Conflicts of Interest in the Editorial Process

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EJIL encourages the submission of articles that challenge received knowledge and subject institutions of the international legal order to critical scrutiny. Inevitably, this may result in conflicts of interest in the editorial process. Members of the Board of Editors are not remote from the life of international law. They write articles and books, act in cases, serve on courts and tribunals. From time to time we receive a submission which may implicate such: be critical of a book or article written by a Member of the Board, relate favourably or otherwise to a case decided by a Member of the board or in the process of being decided, etc. Our standard practice when such a conflict of interest comes to our attention is immediately to recuse the Member in question from any editorial decision pertaining to the item concerned.

Likewise, if someone writes on a case in our Critical Review of Jurisprudence section we would normally not accept such from one of the counsel in the case. Where dealing with such a case is part of a larger piece, we expect full disclosure to the reader.

Book reviewers are asked to recuse themselves if there is a conflict of interest such as a relationship of close friendship or enmity.

To do otherwise could create harm not only to the reputation of the Journal but to the authors concerned and to sitting judges or arbitrators where the reader or their brethren might get the erroneous impression that they were in any way implicated in a decision to publish or not to publish. If the Editor-in-Chief is concerned, the matter and the decision is handled by another Member of the Board.

Members of the Board get no discounts in publishing learned articles. Their submissions are sent, if they pass screening, to anonymous peer reviewers as anyone else and there have been not a few cases where submissions by Members of the Board have been rejected.

As to content, we only edit transgressions of good taste. I can recall one occasion where I intervened, in consultation with the author, in an article critical of a piece written by an Editor to remove a word which I found gratuitously offensive, but I regarded that as part of our normal duty and such a word would have been removed regardless of the identity of its target. Both at EJIL and EJIL: Talk we insist on a sober tone and in more than one case we have removed posts which have transgressed the line of ‘fit to print’. On the other hand, as you will all know, when we think a critical submission is neither libelous nor crossing the line of sober expression we are willing to go very far to protect academic freedom and freedom of expression.

In all delicate cases of this nature, we always contact the author, explain our position and seek an agreed solution.

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Lorand Bartels says

October 4, 2016

Another type of conflict - or is it? - is when government lawyers write academic articles pushing the government line. I actually chose my PhD topic as a response to one such article published in EJIL. It is not quite the same as counsel but should you also have a rule for this? It is of course tricky because often these articles constitute valuable, if partisan, scholarship.


October 4, 2016

I very much appreciate the well-balanced views expressed in the Editorial. One can sympathetically understand the razors edge of the ritual of Editorial duties, so much so, a lot of latitude should be given to the wise discretion of the Editor while choosing Articles for Publication,be it by Government Lawyers or otherwise. Academic freedom to publish from all sections of society would go a long way in nourishing the rich content of EJIL and its well deserved reputation as a premier Scholarly Journal.