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12/09/2022

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anon

This isn't a direct answer to the OP's question. But another method here would be to (i) think about the social circles the group of scholars in question is involved with and (ii) send the paper to a journal that you think is less enmeshed in those social circles.

(This may be disappointing advice, if you're working your way down the top-ranked generalist journals one-by-one and aiming to publish as high as you can in there.)

Prof L

I asked an editor about this once. My work is often sent to this senior philosopher—I'm fairly junior and I work on something extremely niche. This other person is one of the only other people who works on it, but his work is not very good.

If I cite his work and criticize it, I've misunderstood it. If I mention it favorably in passing, I also haven't paid adequate attention to it or fully understood it, because if I understood, I would agree and be deferential. If I don't cite it, you can guess what he does ("The author should really read and cite Asshat (2008) which is the main treatment of this topic. Asshat argues ... " Notably, no one else has ever told me that I should read or cite his work. Only him.) ... I've gone through R&Rs with this guy and it's always the same, and it always ends up rejected. I know it's him because he often discloses himself in reviews (!) ("Indeed, I am Asshat.") In fact, I think he might *always* disclose himself in reviews; some editors let that through and some don't.

But the editor who I asked implied that it would be weird/red flag upfront to request that a senior person not be asked. So I don't do that. I just cross my fingers and hope that he is not asked. It's really like 30% of my submissions get sent to him. Sometimes editors have recognized that the review is self-centered and worthless and sent it out to someone else, or they just go with the recommendation. In that case I send the paper elsewhere and cross my fingers again.

Overseas Tenured

Prof L: I think the best strategy is to not cite Asshat in the submission at all. He will reject the paper whether you cite him or not, so you gain nothing by citing him; however, if you don't cite him, the editor is less likely to send him the paper in the first place because browsing the bibliography for potential referees is a very common method. Once the paper is accepted, you can re-insert the reference to Asshat for the sake of sound scholarship.

non-tt faculty

Here's a unique incident that occurred to me. My (now most cited) paper was rejected several times by the same reviewer. (All other reviewers recommended something like minor.) Knowing this because the comments were always the same. I believe that the rejections were based on an inability to grasp a well established known distinction.

So here's what I did. I updated the paper to address some of the comments, not in a way that improved the paper, just to make sure that the things the reviewer quoted in the report were changed. Once I got another rejection, I responded to the editor that the reviewer hasn't read the updated version of the paper by pointing out that the report quoted something not in the paper. I believe that this undermined the reviewer's credibility, and my argument that the reviewer failed to grasp the well established distinction went through. The editors then found other reviewers, and the paper was accepted. In contrast, directly telling editors that the reviewer was grossly incompetent never worked. This must be proven independently, as I see it, before editors were willing to consider substantive issues.

Relatedly, I refuse to review papers I've rejected. I believe that I am fallible, and it is possible that I've rejected things unfairly. In such cases, I believe that it would be better for someone else to take a look.

ntt No. 2

I'm not the OP but have had similar questions.

I like anon's advice.

Prof L's story is interesting. I think Asshat is still respectable because s/he has the courage to tell the author: "Indeed, I am Asshat." Asshat wants to discuss philosophy with the author. My paper is also on something extremely niche, and was rejected several times by similar one-hundred-word reports which make only general comments on it.

Overseas Tenured's advice is interesting.

non-tt faculty's advice is not very useful to me, since the reviewers of my paper never quote anything. I think that reviewer of non-tt faculty's paper may still be respectable. Although s/he has tried to prevent non-tt faculty's paper from being published, the reviewer at least pointed out what s/he believes to be incorrect in the paper. That said, I think it's cool to refuse to review papers one has rejected, but maybe I cannot resist the temptation (I'm early-career and haven't had the chance to choose in this situation).

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