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Sometimes I get a paper for review, and I am not sure about certain points in the paper. It could be really helpful for me (and for the paper) to discuss these points with a friend who might understand these issues better. Suppose the friend is unrelated to the authors, so has no conflict-of-interest. Is it, in general, allowed to show the paper to the friend and ask for opinion?

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The main point of peer review is that the reviewers and authors are blinded, which you would not necessarily violate in this situation. In the past, I have been given articles to review where I did not understand the statistical methods used for that particular study. I felt that it was a larger disservice to write a positive review about the article without knowing if the stats were completed correctly with adequate results than to consult a colleague about the issue. I printed out the manuscript and asked her questions about the methodology without sharing data or findings with her. I did not email or share copies of the manuscript with her. I also did not tell her what journal I was reviewing for to further blind the process. I felt that this was appropriate and you could do the same.

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    No! In addition to blinding, and likely more important in many fields, the review process needs to be confidential. This violates the principles of peer review laid out by COPE. – StrongBad Apr 21 '17 at 17:23
  • Personally, I don't think that COPE's principles are dogma, and I don't see a problem with consulting a colleague on a limited basis, as in this case. Of course, the whole issue can be avoided by asking the permission of the journal: it is hard to imagine they would say no, because if they did, presumably you would refuse to complete the review, on the basis of insufficient expertise. – Nate Eldredge Apr 21 '17 at 18:02
  • StrongBad - After reading your comment, I researched some guidelines that have been published by the federal government on peer review. Asking a colleague anonymized questions about the research under review and not sharing data or findings from the paper was not viewed as being frowned upon. If anything further than anonymized questions are asked of the colleague, the editor should be consulted. This is what I did with my colleague. I edited my response to more accurately reflect what occurred in my case. ori.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/prethics.pdf – Nicole Ruggiano Apr 21 '17 at 18:28
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    I have often asked colleagues for help with reviews, and have been asked in return. This is very common, and there are many cases I would had to reject a review request, quite deep into a paper, as I felt insufficiently expert to review so small but important point in a paper. I don't know what 'COPE' is, or why you feel we should care we violate it's principles. – Chris Jefferson Jun 1 '17 at 18:09

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