I am reviewing a paper A for a Journal X. To be specific, the area is Mathematics. The works is built on a previous work B (already published) of the same author in another Journal Y (also a peer-review Journal but perhaps less prestigious). What I have seen after reading of A is that if the results of B are correct then the results of A are also correct. After looking at the paper B, it seems to me that the proofs are less convincing and I am uncertain of their correctness (I don't have counterexamples to show their incorrectness). If the results of B are correct, the paper A deserves to be published in the Journal X.

How can I deal with this situation?

  • 5
    Write a review telling the editor exactly what you've said here.
    – Corvus
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 15:41
  • 5
    @Corvus: I bet in a couple of weeks we get a new question: "I am the editor of Journal X. A referee has just sent me a report that Submitted Paper A's results rely on results in Paper B, which she is not confident are correct. How can I deal with this situation?" Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 16:50
  • @NateEldredge...bhwahahahahahahah
    – dwoz
    Commented Nov 23, 2015 at 17:16
  • @NateEldredge +1 Wouldn't that be fun! I'd tell her to read paper B herself. :)
    – Corvus
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 2:12

1 Answer 1


From what you have written, it seems that you have determined fairly clearly that the results of Paper A are conditionally correct. That is something that is clearly worth reporting in your review. You're also dubious about Paper B, which is also clearly worth reporting, even if you have no solid evidence that it is wrong.

I think there is one further question that is worth making a clear statement on: are the results of Paper A interesting as a conditional conjecture, or are they only interesting if Paper B is solid? For some problems, work based on the consequences of a result is interesting even if the result itself is not solid: famous examples include the Riemann hypothesis and P vs. NP. Paper B is almost certainly not so significant as these, but it still may be interesting---or it may not be.

I would thus recommend reporting what you have written here, plus your assessment of how interesting Paper A is given the conditionality on Paper B. This should give the editor sufficient information to proceed.

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