal pronoun in single-author papers.

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    This. As an editor, I see this all the time. Commented Nov 20, 2023 at 18:35
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The authorial "we" is the most likely explanation. Joint reports are also possible, at least in physics. My impression is that they are somewhat rare, however. Perhaps the most common scenario is a student writing a report together with their supervisor.

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    At least in my physics experience, joint reports (supervisor and student) are pretty common and since physics journals actually encourage these, they are also not hidden.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Nov 21, 2023 at 7:11
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    As a postdoc, I once was one of two referees that co-wrote a joint referee report in physics. It was a situation where the paper combined methods from two different, very technical areas; my colleague was the one officially asked to be the reviewer and was an expert on one of the areas. He asked me to help him write the part of the report focusing on the second area, which he was less familiar with but was in my wheelhouse. We then submitted a joint report (informing the editors beforehand, of course).
    – Andrew
    Commented Nov 22, 2023 at 19:29
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I have authored at least one referee report that was jointly written with another person. In my experience it’s not common, but it does happen.

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I’ve definitely seen this happen, for example a PI reviewing with their lab, or two researchers writing the review together. The crucial aspect is they should have asked permission from the editor beforehand.

From the author’s point of view there is no specific reason to be worried about multiple contributors to a single review report (if anything, it should be better).

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I just personally finished a co-review a few days ago. I am a postdoc and my PI asked me to join in because the paper covered multiple topics and it just so happened that I had additional experience that made me an ideal referee. We contacted the editor in charge and informed them that I would contribute, and the editor welcomed the additional input.

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I would not say it is very common, but it can happen. I received just today a review invitation where the editor specifically told me that I am allowed to review the paper together with a colleague.

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