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I received a book proposal review request from Elsevier. Despite some reasons to believe that it is credible, there are a few things that look suspicious to me:

  1. A monetary compensation is offered. Is this common, and how does this work in practice?
  2. The request is sent from a personal email account.
  3. It says that I was suggested as an expert in the field, but in fact it is not closely related to mine.
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    As a security matter, you should go to Elsivier's website and look up the contact in in a corporate directory, or get in contact with the affiliated division and make contact via means you discover yourself. Or, just ignore it. – David Mar 1 '17 at 17:28
  • @David thanks for the suggestion. I have now contacted another editor in the corporate directory, who confirmed that the sender is a former employee who is helping with a bottleneck of proposal administration. – adipro Mar 2 '17 at 15:44
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I was asked some time ago to review a book proposal by a leading academic publisher, and offered to choose between receiving some token monetary compensation or having them send me a few of their textbooks of my choice (I opted for the latter option and remember feeling quite happy when the "free" textbooks arrived :-) ). So yes, publishers offering payment seems not uncommon.

I do agree that the use of a personal email is suspicious and not consistent with professional email standards associated with large and respected organizations like Elsevier. It could be completely innocuous, maybe due to an employee with slightly rebellious tendencies who refuses to kowtow to his corporate culture and insists on using a gmail account, or it could be a scam, who knows. Caveat emptor - obviously do your due diligence before compromising any bank account information. (And let us know what you find!)

  • Thanks for the answer. Please see my comment to @David above. – adipro Mar 2 '17 at 15:46
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Compensation for reviews is not common, but also not unheard-of. That in itself would not raise a red flag for me, and Elsevier is certainly a reputable entity in science publishing (despite their somewhat unfortunate role in the current struggle of academic publishers versus open access).

That you sometimes get invited to as an expert for fields that are not actually that closely related is also not extremely uncommon. The people that select reviewers for books are usually not experts in your field, so what appears to you as a significant difference in e.g., research approach or community may look like a mere technicality to them. You should decide for yourself whether you will be able to conduct a high-quality review despite being in a different field, and if not reject the review.

The only aspect of the request that I also find highly suspicious is that the request came from a personal email address. This alone would not be enough for me to outright discard the email as spam, but I would certainly not e.g., forward them my banking information before I don't get anything a bit more official than a mail from a GMail account that says that the person works for Elsevier.

  • Compensation for book reviews is quite common in my experience, although not for journal articles. – Allure Sep 6 '18 at 23:30

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