The academic review process is usually supposed to be blind, in that authors are not told the identity of the reviewers. But frequently it is possible to guess who has reviewed your work, or the reviewers themselves may let you know informally.

Say my manuscript is rejected from journal A after one very positive and one more critical review, and I think I know who the reviewers were. After some revisions I submit to journal B, who ask me for a suggested list of reviewers. Is it ethical to list the reviewer whom I suspect gave the positive review the first time, but replace the one I suspect has a negative opinion of my work with another reviewer? What if the positive reviewer is someone whom I did not originally suggest to journal A - is it ethical to suggest him/her to journal B in the light of their previous review?

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    What was the nature of the negative comments? Did you address them in your revised version? Do you fundamentally disagree with them?
    – Davidmh
    Dec 17, 2015 at 15:36
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    The negative comments were more to do with the impact of the work than the quality. The reviewer felt that the manuscript did not make enough of a contribution to the field for journal A, which was relatively high profile. Short of writing a different paper, the only way we could address those issues would be to try and justify ourselves more clearly. Dec 17, 2015 at 15:50

3 Answers 3


There are ZERO ethics involved. First, you suspect, but do not know, who the original reviewers were. You may be right, you may be wrong.

Next, suggestions for potential reviewers are just that -- suggestions. It is the responsibility of the editor to pick appropriate reviewers, and your suggestions are just one potential source of information in the process of doing so.

I'd say even if you recommend people who you respect to referee your papers, they'll surprise you regularly with critical reviews (if they're doing their job).

The biggest ethical quandry you can get into in the process of recommending referees is probably some sort of pre-arrangement with those you suggest. This is to be avoided as less than stellar behavior.

  • Ethics have nothing to do with how sure you are that your proposed plan will work. Or if you have forced everyone to your will, or just suggested a course of action. Goebbels just SUGGESTED to Hitler that he should execute all the Jews, he had no idea if Hitler would take his advice. AKA uncertainly does not equate to ethical behaviour. In fact it has nothing to do with it. You do not seem to fundamentally understand what ethics are.
    – Jonathon
    Jan 1, 2016 at 6:16
  • @JonathonWisnoski I don't think I proposed a plan. Jan 1, 2016 at 13:22
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    Not exactly. You just made an argument about ethics. Specifically stating that if you are unsure about the outcome, and do not coerce people, anything you do cannot be considered unethical. This is so far from a reasonable ethical argument, that I said I do not believe you understand what ethics are. Am I just off my handle, are you in-fact aware of some ethical philosophy that considers uncertainly to equate to ethical behaviour?
    – Jonathon
    Jan 1, 2016 at 15:40
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    @JonathonWisnoski, actually, yes. Equipoise is central to the ethics of placebo studies, but I believe I was talking mostly about inputs, not outcomes. Jan 2, 2016 at 19:09

You could, but with the following caveats:

  • Some journals will ask potential reviewers if they have reviewed the material before and ask them to decline if they answer in the affirmative.
  • Even without that specific guidance, many reviewers will decline to re-review material that they've reviewed for another journal

I think that this is a good principle to have, especially in small fields. It prevents certain scholars from being gatekeepers to the discipline.


if you have to ask if it is ethical, then it probably is not.

  • This is not a reasoned argument so much as a "heuristic for shortcutting the need to think things through." (Phrase courtesy of Oddthinking)
    – ff524
    Dec 18, 2015 at 5:47

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