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I am submitting a manuscript to a journal. I wish to exclude a colleague from being the reviewer of the manuscript. The journal has a single blind review: authors are known, reviewers are anonymous.

Question in short: The reason for this exclusion request are personal (see below), and I'm not sure I want to expose those reasons. What is the most effective ways to exclude a reviewer whom you don't trust to make a fair judgement?

Personal reasons for exclusion request::

  • We had a couple of harsh interactions. She had criticized me personally, and had short arguments about our different attitudes towards publishing, writing and research.
  • I believe she has already wrote a "reject" review on my manuscript (for a different venue).

  • To my judgment, she has standards that are uncommon in my research community, and so would judge my work on unconventional higher standards.

  • Her personality, in my view, is harsh and critical (and unpleasant) and so each of her judgments are prone to be more negative than others, on average.

  • She is related to the area of my manuscript (I have cited her manuscript and given her full credit for the work she did), and from her point of view me publishing the manuscript would, psychologically, be a personal disappointment, because her related work has not been published.

Questions: 1. Can I ask the editor not to send it to her review?

  1. Should I ask the editor for this? Would it benefit me?

  2. How can I explain my request, and should I explain it?

Notes: i) I don't want to write any of the reasons I listed above! Because they are mostly personal! And would put me in a very unpleasant situation psychologically at least.

ii) I believe that the review process in general is very subjective, and so there is always a way to consider the same work in two opposite perspectives: positive and negative. I believe the reviewer I want to exclude would highlight the negatives, and diminish the positives. And recommend a rejection.


This question is different from: Sound reasons for excluding a reviewer, because the current question asks how to exclude a reviewer irrespective of the justifications of this exclusion. In other words, I'm not asking what are "sound reasons to exclude a reviewer", but rather HOW to exclude her, independent from the existence of sound reasons.

More details of the difference:

In Sound reasons for excluding a reviewer the term "sound" is probably meant to be an objective term. However I claim that the reviewing process is not an objective process at all. Thus, there are at least three different interpretations of Sound reasons for excluding a reviewer:

  • What kind of reason would be regarded as sound by the editor of the journal?

Or

  • Is there a set of objective reasons that the scientific community views as legitimate to exclude a reviewer?

Or

  • What can I, as an author do, to exclude a reviewer, if I think he/she has a grudge against me, irrespective of the objective reality, or the justifications of this act of excluding the reviewer?

The OP has not clarified whether he/she means 1, 2, 3 or another question. These are all different questions. I'm asking 3.

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I cannot merge my account with I am a guest (which is also me) because I don't remember the email I used for "I am a guest".

  • 12
    Have you looked at the submission process? Many times there will be a box for suggested reviewers or reviewers to exclude. – Kimball Aug 5 '16 at 13:48
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    Thanks. But there is no such box. Also, my question would still stand, even if there had been such an option: is it wise to exclude someone? Should I? Etc. – I am a guest Aug 5 '16 at 13:59
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    "This question is different from: sound reasons for excluding a reviewer... I'm asking what to do in this specific case". Sorry if this comes across as harsh, but that's not really the point of SE. Questions are meant to be useful to as wide an audience as possible. If you feel that the answer to the duplicate question is inadequate then the best thing to do is to ask for clarification there. What is it about your question that you feel is not addressed in the linked question? – user2390246 Aug 5 '16 at 14:35
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    Also: you describe this person as a "colleague". What exactly do you mean by this? Because your paper should never be reviewed by someone you work directly with. – user2390246 Aug 5 '16 at 14:39
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    she has standards that are uncommon in my research community, and so would judge my work on unconventional higher standards. That is a quality in a reviewer, not a flaw. – Cape Code Oct 16 '16 at 15:22
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There is often a standard statement/option on submission which offers the opportunity to declare possible "Conflict of interest." (CoI); not only for yourself, but also reviewers who might have some with you. To my knowledge this formulation intentionally leaves open whether the CoI derives from possible favouritism, antagonism, competing funding/research interests or other.

In my opinion as editor, I prefer actually not to know what the precise nature of the CoI is. As long as the author doesn't exclude a larger number of people this way, declaring isolated CoIs are perfectly in the remit of a typical researcher's career and should not count against you.

In rare cases, the editor might not have a choice but to take that reviewer on board, in which case they must take the CoI flag into account - sometimes you see reviews which are clearly not objective (biased in one or the other direction, doesn't matter); the review may still be informative, if that baseline bias is taken into account.

However, I think an isolated CoI should, if at all possible, be taken into account by a serious editor, because many things can be at stake, such as funding, priority, plagiarism accusations and more. If they do not want to do that (for inscrutable reasons), you might consider changing publishing venue.

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As you are serious about this, you could request the editor to exclude the specific person from the prospective reviewers list.

This is not an act of misconduct as there are of course many journals who do have a reviewers to exclude section. If asked, you may state research rivalry as a reason.

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    "you may state research rivalry as a reason" - have you ever tried excluding a reviewer and giving "research rivalry" as the reason? I cannot imagine that going over well. – ff524 Aug 5 '16 at 16:32
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    It might be worth pointing out that an editor might not oblige to the request. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 5 '16 at 18:16
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    @MassimoOrtolano: it's worth a try. Could you state a reason why an editor might directly oppose this request? – Ébe Isaac Aug 5 '16 at 18:22
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    @ÉbeIsaac Rivalry between two groups is not a sufficient reason to reject a reviewer: a competitor can be quite honest in their review, after all. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 5 '16 at 18:26
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    I've heard of the opposite of claiming rivalry as exclusion criterion: thank the rival group for helpful discussions in the acknowledgements as a way of making them "involved" in the paper so they are not eligible as reviewers. (very much 2nd hand knowledge though - and I don't know whether it worked out...) – cbeleites Aug 5 '16 at 21:55
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To be honest, many of the non-personal reasons you have given are good reasons why this person would be a good reviewer, whilst the personal reasons are quite subjective and speculative. Academia is not about meeting average standards, and so a reviewer who is unusually critical is a huge asset. Remember, it is ultimately the editor who decides whether to publish, not the reviewer, so if that reviewer's standards are impossibly high (and not just "higher than average"), it should not be a problem.

If this person is very familiar and connected with your work (i.e.: a collaborator, not a rival), you might argue that it would be conflict of interest to have him/her as reviewer. Otherwise, if you are really convinced that this person has some personal axe to grind against you and will be determined to stop you publishing, your best best is to submit to a publication that utilises double-blind review.

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Just ask in the submission letter don't go into details if the conflict.

FWIW, I don't think the reasons are very strong or at least very personal. Not an old girlfriend or the like. Pretty standard academia tussles. I would not say the reasons are personal, just standard rivalry.

Note the editor still has the option to send it to the lady. But at least he should weigh the review with caveats.

If you don't get through this other venue, I suggest to just keep shopping it. The other thing is to consider making it more just the facts style. Mostly a report of experimental data. Minimal and caveated nterpretation.

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