15

I have been invited to review a manuscript written by several authors. One of them has been the editor of one of my recently published papers. This is the only interaction I have ever had with the author of the manuscript.

Would it be OK for me to accept the review request?

While I personally do not see anything wrong with it, it might be the case that I am positively biased towards the paper, without realising it. Hence my question.

Bonus question: the journal adopts an open peer review system, where the reviews and the reviewers' names can be published alongside the paper. Shall I accept the review request, would it make sense to disclose my concern in the review I submit? Assuming that the paper gets accepted, of course.

  • 12
    I see no problem with accepting this review request. – Andreas Blass Sep 2 '15 at 8:47
  • 2
    I agree - who would want to become a journal editor if it meant nobody who published in the journal (presumably the editor's field) if the editor couldn't publish papers because nobody would review them? – Jon Custer Sep 2 '15 at 13:25
20

Short answer: yes it is ok to accept the review.

Long answer: Yes, it is (still) ok to accept the review. If you can only review paper written by authors you have never ever interacted with, at some point in your career, you'll stop reviewing. Especially if you are working in a small field of research. For me, in your case, it is more than fine to accept the review. The question becomes more tricky if it is from someone you work(ed) with...

If you want to try out some really tricky reviewing scenario, try out this test: http://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcblog/2015/08/21/quiz-can-navigate-tricky-peer-review-scenarios/

  • Thanks for the link. So, there is not even the need to disclose this in the open public review. – dgraziotin Sep 2 '15 at 9:29
  • Personally, I would not do it, but you still can if you want to be 200% transparent :) – Wiliam Sep 2 '15 at 10:08
10

Several institutes have detailed guidelines that clarify what is a conflict of interest and what is not. While it's hard to make hard rules that cover all the cases, it can be useful for a young researcher to see something like this to get a hang of what is considered appropriate.

For instance, the research grant program office of the university of California considers a person in COI if:

  1. Is a close personal friend or family member of an applicant or grantee.
  2. Is a recent (less than 5 years) employee/employer/mentor/student/teacher/co-worker of an applicant or grantee.
  3. Serves as a volunteer for the applicant or grantee organization (volunteer staff member, committee member, advisor, or board member).
  4. Serves as a paid or unpaid consultant for the applicant/grantee or applicant/grantee organization on other projects.
  5. Is a co-investigator or research collaborator with an applicant or grantee.
  6. Has co-authored scientific articles with an applicant/grantee/reviewer during the past five years.

I have seen similar rules in several other places, sometimes with the 5 year period reduced to 3, or with stricter defintions of "personal friend or family member".

As you can see, in your case the interaction with the author is very far from being in the danger zone.

9

So I repeat what I read in your post:

  1. You published a paper XY to Journal A where John Doe handled your paper.
  2. Josh Soe from Journal B asked you to review a paper ZZ by John Doe.

I don't see any reason why you couldn't do the review. Still, if you are in doubt, you can ask Josh Soe if he -- the editor -- sees it as a conflict. A short mail would do:

Dear Josh,

I'm ready to review the paper ZZ by John Doe. However, he was the editor of a paper I published in Journal A. Do you see it as a conflict of interest, or can I make the review nonetheless?

Best regards,

In the end it's more the journal's policy that matters than your point of view, as long as you are not being pushed into blatantly non-ethical behaviour you're not willing to do; but that's not the case here.

  • Dear downvoter, I would be grateful to know what I have done wrong. Thanks. – yo' Dec 5 '15 at 10:16

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