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I have simultaneously received 2 papers for review from the same journal from what I can only assume are the same authors (although the process is double blind). The papers build on each other, here are some made up titles that exemplify the type of interrelation:

  • Paper A: The influence of algae growth on underwater basket weaving: simulation
  • Paper B: The influence of algae growth on underwater basket weaving: experimental study

This is the first time a review situation like this has come up for me and I am unsure how to proceed; from what I can see I have the following options:

  1. Treat papers A and B like two separate papers and review them completely separately
  2. Treat papers A & B like a(n unseparable) unit and review them as if they were just one paper, submitting just one review report for both
  3. Review papers A and B separately, while keeping the other paper in mind while doing so (and remarking e.g. on possible duplications in the introduction etc.)

Does anyone has any experience with a situation like this? What would be the best course of action?

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  • 7
    Seems like a question for the editor.
    – Buffy
    Jan 4 at 14:16
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    The papers build on each other --- This is probably mostly neither here nor there for the issue you raise, but do you mean (a) each paper builds on the other paper, OR (b) only one of the papers builds on the other paper? Here I suppose "builds" means it makes reference to the other paper or settles issues raised in the other paper or some such, otherwise clearly (a) doesn't make much sense. Jan 4 at 14:19
  • @DaveLRenfro I think (a) makes sense from a certain viewpoint: imagine I had only accepted one paper for review do to time constraints (I got two separate invitations), then I wouldn't have access to the other paper and it could not influence my review.
    – Sursula
    Jan 4 at 14:39
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    It is possible the authors want both papers to be accepted, not just one, in order to publish. It is also possible that your comments involve the relationship between the two and suggestions for each that are inter-related. Get more info from the editor. Jan 5 at 3:33
  • I wouldn't be so sure that the two papers have the same authors. Even if they come from the same lab and have some authors in common, it's possible that some people in that lab worked only on simulation and others only on experiment, so these people should be authors on just one of the papers. Jan 5 at 3:57

1 Answer 1

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The answer is to ask the editor(s). There is no reason you can't contact them before you start reviewing. They know who the authors are and can advise you on what they want.

From my perspective though, without reading the papers or knowing anything else about the situation, I would treat them like two papers and just review them normally. Unless there is obvious salami slicing i.e., this should have been one paper but instead was submitted as two to boost publication numbers, I think that is the most logical approach.

Without knowing who the authors were, I don't know how you would justify doing anything else. If there is anything problematic you can raise those issues in the reviews - this seems like the perfect place for the confidential comments.

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  • I would not necessarily assume salami slicing. I can immediately remember a few "pairs" of papers in my field where the split made perfect sense, while shoving the "prerequisite reading" paper into supplementary did not. Seminal Gabor's "Theory of communication" is a three-part paper, each with its own DOI (10.1049/ji-3-2.1946.0074 to 0076). There are some very recent examples from my own field where conceptualization overlaps a lot while experimental methods vary, and so do the audiences.
    – Lodinn
    Jan 5 at 12:02
  • There is no salami slicing happening. The papers are genuinely different contentwise, apart from slight overlap (in intro and when refering to the other paper)
    – Sursula
    Jan 5 at 12:26

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