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I received a review request from a journal I have previously reviewed for. In the request, they stated that the authors suggested me to be one of the reviewers, which I found slightly odd as the topic is not within my main area of expertise, rather on the outskirts (I still feel confident to review). Why authors from this topic would suggest me as a reviewer is unclear, as normally you would suggest reviewers that are very well aquainted with a topic, no? Could it be that this is simply not true, but rather the editors trying to make it more likely for me to accept the review by making it seem that someone especially asked for me? Is this something editors do? The journal is well respected in my field and not predatory.

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    Maybe they know you from some context and have the impression that you would make a good/fair/constructive reviewer, as opposed to other reviewers that sometimes work for the journal. Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 7:47
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    As a fairly new associate editor, I am often surprised at the people some authors suggest as potential reviewers. (And to your question, I at least usually do not tell reviewers that the authors suggested them, and certainly would not do this contrary to fact.) Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 9:49
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    That seems fishy. Whether the authors suggested you or not should be confidential. I’ve never seen this so far.
    – user126108
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 13:35
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    Just to be sure, did they editor actually explicitly state that you were suggested as a referee by the authors, or did they say something like "you were one of the referees suggested to us" and you took this to mean "suggested by the authors" when in fact the editor probably meant "suggested by someone who had declined to referee the paper themselves but recommended you as a potential referee"? Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 18:32
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    "Do editors pretend that someone asked for you to review to make acceptance of review requests more likely?" I don't, and I don't see the point of doing this. In fact I think an editor really shouldn't tell the reviewer this, not even if it's true. It can certainly introduce (unconscious) bias. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:59

3 Answers 3

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No, this is not something that is common practice for editors.

Perhaps there is some editor, somewhere, who has decided that telling this kind of white lie is a good way to improve the acceptance rate of reviewers. However, it's not common practice, and I think it is too easily falsifiable to be something that would escape notice for long.

So what else might have happened?

  1. The authors did indeed suggest you. Perhaps they misunderstood the scope of your expertise. Maybe they confused you with the other Sursula. Maybe they just thought you seemed nice.

  2. The editor misread/misunderstood the information they saw. Often, editorial management systems will present various lists: the reviewers proposed by the authors, and other, 'suggested' reviewers generated automatically based on keyword-matching etc. An editor might select a name in one list and mistakenly assume it came from the other.

  3. The editor mis-spoke. In fact, you were recommended by a declining reviewer. Sometimes people make suggestions that are quite wide of the mark: either because they haven't read the paper to understand what it's actually about, or because they just write down the first name that comes into their head.

  4. The editor mis-clicked and used the wrong template. Often, editors will work from pre-written texts - either presented as options within the editorial management system, or just copied/pasted from a file on the editor's own computer. If you're handling lots of manuscripts, it's very easy to copy the wrong one, or to mix up which reviewer is supposed to get which message. Often, the UI on editorial management systems is fairly rubbish, so catching this kind of mistake can be hard.

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    1bis -> maybe one of their colleagues/friends got a positive review from you on a different paper so they're thinking you're more likely to accept theirs.
    – jcaron
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 15:31
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    @jcaron how would they know you reviewed a different paper of theirs?
    – Allure
    Commented Nov 27, 2023 at 23:55
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    Addition to 1: If the (sub)field in question isn't that large, and the authors have collaborated lately with those more close to the topic, they cannot name them as potential reviewers. Thus, someone a bit on the outskirts of the field. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 7:23
  • @jcaron what does "1bis" mean in this context? I googled it and got a confusing array of results, tho they also suggested a definition from music "again" and chemistry "2 groups identically substituted" :)
    – bertieb
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 11:49
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    @bertieb It just means 1b) an extension to point 1. Possibly a French auto-correct at work. Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 12:30
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Sometimes, authors are not confident of their data. Therefore, they suggest a reviewer outside their direct research field, hoping they won't find any flaws in the manuscript. Another reason is a tough competition where the authors don't want potential competitors to see their results and either benefit from this knowledge or give a negative review.

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I experienced this twice with the MDPI journal "Nutrients". The handling editor of the respective articles told that me that I was "highly recommended by the corresponding author". It felt strange since I never had any contact with the person under discussion. Said person, however, is well known in my field. I assume that less experienced colleagues could be easily charmed by such an invitation. As discussed by Avid, such statements should generally be avoided in my opinion.

Could you clarify whether the journal under discussion (in your case) is new / relatively new? This could change things / perspectives.

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  • The journal is established since a couple of decades, not new at all.
    – Sursula
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 7:16
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    MDPI may not be new, but they are often terrible and spammy.
    – jakebeal
    Commented Nov 28, 2023 at 16:06
  • @jakebeal My main issue with them is that they often send me review requests where the topic of the manuscript is outside my area of expertise. AFAIK, review invitations are not even handled by an editor but by some assistent who relies on suggestion by their (terrible) tag-based system.
    – user9482
    Commented Nov 29, 2023 at 6:16

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