Q: Do we have to cite the reviewer-suggested article?

Detailed Question -

We submitted an article to a journal. After two months, we received the reviewers’ comments to revise the article. One of the reviewers asked us to add two references in which she is the author. The articles are not related to our study. Do we have to cite to her articles? My supervisor says that if we do not cite those articles, the reviewer will reject our submitted article.

I have a bad feeling and think that this is bully behavior: that we should cite the reviewer’s articles. Can I write to the editor stating that the reviewer asked to cite her own work without any connection to our study?

1 Answer to this question

This is a fairly common occurrence. It’s called coercive citation, with the implications your supervisor has already talked about. Here’s what we suggest you do.

  • Do not write to the editor now. Writing now may escalate the matter more than necessary and before time. Instead, do the following.
  • Proceed to make the revisions. While doing so, you may check again whether the suggested citations work (or not). If not, do not make those changes. In the comment sheet, mention that you have not made the changes, but provide a research/scientific rationale for it, not reasons based on your personal analysis or perceptions. This is called a rebuttal, and it’s okay to do. The editor will probably be reviewing the comments sheet, and if they see your point, will be okay with you not having made the changes.
  • Make the changes later only if there is no other option. In case the reviewer later (when checking the revisions) insists that the changes be made, it may be more practical to go ahead and do so. Publishing is the better part of valor. :-)

For more insights and information into the various points discussed above, you may refer to the following resources:

Hope that helps. And all the best for the next steps/decisions.