The critical role of reviewers
Reviewers are essential to the scholarly publishing process: academics rely on the peer review process to verify their research and add value to it through critical engagement before publication; it ensures that articles of the highest quality, which describe sound methodology and results, are published.
Reviewers are specialists in a given area of research and are well placed to assess the soundness of an author’s work and share their own knowledge.
Peer reviewers recommend whether or not they believe an article should be accepted or rejected by the journal. However, the ultimate authority to make the final decision rests solely with the journal's Editor.
Typically, Editors are encouraged to seek the same reviewers on revised versions of articles, so where possible do try to be available to assess whether the author has responded to your earlier comments.
Is reviewing for you?
Do you have time? Reviewing can be a lot of work – before you commit, make sure you can meet the deadline. You must also ensure that the paper falls within your area of expertise. You must disclose any potential competing interests to the Editor before agreeing to review a submission.
Peer reviewing the work of others will help you improve your own research and writing, ensure that you are up to date with the latest developments in your field, and enable you to become part of a journal’s reviewer base.
As a peer reviewer, you should ensure that the process remains double-anonymous (i.e. the author is not aware of the reviewer’s identity, and the reviewer is not aware of the author’s identity) and your reviews are detailed, constructive, and completed within the time frame specified by the journal, while the material reviewed is handled in confidence and in accordance with the guidelines laid out by COPE.
You should assess the following when reviewing
- Does the article conform to the aims and scope of the journal, and has it followed the style guidelines and instructions for authors?
- Does it make a significant new contribution to the existing literature, and does it have implications for future research? Is there a clearly stated aim or research question?
- Is the research valid and relevant, as well as coherent and credible? Are the facts/data presented robust? Is the article scientifically sound in its approach and methodology? Are the results reproducible?
- Are the conclusions consistent with the hypothesis and evidence presented?
- Are the references mostly recent publications and relevant to the area of research? Does the article include an excessive or disproportionate number of self-citations?
- Are the figures and tables appropriate to the research and effectively illustrate the data?
- Ethical aspects such as whether the author has published this research before, whether there is overlap with another publication, whether there is any indication that the data may have been fabricated or inappropriately manipulated, and whether the authors have declared all relevant competing interests.
Peer review best practice
- Do remember that your comments will be included in the Editor’s decision letter to the author when composing your review. Your assessment should be unbiased and based on the merits of the individual article.
- If you are able to deduce the identity of the author(s) or share an affiliation with them then please inform the Editor as this risks introducing bias and affecting the impartiality and integrity of the process.
- The article and any other material sent to you as part of the review invitation and process should be treated confidentially, meaning that you should not share them with anyone without prior authorisation from the Editor; this is also the case after the review has been completed and returned.
- Any ethical concerns with an article should be raised with the journal’s Editor; please do not attempt to contact the author(s) directly.
- If you have concerns regarding an article’s potential similarity to other material, do not run it through your own institutional anti-plagiarism software, instead, please raise this with the Editor.
- You should not act as a reviewer for a journal where you are a member of the Editorial Team; this is not a reflection on your commitment, expertise, or integrity, but is to ensure that the journal is transparent, does not compromise the double-anonymous review process, and that there are no perceived conflicts of interest.
- If recommending references as part of your review, please ensure that any such suggestions are relevant to the article in question and avoid repeated reference to your own work; these references should also not be emphasised as a condition for acceptance.
- Avoid responding with yes/no answers or repeating the review questions; your input is intended to help others’ research and you should provide feedback in a manner that you yourself would find helpful when submitting your own work.