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).
What if the reviewer accepts the position of the complainant, and if an inappropriate publication or public claim has been made by the reviewer that the editor believes should be retracted?
Then the editor will work with their publishing contact to effect such retraction or removal, and ensure that the actual researcher receives appropriate credit (this could take many forms depending on the circumstances).
The editor will most likely remove the reviewer from the journal database (a form of asking for the reviewer’s resignation) and may consider in extreme cases whether any form of public statement to that effect would be appropriate (with legal review for defamation and reviewer confidentiality issues).
What if the reviewer rejects the position of the complainant? Then the editor will have to consider whether the reviewer’s explanation is reasonable. Normally the editor would also inform the complainant of the reviewer’s explanation and seek comment (see Form letter G).
What if the reviewer has not responded to the editor’s communication? Then the editor may refer the matter to the institution or company employing the reviewer noting the allegation of misconduct, and possibly other relevant institutions or bodies (see Form letter H).
What if the employing institution or company responds and indicates either that they agree there was misconduct or that they will investigate and mediate the result?
Then the editor should inform the reviewer and complainant that the journal will be bound by such determination of the institution.
What if the institution responds negatively or does not respond? Then this should be reviewed with the complainant (perhaps the complainant is better placed to make the complaint directly with the institution).
What if the reviewer and complainant or employing institution all fail to reach consensus or to act in a reasonable manner and time?
Then the editor will be expected to make a determination, in his or her reasonable judgment, as to the underlying facts, and to make a recommendation to Elsevier (and possibly the society for a society journal).
It may be advisable for the editor in this fact-finding process to request the views and comments of third parties who may be expected to have knowledge of the facts alleged by the complainant.