Peer Review Discussion

First of all, conflicts of interest come up routinely when paper reviews are performed. It is usually necessary to report any conflict of interest when reviewing a paper, or performing reviews of a grant. Often papers are used in support of a future proposal for a grant renewal, and so publication can be very political, especially between rival groups, and particularly when there are precious few experts to review the work. 

Some people talk about “managing” a conflict of interest rather than eliminating it. That is, if you are doing research in a field that does not have many other people working in it, then reviewing a paper or proposal of a potential rival is almost unavoidable. The best we can hope for under those circumstances is disclosure of the conflict while making a good faith effort to provide an objective review.

So what should you do? You should discuss the issue with your advisor: is he aware, first of all, that he is in a position of conflict of interest? Without giving a lecture on ethics, try just opening up a general discussion with your advisor about how the peer review system works. If that discussion confirms an impression that the advisor is manipulating the system, then consult another senior colleague.

Related Information
Gray arrow  APS Journals Instructions to Referees
Gray arrow  NSF Guidelines for Reviewers

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