I have the impression that the two main editors of a prestigious journal published by a well known publishing house have “confiscated” the journal for their own interests. In brief, they publish papers of their students, which do not match the journal’s quality going by the citations they subsequently receive and make other questionable decisions.

Is there a way to bring this kind of bias and/or conflict of interests to the attention of the publishing house?

  • 10
    I suggest that you just submit somewhere else.
    – Mad Jack
    Jun 19, 2015 at 19:47
  • I edited your question to remove the part about your paper as it does not relate to your core question – appealing against reviews is something different than appealing against editors. You may ask a separate question about this, but I guess that it has already been asked here. Please check whether everything is still according to your intentions.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 19, 2015 at 20:26
  • There seems to also be a presumption that the publishing house is run by fools who aren't paying attention to their journals. Are you sure?
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 19, 2015 at 21:10
  • 1
    @JonCuster A surprising number of publishers don't pay close attention to every single journal that carries their imprimatur.
    – JeffE
    Jun 19, 2015 at 23:23
  • Sure, but the higher the prestige factor, the more worries about slipping these days...
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 20, 2015 at 0:24

1 Answer 1


The accusation that you are making is both very serious and not simple to prove. People often make such accusations from a deeply biased perspective, and it's easy to get written off as "sour grapes." At the same time, serious misbehavior and manipulation of journals does happen.

I would thus suggest that the first thing you do is to gather some scientific evidence of the journals' scientific misbehavior. You claim that the editors preferentially publish their own students' papers, and that these papers are poorly cited. This is a claim that can be backed up by data analysis. Both academic genealogies and the journal's publication and citation records are publicly available records. Tabulate the behavior of the journal before and after the editors you are suspicious of took over. Compare it to the behavior of peer journals. Plot the data.

In doing this, you may discover that you are not actually correct in your accusations. It's easy for this to happen due to confirmation bias, and especially when we feel passionately about something. If so, then you have saved yourself a lot of trouble and embarrassment.

On the other hand, if you discover that you are correct, then you have everything in hand that you need to seek the reform you want. First, you'll need to be clear on what positive action you want to be taken: "don't do that" isn't very actionable. Do you want the editors to step down? Do you want papers retracted? Do you want something else? Then you can go to the editors (who might be unaware of their own bias), the publisher (who may or may not care), and to social media in general.

Remember, however, that the prior probability of such accusations is that of an angry and biased person or a crank, and you need to work hard to overcome that impression in every interaction. You will need to be very careful to hold yourself to work based on facts and clear, reasonable requests rather than passion if you want to get the results you seek. I might suggest Lior Pachter as one (possibly controversial) model to follow: he is both very aggressive and very precise, careful, and data driven in the way in which he calls out what he sees as significant scientific problems.

  • Hi jakebeal, It looks like I am not allowed to answer anymore. Thanks god that this country is not ruled by people like the moderators of this blog. Jun 20, 2015 at 23:15
  • @PaulVisoianu I'm really not sure what you are talking about, since you're allowed to comment and that typically means you can post questions and answers as well: perhaps you would like to clarify? And I'm also not sure why you are telling this to me?
    – jakebeal
    Jun 21, 2015 at 0:15
  • I was telling you that I do not care that my paper was "rejected" and that I posted it online. It is already read and cited and I am NOT a cranky old man. I also told you that I can prove the accusations I made towards the 2 editors of that journal. Our young colleagues should know that such problems may exist and not be discouraged by such cliquey behavior. I also told you that I replied to the editors but I did not get an answer yet (after almost one week). I will see what to do next. Jun 22, 2015 at 0:36

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