Review of a book written by an editor of a journal

Case number:
12-06

Case Audio:
Audio

Case text (Anonymised)

Two scholars and professional colleagues, A and B, serve as co-editors of a peer-reviewed international journal. Editor A, who recently had a book published, has requested that editor B solicit a review of the book from a scholar in the field. Editor A would like this review to be published in the journal that they edit together. Editor B is concerned that this situation would put him in a situation of conflict of interest, compromising his ability to serve impartially as editor and, moreover, that the reputation of the journal would be compromised. Editor B has a strong interest in maintaining cordial and collegial relations with editor A.

Advice: 

The Forum agreed that this was a dilemma—if the book review is not published in the editor’s journal then you may be denying readers knowledge of a potentially useful book but if it is published, is editor A abusing their position as editor? How will the journal be perceived if the book review is published? Would readers question why this book was selected for review? And would the reviewer of the book feel under pressure to give a good review? Most of the Forum agreed that it would be best not to publish a  review of the co-editor’s book. If there are other journals in the field, it would be best to publish it in one of these. However, if the editor does decide to publish the book review, the process must be transparent. The Forum suggested publishing an explicit statement about who wrote it and explaining the review process. The Forum also suggested talking to editor A and explaining that the journal needs a policy about editors publishing in their own journal and, if allowed, the journal needs to develop stringent guidelines on this process, which should be completely transparent.

Follow up: 

The editor decided not to solicit a review of the book authored by the co-editor because of the conflict of interest for the editor as well as potential book reviewers. Moreover, there are at least two other scholarly journals in the field that could review this book.    

On the other hand, an edited anthology in which an article written by the co-editor appears seems to be a likely candidate for review since a prospective book reviewer could choose to mention that particular article or not.

The co-editor and the editor agreed that an important step in considering the matter was to ask COPE for their perspective(s).  The editor is grateful to the Forum for their discrete and conscientious handling of the matter.

Resolution: 
Case Closed
Year: