Peer review key principles
for editors

These principles have been drafted to guide editorial teams to help ensure the peer review process for their journal is fair, efficient, and effective.

Emerald journal’s peer review process should be the same in practice as is stated on the respective author guidelines, i.e.:

Review process

Each paper is first reviewed by the editor and, if it is judged suitable for the journal, it is then sent to two referees for double-anonymous peer review.

Unless the journal is a precis title, or its author guidelines state that content is only reviewed by the editor, all journals must, at a minimum:

  • Be double-anonymous peer reviewed (i.e. the author and reviewer are both anonymous to each other’s identities)
  • Send content to at least one external reviewer (i.e. someone who is not the Editor themselves)
  • Manage their peer review through ScholarOne, so that we have a full audit trail.

Our journals follow the guidelines outlined by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), and the following principles have been drafted in line with their guidelines.

Articles, case studies, and chapters submitted to Emerald for consideration and review should be treated as confidential, meaning that sharing this material with another person or uploading it to an AI tool or Large Language Model (LLM) for assessment or evaluation would violate the author’s confidentiality, as well as any proprietary and/or data privacy rights. This would also be the case for the peer review report itself if uploaded to an AI tool/LLM for copy-editing or copy-writing purposes, as it may contain confidential or identifiable information pertinent to the article or the author(s). There are additional concerns regarding the use of AI tools for peer review due to biases in the datasets of these models and the reliability of their ability to assess content, with the risk of generating false, flawed, or inaccurate results. As such, to maintain trust in the integrity of the published record, Emerald does not permit the use of AI tools or LLMs to assist in the review, evaluation, or decision-making process of any part of an article, case study, or chapter by either a member of a journal’s Editorial Team or a reviewer, in accordance with Emerald’s principles of peer review. Peer reviewers are responsible for the reviews they provide and accountable for their accuracy, rigour, and validity, which, as per COPE’s position statement on AI tools, cannot be replicated by a non-human AI. Any breach of the integrity or trust of the review process as described above will be treated as peer review misconduct.

Principles of peer review


Consistent

Peer review should consistently follow industry standards and those set out in the respective journal guidelines, by all members of the editorial team.


Clear

Clarity on how the review process is handled with authors and readers ensures the content published is trustworthy and is one of the most important aspects of peer review. Outlining clear guidelines for authors and reviewers on journal peer review processes and, ensuring non-peer reviewed content is clearly labelled establishes transparency. 


Confidential

Confidential handling of the manuscript is of the upmost importance, and discussions concerning the manuscript between the author, reviewer and Editor must take place in confidence.


Impartial

The peer review process should be fair, objective and impartial. Appropriate steps to prevent and manage real and perceived conflicts of interests must be taken. 

The points outlined in COPE’s best practice guidelines for journal editors further confirm these principles.


Rigorous

Diligent handling of the process is paramount. Practicing measures to prevent compromised review, like omitting acknowledgements or references included in the manuscript that could reveal author identities before being sent out for review is key.


Effective

Monitoring the performance of peer reviewers and taking steps to ensure the journal receives constructive, timely reviews maintains an effective process. Continuous improvements to the process should be considered and support given to initiatives that advise reviewers on best practice.


Independent

Independent oversight over the peer review process by the Editor and wider editorial team is a core element of peer review. Editorial independence and an Editor’s ability to decide what their journal publishes without external interference is a key principle for Emerald.

Frequently asked questions
 

What is the reviewer responsible for?

Journal reviewers play a key part in the following:

  1. Assess the merit of the work and the contributions it makes to the existing body of knowledge
  2. Check the statistics, methods, and sometimes correct language issues
  3. Verify if the conclusions are supported by the research
  4. Advise on whether earlier works may need to be considered, and comment on the relevance of the content’s scope and originality
  5. Comment on ethical questions and possible research issues raised by submissions, (e.g. simultaneous submission, flag the presence of defamatory content, unethical research design, insufficient detail on patient consent or protection of research subjects, including animals).

Reviewers will then make recommendations, and the final decision on whether an article is accepted or rejected is made by the editor.

What is considered ‘good quality’ peer review?

A good quality review would:

  1. Consider the journal’s scope and editor’s expectations
  2. Provide constructive and comprehensive comments that have been returned in a timely manner
  3. The feedback given should allow the authors to see where improvements can be made and understand how they can be acted upon.
What is the impact of not receiving good quality peer review for a journal?

A lack of good quality peer review will ultimately impact the quality and standards of the content being published by the journal.

By providing authors with detailed and constructive recommendations, the improvements made will ensure the content that reaches publication is impactful and makes an important contribution to the existing body of knowledge.

In addition, the quality of the review can have a lasting impression on an author’s opinion of the journal, and influence whether they submit to the journal in the future and recommend it to others.

What can be done if a journal is struggling to receive the journal specific number of reviews?

The following steps can be taken when a journal is struggling for peer review:

  1. Use the Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) members. Please note, the EAB member should only be selected if they haven’t had any previous contact with the paper.
  2. Use an associate editor if there is one on the journal. If there is an associate editor who is well-versed in the subject area of the papers, consider inviting them as a reviewer so that the papers are anonymous and they can act as a ‘super reviewer’. Please note that this will only work if they have had no contact with the paper previously. Editorial assistants/anyone with the EA role can never be used as reviewers, as they can potentially compromise double anonymous review.
  3. Consider issuing a call for reviewers.
  4. Ask the journal commissioning editor (JCE) to help amend the reviewer email, to ensure it fully outlines the benefits of being a reviewer.
  5. Ask the JCE to help add links to the invitation email to ascertain why reviewers are declining. In case it’s something the journal can fix.
  6. Use predefined keywords. Either one can be created, or edits to the existing list may help.
  7. Ask the Journal Editorial Office (JEO) to provide ScholarOne reviewer summary reports. Reviewer summary reports will outline whether there are any reviewers in the system who have not been invited before, or for some time. The JEO may be able to produce other useful reports and can advise further.
  8. Use the editor’s personal network, as well as the editorial board and existing reviewers' pool personal networks?.
  9. Ask the JCE for help and suggestions specific to the journal’s needs on how to expand the reviewer pool.
  10. Consider using Publons Reviewer Connect as a function to use within S1 to expand the reviewer pool.

In combination with the above, it would be worth conducting a full clean-up of the journal site; for example, if a review invitation email gets a bounce-back, end that reviewer account and make them inactive.

If sufficient reviewers cannot be found for a submission according to the journal guidelines, or reviews have not been returned, please speak to the JCE and JEO so they can explore options.

If a paper is in progress, please do not take any further action on that paper until next steps have been discussed with the JEO.

What is the impact of not receiving the journal specific number of reviews for a paper, and how can we act upon this?

If submissions do not receive the journal specific number of reviews that is detailed on its homepage, the experience is not meeting the author’s expectations, nor is their content being subjected to the rigour our authors and readers rely upon.

How we move forward in such circumstance is entirely dependent upon the context of the situation at hand, and this should be discussed further with the Journal Commissioning Editor, the Research Integrity team, and where applicable, the Peer Review Editor.

Emerald’s primary concerns are to ensure we are transparent with authors, and to provide as much support as possible to the journal. In the majority of cases, one or several of the options included in the answer to ‘What can be done if a journal is struggling to receive the journal specific number of reviews’ can be used to minimise the impact and the content can continue to publication.

If further steps are not taken to mitigate this and papers are consistently not receiving sufficient peer review, there are several technical and ethical issues that arise as a result:

  1. The content cannot receive the peer review tag, which will impact the discoverability of that article.
  2. The author will need to be informed that their paper will not be tagged as peer-reviewed and as a result, their paper may not be indexed in some discovery sites. Their institution may not recognise their paper as a fully published work, and they will potentially not meet their quota set by their institution.
  3. If a journal consistently publishes content that is not handled in line with its own guidelines, this can impact the journal’s rankings and the journal will not be eligible for consideration by Clarivate for an impact factor.
Can an Editor provide peer reviews in their own journal?

This practice should be avoided where possible for the following reasons:

  1. This cannot technically be classed as peer review, and will likely conflict with the journal’s guidelines (the majority outline the Editor will send the paper out for peer review).
  2. Even though the Editor’s intentions will be sincere, this will increase the risk of bias as the process will not be anonymous.
  3. The paper will not go through the necessary rigour and will lack important recommendations from subject experts to ensure it is of the highest quality.
Are different types of content subject to varied review processes? For example, would a viewpoint or editorial go through a different review process to a research paper?

All content that contains primary research is subject to the journal’s specific peer review process.

Viewpoints often do contain primary research, although, editorials are far less likely to. In the rare instances where primary research is included in an editorial, it should be sent out for peer review.

Is the peer review for special issues handled any differently, and what do we do when submissions to special issues expand upon conference papers?

Unless otherwise agreed, we expect our special issue content to follow the journal guidelines as regular issue content would, and as a result, go through the same review process as regular issue content.

When an editor or guest editor want an issue to be compiled of papers that are the product of a conference, this should be pre-agreed with the JCE prior to submission; when the special issue is agreed and, our conference paper policy will need to be followed.

How should peer review be handled for a paper submitted by the Editor, or EAB member, to their own journal?

We are happy for our editors to submit to their own journals where appropriate, provided the review process is the same as it would be for any submitting author.

Every effort should be made to minimise any bias in the review process, by having another associate editor handle the peer review independently of the editor (we do recognise that it would be impossible to remove bias completely, but every effort should be made to minimise).

To ensure the process takes place correctly in ScholarOne, please inform the JCE and JEO prior to submission.

Can reviews be completed outside of ScholarOne?

We are unable to publish journal content that has not been managed through the system and does not have a full peer review audit trail.

If reviewers are struggling to use the system, please discuss further with the JEO.

What actions can be taken to reduce bias?

When selecting reviewers from the journal’s reviewer pool:

  1. Avoid selecting reviewers who are from the same institution as the author.
  2. Research the author and the reviewer before selecting to see if they have previously co-authored works together or worked as part of the same research team. Look out for any other factors that may increase the chances of them recognising one another.
  3. If the author and reviewer are a part of the same niche subject community, every effort should be made to minimise any bias in the review process. One way to achieve this may be to invite an EAB member or Associate Editor as one of the two reviewers, provided they have no prior relationship with the paper.

When considering an author recommended reviewer:

  1. Avoid selecting a recommended reviewer who is affiliated with the same institution as the authors.
  2. If the author has provided a personal email address (e.g. yahoo/gmail etc.) instead of an institutional one, and an institutional profile page for the reviewer cannot be found when searched for in a search engine, we recommend refraining from selecting them.
  3. We would recommend at least one independently sourced reviewer is selected for every one recommended reviewer that is used, i.e. if you require two reviewers, one may be an author-recommended reviewer, but the other one should be chosen by the Editor.
How can peer review be compromised?

If the author and reviewer know one another’s identities, or the credibility of the reviewer or review is in doubt, this would likely result in the peer review to be compromised.

Some examples of instances where the peer review may be compromised and would require further investigation:

  1. The reviewer has co-authored or contributed to an earlier version of the work they are reviewing
  2. The reviewer’s account has been hacked
  3. The reviewer’s account is fake
  4. The reviewer and author have shared the same computer (this would be flagged by the unusual activity reports in ScholarOne).
How can manipulated reviews be investigated?

We would recommend flagging to the JCE and Research Integrity team in the first instance. The following steps will help investigate whether the peer review may have been manipulated:

  1. Search for the reviewer's name and institution to find their institutional profile page.
  2. Search for the reviewer's email address in a search engine: a fake email address will not be registered anywhere and is unlikely to appear in results.
  3. Search for the reviewer's publication history; is the name, email address and institution on their account up-to-date and consistent with their past publications?

For more information on how to spot manipulated peer review, please see COPE’s advice.

What actions would we take when it is discovered the peer review has been compromised?

When this occurs, a full investigation will need to be carried out and the acceptance of the paper may need to be rescinded.

If deemed appropriate, the paper will be sent out for review once more, and every effort should be made to avoid the original causes of the compromised peer review.

When discovered, please alert the JCE and Research Integrity team so they can investigate further and advise on how to resolve the matter.

Who is responsible for maintaining the reviewer pool of the journal?

It is an important responsibility of our editors to monitor the performance of their journal’s peer reviewers and take steps to ensure their reviews are of high quality. 

We understand this can be a timely task, and support can be offered by the JCE to help facilitate this work.

What steps can be taken to keep the reviewer pool healthy?

Maintaining a proactive, useful and overall healthy reviewer pool requires continuous monitoring. The following steps will help achieve this:

  1. The reviewer pool should be audited on a yearly basis, and reviewers assessed purely on their performance. This can be achieved by removing reviewers who provide poor quality reviews, late reviews, or they consistently do not provide reviews.
  2. New reviewers should be sought to replace reviewers who have been removed.
  3. The current landscape of the academic community should be reflected in the reviewer pool.
  4. Draw upon sources other than personal contacts, such as author suggested reviewers (with the pitfalls outlined above avoided), and the support from the EAB.
What is Emerald’s position towards Editors editing a reviewer’s comments?

A reviewer’s comments may be considered unproductive, inaccurate and may not align with the journal’s aims. Sadly, this can occur, and such an eventuality is hard to manage and has been the subject of debate by COPE.

Our current position on this is reviewer comments relating to the content of the paper should remain intact, however, feedback that could be considered malicious or abusive, or not relevant should be removed before being sent to the author. Additionally, we would recommend editing if the reviewer recommends their works are cited.

Where ethical issues have been found with the review, this should be immediately flagged to the JCE and the Research Integrity team who will investigate the matter further.

What if the Editor is satisfied with the quality of a submission and wishes to immediately accept a paper that has received no peer review (for all revisions)?

We fully support our editor’s editorial independence. We would, however, not expect the practice of immediately accepting a submitted paper without peer review to occur.

As we have discussed above (see answer to 'What is the impact of not receiving the journal specific number of reviews for a paper'), the impact of not sending a paper out for peer review will be in the author’s and journal’s detriment.

Where can further support be found?

We encourage our editors to contact their JCE in the first instance, and Research Integrity team and JEO when applicable.

We are more than happy to support and advise, and often the best way to handle peer review and ethics issues is to discuss the matter first, before taking action.

COPE’s website has excellent resources, and we recommend our editors become familiar with their guidance upon appointment to their role.

Definitions

Coercive citation

When a reviewer or member of the editorial team request a reference to be included in the work as a condition of acceptance or without academic justification.

Compromised peer review

When the peer review process is found to be flawed. There may be reasonable evidence to hand that the author and reviewer know one another’s identities.

Manipulation of the peer review process, such as rigged peer review, or fraudulent activity on a reviewer’s account would likely lead to the peer review process to be flawed.

Conflict of interest

A conflict of interest is anything which may have an influence upon the research/article, the review process or publication of an article. A conflict of interest may include a prior relationship with the Editor, a financial or business interest that may have influenced the research, or a patent, among many other circumstances. A conflict of interest does not necessarily bar an article from publication, however, it should be disclosed upon submission to the editorial team to allow them to make an informed decision.

Double-anonymous review

Neither the authors' nor the reviewers' identities are disclosed to the other.

Simultaneous submission

The practice of submitting a verbatim, or extensively similar work to multiple journals at the same time. Emerald’s journals ask authors to warrant upon submission that their work is original and not under consideration by any other publication. It is best practice for an author to wait until a decision has been made before submitting to another journal.

Single-anonymous review

The names of the reviewers are hidden from the author. However, the name of the author is made known to the reviewers.

Triple-anonymous peer review

The identities of the author(s), reviewer(s) and Editor(s) are not known to one another.

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