I'm in a unique situation. I do my investigations on my own. It means I'm not affiliated with any institutions and am not taking money from anyone. But it also means I have no one to turn to when I have my troubles and I need a guiding light. It means that instead of running to the advisor next door in some educational institution I have to rely on tracking, making contact and explaining my situation and problems to new people whom I meet primarily online.

I have my acquaintances in the universities of my home country and sometimes talk to them but they aren't capable of supporting me. At least I have a link to the scientific search engines and can get the literature I need to continue the development of my interests. I have my dream of building enough materials for a PhD thesis and I have an university degree in science, but in order to turn it into reality I need contacts with people from other countries who can help with the questions the locals are unable to respond to. This is how I proceed for quite some time.

There is this person who may be able to help me but is also on the editorial board of a journal where I might have an actual chance to publish a paper. When I contact this person I'm not intending s/he to actually advice me how to publish in his/hers journal but the idea comes naturally as s/he seems to like what I'm working on and I have been searching for a place to publish for quite some time. I didn't intended originally for this to happen but if s/he is indeed seeing something interesting in my work and is thinking the journal where s/he is editing may be the right place to publish should I deny this long awaited chance for me only because I have presented this research to its potential editor and now s/he may have agreed to help me format it in a way that will make it publishable at his/hers particular venue? Am I doing something morally wrong or unacceptable here?

The problem is this journal seems more like a friendly circle pamphlet than an actual academic research journal. It is peer reviewed (by its creators) and as far as I know it is indexed by at least scopus but its impact factor is something extremely low and it has very few papers published in it even on an yearly basis, so it is not exactly "guiding" the development of any field. My prime worry is that if my paper appears in this journal and I mention one of its editors in the acknowledgements as the person who helped me write my paper I fear this may have a negative feedback not only on myself but on the journal as whole. As I said it has very low impact factor and I think researchers (other than its editorial board) already regard it as somewhat dubious publication medium. And if now articles where the editors are acknowledged by some known-by-noone guy who claims to be a scientist but has neither a PhD, nor is affiliated to any university and comes from a non-Western country, start to appear, may be it will damage not only my non-existent reputation but also the reputation of the journal as a whole. Do my fears have any base in reality or am I thinking too much and blocking what is now my best chance of finally publishing my ideas? Are my fears real or am I shooting myself in the foot?

Does the previous contacts I have with the person who will potentially review my article constitute a conflict of interests between me and this journal?

P.S. I have thought of several ways to avoid the embarrassing situation but it seems nothing works. I thought of advising my article to be reviewed by some other editor but it seems like I know all the editors of this journal and they are all connected to each other by long years of friendship relationships, so they all know me and the person I'm talking about and what this research is about (it is quite unique, this is why it is something they just can't take as someone else's ideas), so whoever reviews it s/he will know who is helping me and what is this research about even before I submit my manuscript. As I told you the editorial board of this journal is extremely small (smaller than the number of the fingers on your hand) and they all know each other and I'm quite persistent "thorn in the foot", so it is no secret for any of them who am I, what I am doing and who is helping me. I fear if this research goes through the "blind" review process the only "blind" thing that will remain s the number of people I would have to include in the acknowledgements, not the material itself. On the other hand, however, I feel like I need these people's help because I haven't been able to master my writing style on my own and they may be my only chance to actually get some professional help and finally format a descent publication. Should I be blowing away my best chance now because of fears I'm breaking the rules of the peer-review process? What steps should I take to keep it? Should I abandon my publication there because I have already made contacts with the editors and told them what would my paper be about and they had agreed here id the right place for it and now the only thing that remains is only to format it properly and fix my writing style so it can go online? Would this actually harm the journal's reputation?

I have also considered proposing the editor to make a joint paper with his/hers name after mine, but the reply I got was it was my work here and I did the job, not him/her, so it would be unfair to prescribe him/her with such credits. Only a place in the acknowledgements will suffice. I feel like I may be doing something wrong here but am I? I have no publications and I have always been rejected due to various reasons up to now, so, I wonder what am I getting myself into, but see no other options left but to either agree with their advice an make the corrections they want to submit my article in their journal or to give up completely and search for other place to publish (may be some day in the distant future). What should I do?

I'm really wondering am I "screwing" the peer review system with what I'm doing?

  • 3
    Authors don't get 'conflicted' with journals, reviewers/editors get conflicted with authors. When that happens, another editor can be assigned, usually upon request. In general, not that big of a deal. It happens all the time in small subfields, you can usually guess the authors of papers with reasonable accuracy... Oct 20, 2017 at 22:54
  • So, if I have contacted a journal with 3 editors and they have agreed to help me organize and format my thoughts into text, which can be published in their journal this isn't any conflict of anything and I can be calm things like that happen all the time? Is it the meaning of your comment @FábioDias? Do cases like mine happen often? Oct 21, 2017 at 2:18
  • 4
    Didn't read this super carefully but it seems to be in desperate need of some editing down...
    – virmaior
    Oct 21, 2017 at 3:25
  • 2
    @YordanYordanov It happened to me, at least, in one paper that we were invited to submit ( ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/8024139 ). It wasn't the regular double blind review process, but it was far from "compromised". My whole point is: that kind of concern is for the editors, not for the authors... You just write and send it, let them sort it out :) Oct 21, 2017 at 3:52
  • I removed the "first-time-publishing" tag because it's a "meta tag" - it refers to the person asking the question, not its specific content. Your question would be exactly the same even if you had published before! (Also see the help center. In general: "you should only create new tags when you feel you can make a strong case that your question covers a new topic that nobody else has asked about before on this site", so as to avoid tag proliferation.)
    – ff524
    Oct 22, 2017 at 2:02

1 Answer 1


Most editors are professors from the same field as the journal (or covering part of the journal), and often they or their students want to submit to the same journal where the professor is working. (TLDR: students submit their manuscripts to journals where their professor is an editor). This is no problem, as the prof-editor won't be the handling editor of the journal. Very few times I saw that the conflict-of-interest section mentioned "prof X is editor at journal Y" (when publishing in Y). However, this is when the editor IS an author on a paper. This is not the case in your manuscript.

Therefore, the conflict is even smaller, as long as the handling editor of your manuscript is not one of those that helped you. You can mention your concerns, and the fact that editor A and B helped you in the writing process, in the cover letter of your submission, and - together with the editors - think about whether you should put some note in the conflict-of-interest section.

Short note on your idea to mention the editors in the acknowledgements: just like you cannot add someone against his/her approval as author, all those that are mentioned (identifiable) in the acknowledgements have to agree to that [though this may differ for journals - please check before you do].

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .