I recently reviewed an article. I found weaknesses in assumptions that meant none of the conclusions that were made could actually be made; basically they had absolutely no result.

As such, I gave a detailed review (~ 2000 words) explaining why the assumptions made by the authors were wrong. I was civil and polite throughout, it was not an attack and I tried to remain constructive. I recommended to the editor to reject the paper and, despite recommendations of accept with major revisions from the other two reviewers, the editor rejected the paper. I believe that the authors will take the easy option and just submit to another journal without making serious edits, rather than paying serious attention too my review.

If the paper does get published in (almost) unchanged state, should/could I write some kind of response article? How does one get to do this (should I email the editor with a draft of a response article)?

Should I contact the authors (before they publish, after they publish, or not at all, before or after I contact the editor, before or after I submit/publish a response article)?

  • 11
    Remember the review confidentiality! By contacting them before the paper is public, you are identifying yourself as one of the previous reviewers... After it is published, then enter the rules of your field, the fact that you were the reviewer is irrelevant. Apr 5 '16 at 13:19
  • Somewhat related: How to deal with repeated resubmissions of a bad paper
    – PLL
    Apr 5 '16 at 14:00
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    @FábioDias: This might be offtopic, but I always thought that reviewer confidentiality is "one-sided", i.e. it is important that the authors of the paper do not get to know the identity of the reviewer if the reviewer does not decide to disclose it himself. I can't see a problem in the reviewer's identifying himself. Am I off track? If the authors knew the reviewer without him/her intending it, they might be vengeful (e.g.), so the identity should not be revealed from the side of the editor, but if the reviewer decides to do it himself...
    – PhoemueX
    Apr 5 '16 at 17:06
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    Why do you believe the authors will try to resubmit elsewhere without making any changes? I don't see any reason to assume bad faith on their part.
    – Kevin
    Apr 5 '16 at 17:18
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    @Kevin Got a feeling they will given some of their previous publications which have critical response articles, and on some other papers (from other authors) I've suggested rejection for have later turned up elsewhere unchanged - so I'm a bit fed up of wasting my time with reviewing to the best of my ability.
    – rg255
    Apr 5 '16 at 18:51

Wait. The authors have seen your review, they should know that they have a problem. There's nothing to be done until the flawed article appears in another journal (if it ever does). You might write a draft response article and sit on it until the unchanged article appears. If it does, you can update your draft based on any changes and submit it to the same journal in response. If they fix it before resubmitting it, then you have nothing to do, and your review will have been successful.

  • By waiting to publish a response until the unchanged article appears (if it remains unchanged), you are also more likely preserve your anonymity as the reviewer. If you publish your response article before the unchanged article is published, your anonymity as a reviewer is much more likely to be compromised. Apr 5 '16 at 14:25
  • @Joshua, anonymity in the peer review process is primarily to protect the reviewer from the nasty or overly nice things the they might have said. Some people sign their reviews before sending them in to further emphasize their stand on their position. I suppose it's up to editors whether they propagate that signature to authors. Publishing your counter article early however does violate the confidentiality of the submission process and should not be done to protect the authors from not-yet-due criticism, however.
    – Bill Barth
    Apr 5 '16 at 16:50

You have mentioned that another reviewer has recommended with "accept with major revisions", did s/he pointed out the "wrong" assumption the authors used in their paper? If not, did any other reviewer do that (assuming that there is more than 2 reviewers)? I'm assuming that you can access their review (many journals allow that once you have posted your response). Keep in mind that the editor will most likely go with the worst case scenario (worst decision).

As a reviewer, your job is to evaluate the paper (fairly and up to your knowledge). You may not contact the authors now and reveal that you are one the reviewers (from my understanding). If the paper has "zero results" utilizing such a severe "wrong" assumption, then why are sure that they will submit the paper as is to a different journal and won't take your review into account? Do you know them personally (that is a different story then!). Keep in mind that there is no guarantee that the paper will published in its current form anyway! If you have spotted mistake, other will too!

You can however, if the paper is published, email the authors with questions or explanations. Ask them to include an "errata" or withdraw the paper (if possible). You can even write a response paper (not sure if applicable in your field), in which you can discuss what's wrong with the aforementioned paper. This can be done, either by citing their work (less harsh) or directly critiquing their work.

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    "the editor will most likely go with the worst case scenario (worst decision)" That's certainly not a general rule in my field.
    – xLeitix
    Apr 5 '16 at 13:46
  • I agree. As a side note, it will be helpful to others if you have included your field in your comment.
    – The Guy
    Apr 5 '16 at 13:48

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