A scientific journal assigned me a paper to review. During the review process, I realized I have some interesting ideas about the paper project, so I am thinking about to contact the authors and propose them to start a collaboration together.

What should I do?

Should I contact them and explain my proposals directly? But will this invalidate my journal review?

  • 11
    In these cases, the first person to contact is the editor. Ask them to recommend the best course of action to you. Dec 4, 2015 at 14:50

3 Answers 3


Finish the review and wait until the paper you are reviewing is published to contact them.

Reviews are supposed to be anonymous and by doing this you waive your anonymity away.

  • 20
    Yes, this. You cannot ethically admit to anyone (except the editor, or without the editor's permission) that you know the paper exists until it is formally published. On the other hand, if they've posted a preprint to the arXiv or their home page, you can admit that you know that exists, but if you start a collaboration, you should recuse yourself from refereeing the journal submission.
    – JeffE
    Dec 4, 2015 at 14:43
  • 4
    I see. But the publication time is very long. It will be probably published in September 2016... should I wait until that?
    – larry
    Dec 4, 2015 at 14:59
  • 4
    Yes, @larry, you have to wait, if there's no arXiv or homepage publication you could possibly have seen. Dec 4, 2015 at 15:38
  • 2
    @paulgarrett Nope, there's no preprint around. I really hope I won't have lost my will about this project by that time
    – larry
    Dec 4, 2015 at 19:31
  • 4
    Look for other papers from that group. It is unlikely they have a single paper on the interesting topic. Contact them regarding the previous papers and submit your review in the meantime. Dec 4, 2015 at 23:27

Almost universally, recent collaborators are flagged as conflicts of interest for the purpose of peer reviewing. Once you start collaborating with them, you fall into that category and you acquire a conflict of interest that is incompatible with your role as reviewer. No matter how you cut it, it's not kosher.


The ethics involved are much more muddy than invalidating a review. I suggest that taking action based upon the document you've been handed in confidence isn't right.

To say that reading a privileged document might not change the way you approach a problem somehow is naive, but to out and out arrange a collaboration with the authors during the process is simply over the top. I suspect if your community knew of such action, they would not approve of it. If I were the author, I would be giving the editor a piece of my mind about the reviewer.

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