One question I get from time to time should start with “Is it okay to . . . .”
I think that most of the time those who ask know the answer, and are asking to make sure! These are the folks that I do not worry about, albeit I am at times surprised that they ask!
Today’s question is, “It ever okay to review or edit a paper that it can be plausibly argued you have a competing paper with whether in process or under review?”
The answer is clearly NO. ( if this troubles you please enroll in a remedial ethics course immediately and take no actions that involves others until you have complete it!). There are no ways to mitigate the conflict of interest in this setting.
Yet unfortunately as a senior faculty member I have seen enough cases at senior academic journals to know it occurs away too often. While I do not take such claims at face value I have been privileged enough that some show me the reviews and the editors letters that make it clear, on the balance of the probabilities ( the civil standard) and in some cases, beyond a reasonable doubt ( the criminal standard) that such things are occurring.
We need a process to report these folks that is open and transparent. Yes we need to allow for those who always blame others for their rejections ( and there a more than a few of those around), but we also need to police this scourge of accounting academica.