How do you go about dealing with an editor that pretends to be ALL the reviewers and reject a paper based on his/her 'made-up' reviews? Should I complain to the editor-in-chief or simply let it slide? The editor is a big name in my field.

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    Could you add some more information, please, in particular, how you know that happened what you allege happened? Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 9:33
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    How do you deal with an author that when his paper gets unanimously rejected, considers that there is a conspiracy against him, without having or presenting any proof about it?
    – Alexandros
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 10:31
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    Let's say for argument sake, the reviews are blatantly obvious; one liner, and the next one is a permutation of the same line. Also, the 'editor assigned' email and the decision email was spaced tens of few minutes apart. Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 10:32
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    I do not believe that a "big name" editor would make up reviews. Doing something like that gives them too small benefit for too much risk. It's more likely that either you are mistaken or you have submitted to a predatory journal.
    – user9482
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 12:49
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    In many journals the editor has the ability to reject a paper before even sending it to review. There's no need to fake reviews - such course of action seems less reasonable.
    – Ran G.
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 14:40

2 Answers 2


I am highly suspicious that a big name in a field would make up a bunch of one line reviews for a submission. You should have definite proof and should think long and hard about how irrefutable your proof is before proceeding further. Bringing this up will reflect extremely poorly upon you and your co-authors if you turn out to be wrong.

That being said, if you believe that you have proof of foul play, you should raise the issue with the editor-in-chief or whoever is higher up the totem pole. If you turn out to be correct, someone should inform the editor's school or place of employment about the academic misconduct.

If you'd like to take a more cautious path, you can email the editor-in-chief and ask if there was a reason all of your reviews were so short and if they had any suggestions for avoiding this in the future. You'll side-step the direct accusation while bringing the reviews to their attention.

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    This answer is too idealistic. The more practical answer is as follows. Is the journal worth fighting? If it's the same level as Nature, then perhaps. Otherwise, why bother going after a serial offender (yes, I just found out that this editor was kicked off the editorial board of a prestigious journal for accepting his friends' papers). Also, why would my reputation suffer? Our works are under constant scrutiny, why shouldn't an editor's conduct be scrutinized too? It's a democratic process right? You don't get thrown in jail or beheaded, like some countries, for questioning authority. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:19
  • I suspect he/she did what he/she because he/she couldn't be bothered handling the paper. Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 7:24
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    @LittleMouse If you disagree with what I wrote, you are welcome to submit and accept your own answer.
    – Ric
    Commented Jan 19, 2016 at 16:01

While nothing is impossible, it is extremely, extremely unlikely that the editor risked his or her career -- because that's what faking peer review would be -- in order to sink your paper. Even if the editor cared that much, he or she could simply desk-reject the paper. This does not require, as you seem to think, that the paper be outside of the journal's scope. I desk reject more than a dozen papers annually, most of them for quality reasons, not scope reasons.

If the journal has some strange system where desk rejection is not allowed (as does e.g. Frontiers) it is still likely that your paper was seen by two referees. If the repeated text is unusual, it could be that the editor sent a leading request to the referees, along the lines of "I think this paper misuses methodology x in order to do y -- what do you think?" Then if both reviews say "This paper misuses methodology x to do y", this is not because the editor cheated and wrote the reviews him or herself, it is because he or she lead the referees with the review solicitation.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Unless you have extremely strong evidence that the editor behaved as you claimed, you need to consider other more parsimonious explanations.

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