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I was reading a paper. And the list of authors looks suspicious. Three of the authors are at some random place I haven't heard of and the fourth author is a well-known professor at a top university. The paper itself is not very good.

I suspect the well-known author may have been listed to improve the paper's chances of acceptance. (Most reviews in my field are only single blind.) Of course, it is possible that nothing is wrong - I can't be sure.

Is there anything I can or should do?

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  • Are you suggesting that the impressive-sounding author was listed without his/her consent? Or that he/she agreed to be listed despite not having contributed anything to help some "random" researchers get their paper accepted?
    – ff524
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 22:55
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    You might check the well-known professor's web site to see whether the paper is mentioned there. Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 23:38
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    If you're really suspicious, you could simply e-mail the well-known professor, attach the paper, and ask him about it. If you're worried about offending him, you could mask it by asking him a genuine question about the paper.
    – Steve Heim
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 23:46
  • @SteveHeim If the paper is bad, how do you ask a genuine question about it? Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 2:18
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    Without reading the paper, I don't know. Asking for clarifications on something perhaps? Why such-and-such statement is made?
    – Steve Heim
    Commented Apr 1, 2016 at 2:20

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Can? Yes - the comments already give you some hints: Look at the prof's website, try asking him a question about the paper.

Should? Probably not. If there is really something going on, then it would the business of the professor, not yours. If you proceed as above and ask him something, and there is really something fishy, he can decide by himself if something needs to be done.

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