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Competing interests - doing friends a good turn

Posted by plosmedicine on 31 Mar 2009 at 00:30 GMT

Author: Robert Newcombe
Position: Professor of Medical Statistics
Institution: Cardiff University
Submitted Date: October 03, 2008
Published Date: October 6, 2008
This comment was originally posted as a “Reader Response” on the publication date indicated above. All Reader Responses are now available as comments.

In their editorial the PLoS Medicine editors draw attention to a phenomenon which I believe is highly prevalent. Indeed, the practice of some journals actively promotes this. Some journals invite submitting authors to list referees they would suggest as suitable to referee the manuscript, and conversely to identify any they would rather were not sent it. This policy clearly has both advantages and disadvantages - it tends to smooth the whole process but may lead to inappropriately favouring reviews. For traditional paper journals, where different manuscripts vie for limited space available, the consequence is a finite-sum game in which there will still be some selection by quality. I fear that for electronic journals especially, with no firm limit on quantity of material published, this practice could conceivably undermine the important safeguard enshrined in the traditional peer review system.

No competing interests declared.