I'm applying to a lab whose work I happen to be pretty familiar with, due to peer reviewing one of their articles.

Is it ethical to mention this information to them? I feel that if I don't mention it, and they find out later, they may feel that I mistrusted or misrepresented during the application process.

Does the answer depend on whether the article has already been published, or whether it's still in the review process?

4 Answers 4


If you have previously peer-reviewed their work, you are obligated keep that information confidential unless the journal policy says otherwise. If your potential employer somehow finds out you reviewed their work, they will know you did the right thing.

If you are currently reviewing their work and applying for a job with them, you should stop reviewing and contact the editor. Tell the editor you now have a conflict of interest and cannot continue reviewing.

  • 2
    “you are obligated keep that information confidential” — says who? I’ve never heard of such a policy. It may exist, but it’s far from universal. I’ve reviewed articles and I don’t generally treat any information pertaining to this process as confidential (after the review process/publication). Aug 1, 2017 at 18:07
  • 4
    I believe many journals allow the reviewer to disclose themselves if they so wish, so this is not necessarily confidential. But you have to check the policy of that particular journal. However not telling anything is the safest option.
    – Phlya
    Aug 1, 2017 at 22:08
  • @KonradRudolph Interestingly enough, even AMS (my etalon for publications ethics) seems to mention only this: Editors must preserve the anonymity of referees unless there is a credible allegation of misuse. I'll check with someone at AMS and report further.
    – yo'
    Aug 2, 2017 at 16:03

Peer review is usually completely confidential and you should never discuss peer review with others. Some journal have "open" peer review in which case let the journal deal with the release of this information. Some journal allow you to consult a colleague during the peer review process but you have to declare this when submitting the review. In general, avoid confirming or denying being involved with a particular paper. This is certainly a topic the less is known the better everybody is.

To paraphrase a former politican: "This is not a question a gentleman should ask, nor it is a question a gentleman should answer."


You should almost certainly not tell them. While I have seen a certain amount of "friendly" post-review disclosure, even if this is accepted in your field, I think the circumstances here strongly weigh against it.

If the paper is currently under review, you should first let the editor know, and absolutely not tell your potential advisor. If you told your prospective advisor, it would create the appearance of a quid pro quo. No matter your intentions, if someone told me this while I was interviewing them, I would be shaken and question their trustworthiness.

If you have already reviewed the paper, and you gave it a good review, and the paper has been published, it would be less blatantly offensive. I understand the urge to say, "I became interested in your group because of this paper, which I refereed" - but this is still not a good idea. Simply showing your strong interest and understanding of that paper is better, and creates no impression of a quid pro quo.

The one circumstance in which I can imagine a lab being offended that you did not disclose your involvement is if you gave a notably harsh review to a paper. The key issue in this case would be finding out if your idea of what is important in a paper, or what methods are useful, might be critically different from your prospective advisor's. If you join the group, but then have major issues with how some experiments are conducted, your advisor might be bothered that you did not disclose that - whether or not this had its origin in a refereeing situation. Disclosing in this circumstance will almost certainly not improve your chances of being hired - no one likes harsh criticism - but it could tell you more about whether this is a lab you could work with.


I really do not understand what the question is meant for ... You are applying for a post doc to them, so I would suppose that you know all of their publications, at least those inherent your PhD thesis or - in case you want to give a very new cut to your research career - those papers who attracted your attention. That you were or were not referee for their paper is really irrelevant and you should not discuss it. Sounds "take me, I did recommend your paper". Beside that they won't care..... Perhaps, in a certain time, you can drop "ah yes, I was referee" whenever the existence of that paper will come into discussion.

The only point that I can see as realistic, is that you got a special interest on that very paper content and would propose you to work on that line. If it is indeed the case, and no previous work by that group on the specific subject is already in the wild, than obviously you cannot tell them without saying something like "I got to know of this because I am referee and.........". Making clear that you recommend the paper. I do not see anything dramatic on that. Waiting the few weeks until it gets online might cost you the position. In brief, you can disclose that you were referee if there is a scientific reason to do so, and to show you are passionate about that otherwise unspeakable line of research.

I have assumed that you were no nasty nor sarcastic in your referee report, and overall you liked it and recommend for publication

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