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Can anyone guess what went wrong here?

OK, here’s a puzzle for all of you. I received the following email:

Dear Professor Gelman:

The editor of ** asked me to write to see if you would be willing to review MS ** entitled


We are hoping for a review within the next 2-3 weeks if possible. I would appreciate if you confirm whether you are willing to advise me on this by clicking on the url below


This site will also not only allow you to choose an alternative due date, but also to suggest alternative referees if you are unable to review.

If you choose to review the manuscript you can upload your report and cover letter via our secure online form at


This is a secure form and your report will be transmitted anonymously. You should supply either the title or the MS number, **, to ensure that your report is properly filed.

Thanks for your assistance. I very much value your advice.


I’ve omitted identifying details as there’s no point in embarrassing the journal editor. We all make mistakes, and this is not a big one.

Anyway, here’s the riddle: What was horribly wrong about the above email?

And here’s a hint: There’s no way you can figure out the problem merely from what I’ve sent you above. You’ll have to guess.

And another hint: The email came from a legitimate journal, not one of those “predatory” or spam journals.

I’ll give the answer tomorrow, but I’m guessing some of you will figure this out right away.

P.S. OK, OK, you win. Everybody guessed it already (see comments). I guess this puzzle was too easy.


  1. Michael Spagat says:

    They sent you your own paper to referee.

  2. Boris says:

    You yourself are an author of the manuscript?

  3. Gordon Arsenoff says:

    You’re the author?

  4. I have the same guess as the others, and I think that as “alternative referees” you should suggest A. Gelman, Andy Gelman, and Andrei Gelman, and see if the journal catches on.

  5. Dale Barr says:

    I’m also going with the previous two commenters: you got your own paper to referee. I did this once as a newbie journal editor and it was very embarrassing, because it gave the impression that I was careless or hadn’t read the paper carefully, when in fact, I always did. Only three of the six authors appeared in the electronic submission system, and the remaining three only appeared on the title page of the electronic manuscript. Of course, the first people you find when you search for relevant work are the authors themselves! The co-author I contacted also had a different affiliation from any of the others. Fortunately she graciously declined and was very courteous in pointing out my error. Lesson learned: Always have a hard copy of the title page to hand when searching for reviewers.

  6. Richard D. Morey says:

    Have you told them that this violates the anonymity of your review? Obviously, you’re going to know who wrote it.

  7. zbicyclist says:

    I see three guesses of “you’re the author” already. So I’m going to guess that your sister is the author.

    Or perhaps one of the academics you’ve trashed for plagiarism.

  8. Dan Wright says:

    This happened to me once and it didn’t take 2-3 weeks for me to recommend acceptance. I did note the potential bias and later was told a referee got the “we have sent out your MS” letter. This was the old days before the software did it all.

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