A concise report on a rare disease was submitted and sent out to an internationally renowned reviewer in the field. He felt that some of the data had been obtained in his unit, and this had not been acknowledged by the authors. The authors responded that the tests had been performed in their own laboratory, but that the scans had indeed been done elsewhere. The editor suggested that perhaps the authors should consider an appropriate acknowledgement with the agreement of the unit where the scans had been carried out. The authors agreed to this, bur the reviewer would not agree until he had seen the final version of the paper. The manuscript was forwarded to the reviewer, who was no longer the official reviewer for the paper, because of the conflict of interest. He revealed his identity by writing directly to the authors, and asked for extensive changes to be made to the manuscript. The authors complained that the reviewer had abused his position by requesting such extensive changes. Both of the subsequent reviewers thought the study was sound. They were unaware of its history.
- Many journals have a policy of requiring the authors to obtain the signed permission of the person being acknowledged to prevent disputes. - Any acknowledgement must be agreed by the person being acknowledged. - The second unit is really disputing the authors’ interpretation of the results so it might be better for the second unit to write an accompanying commentary setting out their views. - It is the editor’s decision as to which reviewers’ comments will be taken into consideration, and a reviewer does not have the right to demand that certain alterations be made to a paper. - Ultimately, this case is analogous to a dispute between co-authors, and they should sort it out for themselves before publication goes ahead. - The editor should clarify the review procedure for the paper with the authors and ask them to sort out the dispute before publication can go ahead. - One option might be to publish a letter alongside the article setting out the points of dispute, if the authors cannot resolve it.