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Should Authors be Requested to Suggest Peer Reviewers?

Abstract

As part of a continuous process to explore the factors that might weaken or corrupt traditional peer review, in this paper, we query the ethics, fairness and validity of the request, by editors, of authors to suggest peer reviewers during the submission process. One of the reasons for the current crisis in science pertains to a loss in trust as a result of a flawed peer review which is by nature biased unless it is open peer review. As we indicate, the fact that some editors and journals rely on authors’ suggestions in terms of who should peer review their paper already instills a potential way to abuse the trust of the submission and publishing system. An author-suggested peer reviewer choice might also tempt authors to seek reviewers who might be more receptive or sympathetic to the authors’ message or results, and thus favor the outcome of that paper. Authors should thus not be placed in such a potentially ethically compromising situation, especially as a mandatory condition for submission. However, the fact that they do not have an opt-out choice during the submission process—especially when using an online submission system that makes such a suggestion compulsory—may constitute a violation of authors’ rights.

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Acknowledgements

The authors thank the two anonymous reviewers and the SEE Editor-in-Chief, for valuable and useful input and criticism that allowed for the considerable improvement of this commentary.

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Correspondence to Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva or Aceil Al-Khatib.

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The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

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Editor’s note It is to be noted that Science and Engineering Ethics does not mandate that authors should suggest reviewers, rather it suggests that 6 reviewers may be delineated and that such reviewers may or may not be contacted by the Editor. Also the Editor normally sends each paper to reviewers who are generally not resident in the country in which the author resides. This guideline does not apply to the USA or some other countries with significant scholarship in the area of this journal. In the case when the Editor does not receive any reviews after a few weeks the papers are sent to additional reviewers until the Editor is satisfied that the paper has received a pertinent and helpful set of comments that may be used for the improvement of the paper. It should be noted that many of the authors of manuscripts for this journal thank the reviewers for helping them produce an improved paper. The reviewers for this journal do not know the names or institutions of the authors and the names of the reviewers are not made known to the authors (this constitutes double-blind review). The Science and Engineering Ethics Editors-in-Chief choose reviewers from the Assistant Editors and the International Editorial Advisory Board as well from their experience with colleagues whom they meet and with whom they correspond.

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Teixeira da Silva, J.A., Al-Khatib, A. Should Authors be Requested to Suggest Peer Reviewers?. Sci Eng Ethics 24, 275–285 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9842-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-016-9842-6

Keywords

  • Compromised trust
  • Flexible ethics
  • Lax selection
  • Open versus traditional peer review
  • Rules