To review or not to review

I previously reported about a bogus review for a journal submission of ours. The submission had been rejected partly or fully based on a review that obviously had nothing to do with our paper but must have been reused from before. I had complained to the editor, but I had not got any answers for my questions.

The journal, owned by one of the prestigious non-profits in my domain, seems to be on autopilot. Today I received an invitation to review a submission for this journal.

To review or not to review, that is the question. Well, maybe.

First, let’s work the moral hazards.

If I actually agree to review the submission, I’m taking time away from reviewing for other journals closer to my heart and interests. Since I already have to reject a fair number of review requests, spending serious time on this journal is out of the question. So the most straightforward answer to the review request is no.

However, I wonder what opportunity I might be missing.

I verified that we were not the only victims of the journal and its shoddy reviewing practices. The web is full of complaints. Had I been aware of this, I would have vetoed our paper submission to this journal. So, very clearly, this journal despite its prestigious publisher is not up to standards.

If I were to agree to the review request, what could I do, and what good would come out of it?

For one, I have to have the authors’ interests at heart. While I’m not willing to provide a proper review, I also cannot simply reject their paper. You could argue that they should have known what they were getting into by submitting to this journal, but we had fallen into the same trap, so this seems unfair.

The only option I see is to accept the paper (per the authors’ wishes) but also inform them that in my mind this not a good publication outlet for their work and that they should consider withdrawing, despite the potential acceptance notice. A downer to them, no doubt, but at least they can then make an informed decision.

I could of course tell them straight away but given that they just submitted their paper, they might not believe me. Also, I have little proof but our own experience.

So I think the way forward is to accept the review request but not spend any time on it, accept the paper not to harm the authors but inform them about what happened, and submit a bogus review to test the journal. I will probably submit the review we got for our own submission rather than write an original one (or I might use a chat AI to write a generic one).

I’m seriously hoping that the editor will catch my inadequate review and complain to me. Then I can ask again what happened to our submission.

Stay tuned…

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