MathOverflow is a question and answer site for professional mathematicians. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

As with this older related question, question anonymous for obvious reasons.

If I have been asked to review the same paper twice, is it OK to acknowledge in my review that I am the same person as one of the referees from last time? I'm sure cryptographers would frown on that sort of thing, but it's not clear that there is actually a practical problem with this.


share|cite|improve this question
I'm not sure if it matters, but perhaps the editor would like to know whether or not its in the report sent to the author? – Karl Schwede Apr 14 '11 at 2:11
Community wiki? – Joel Reyes Noche Apr 14 '11 at 3:28
@Karl: I don't understand the meaning of your comment. – Anonymous but equalitytestable Apr 14 '11 at 4:01
@Anonymous but equalitytestable: Karl's comment becomes clearer if you insert a comma after "know". In other words, the "whether" clause is not the object of "know" but a modifier of "would like". – Andreas Blass Apr 14 '11 at 14:34
up vote 13 down vote accepted

I have done this as a reviewer, and have had it done to me as an author. I have no problem with it. I do think you should disclose to the editor that you've reviewed the paper before. (This can create the awkward situation of having to say "I reviewed this for journal A, and didn't think the theorem was interesting enough, but it fits just fine in your journal." But I found the editor in question to be not at all offended.)

share|cite|improve this answer
I've had referees/editors simply say, "This paper is not suitable for this journal, but I would warmly recommend it for X" – Junkie Apr 14 '11 at 3:17
OK, people seem to be pretty well in agreement on this. Thanks all! – Anonymous but equalitytestable Apr 14 '11 at 4:04
About rejecting for one journal but recommending for another: As an editor, I once got a paper that was close enough to my own area that I could evaluate it myself, without a referee. I rejected it as not interesting enough for that journal but suggested a more specialized journal where I thought it would be appropriate. The authors took my advice and submitted it to that more specialized journal, which promptly sent it to me to referee. – Andreas Blass Apr 14 '11 at 14:38

I agree with everyone else -- you should disclose, and I see no problem with this. Let me raise a subtler issue:

A few years ago, I had the experience of being repeatedly sent a paper where the result was correct but, in my opinion, not close to significant enough to appear in the journals where the authors were sending it. I sent a report to this effect twice but, when I was asked to referee at a third journal, I declined on the grounds that the authors deserved a second opinion. If the paper was actually wrong, I would have kept saying so but, in a subjective case like this, I thought it would be wrong to be the referee who killed it single-handed.

share|cite|improve this answer
+1 as I wish all referees behaved as you did! Having been on the receiving end of this, it's always worth bearing in mind that the journal doesn't always send your report on to the author (with a co-author, I got an annoyed report saying "I've rejected this 2 times already, why do you keep resubmitting?", but this was actually the first proper report we'd had back, and it's hard for an author to make a judgement, given no information). – Matthew Daws Apr 14 '11 at 8:03
@Matthew: what kind of journal doesn't send the authors a report? – Ori Gurel-Gurevich Apr 14 '11 at 22:46
Indeed. This is a case where I'm for naming and shaming the journal. Writing referee reports is hard enough; not passing them on to the author is unconscionable. – Ben Webster Apr 14 '11 at 23:44

I've been in this situation with a paper that had significant problems and was submitted to a second journal without addressing any of the comments that I made in my first review. I explained this to the editor of the second journal and gave him a copy of the first report that I'd written.

share|cite|improve this answer

On a couple of occasions I have been sent the same paper more than once to referee by different editors on behalf of different journals. In one occasion I even got the paper a third time.

Since I don't think it's good use of my time, not to mention that it goes against the spirit of the peer review process, to rewrite the referee report so that it may pass for report by a different referee, whenever I get a paper a second time, I disclose it immediately to the editor while sending them the previous referee report. Prior to this, of course, I check that the new version of the paper has not changed: this is some times not as easy to do as one would expect, since some authors try to disguise this by changing fonts, formats,...

share|cite|improve this answer

I don't see any problem with this (especially since the author would suspect it anyway).

share|cite|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.