A colleague recently submitted an article to a reputable journal. The article went to 6 reviewers, one of which completed the review and the other 5 of which completely ignored the request. The ignored requests were not declined, they were ignored such that 3 weeks passed and the requests finally timed out in the system before new review requests were sent out by the editor.
To me, it seems unethical to ignore a request rather than to decline to review. Under a decline, the article can immediately go to new reviewers. Under an ignore, it must time out.
I realize that it is possible that all 5 ignores were passive ignores, where the ignoring person never even saw the request for whatever reason. However, let's assume that the requests were actively ignored. That is, each person saw the request and chose to ignore it.
This anecdote brings up the following hypothetical questions:
- Putting aside the important fact that peer review is what keeps the scientific community running, are there any short term repercussions for those that ignore requests? For instance, if one of the reviewers who ignored my colleague's request were to submit an article today to the same journal and it were put on the same editor's desk, would there typically be any bias against it? Should there be?
- If there are repercussions, will they depend on how well established the ignoring person is in their field?
- What fraction of ignores are active ignores?