Reviewer bias or competitive harmful acts by reviewers

Editors should avoid selecting external peer reviewers with obvious potential conflicts of interest, for example, those who work in the same department or institution as any of the authors. Authors often provide editors with the names of persons they feel should not be asked to review a manuscript because of potential conflicts of interest, usually professional. Where possible, authors should be asked to explain or justify their concerns -  this information is important to editors in deciding whether to honour such requests.

Read more about identifying a case of reviewer bias

Note the procedures below are similar to those for research misappropriation by one author of another author’s work.

The complainant must be made aware that the matter cannot be investigated unless the journal editor informs the reviewer (due process obligation to reviewer, similar to that owed to authors) and possibly the institution or company at which the reviewer is employed.

In the communication to the reviewer (see Form letter F), the editor should indicate that the matter may be referred to the reviewer’s institution or company if the reviewer does not or is unable to provide a reasonable explanation (accepted as reasonable by the editor).

COPE flowcharts

These are available for a second opinion. (*) Note: there may be some minor differences between COPE-recommended procedures and Elsevier-recommended procedures. It is therefore suggested that editors always discuss and agree with their publishing contact on a course of action together.. This is often the time for the editor to discuss the case with his/her publishing contact within Elsevier and agree what action, if any, needs to be taken.