What makes good peer review?
Authors and reviewers should always be treated in a courteous manner. Authors should receive a decision on their manuscripts promptly – six to eight weeks is generally seen as a reasonably review time, though this can differ between fields. Authors should also receive full, clear advice from the reviewers to enable them to make changes to improve their manuscript, and to understand how the decision to accept or reject the manuscript has been arrived at.
- Declare your policy. Decide what your policy is going to be: will you peer review every manuscript?; how many reviewers will you use per manuscript?; how quickly will you aim to make a first decision? We are happy to advise you on this. Once decided, peer review policies are declared on the journal's About page, and can be amended as necessary.
- Write clear, precise letters with stated deadlines.
- Be responsive. Try to act on any mail concerning manuscripts within a couple of days
- Keep authors informed, especially if there are likely to be delays with the peer review process.
- Maintain levels of anonymity. Whether the journal's approach to peer review is open, or closed (anonymous), make sure that the level is maintained at all times; if you need to break anonymity, seek approval first.
- Initial screening. If your policy is to screen manuscripts before sending them for review, ensure that you're doing it in a systematic way; if you decide to reject at this stage, make sure you have sound reasons, and explain them to the author in detail.
- Check the manuscript conforms with journal policy. iMedPub Journals adhere to certain policies laid out in the journal's instructions for authors. Upon submission it is important to check that:
- Case reports document details of patient consent.
- Studies involving animals or patients detail ethical approval from the authors' institutional body.
- Controlled trials are registered in an internationally recognised repository, and the registration number should be included at the end of the abstract
- Get at least two reviews. These should preferably be from people whose interests reflect the scope of the manuscript.
- Over-invite reviewers. The first reviewers invited for a manuscript may be unavailable or unwilling to help, so if two reviewers are needed, invite three or four; as soon as two have agreed, you can let the others know that they will not be needed this time. This is normal procedure and you will not cause offense by uninviting reviewers. Details on finding reviewers is available here.
- Treat reviewers well. It is worth remembering that someone who is a reviewer for a manuscript in your journal is also likely to be a potential author, so treating reviewers promptly, courteously and fairly can bear dividends.
- Communicate with reviewers It is ideal always to thank reviewers and let them know the final decision on a manuscript they have reviewed. (This can be set up automatically on the journal).
- Provide feedback for regular reviewers and the Board. If you are working with a defined group of people, try to provide regular feedback on their reports so they can improve and provide you with the information you would like.
- Make decisions in a timely manner. While it's good to wait for two reviews, sometimes it is best to get a delayed manuscript moving by deciding when you have received one; in such cases you may need to add your own input or seek advice from the Editorial Board.
- Try to stay neutral. If a reviewer has criticised a manuscript heavily but the authors disagree, it is important to remain neutral and try to guide the manuscript through peer review without taking sides.
After the decision
- Treat appeals seriously. Every journal should have a system that allows authors to appeal against the rejection of their manuscript. If an author officially appeals against a rejection decision you must take it seriously and seek a second opinion on the manuscript where appropriate.
- Advocate use of the online comment system. Once an article has been published, it is good to encourage debate by prompting readers who send you comments on a manuscript to post their comments online.
- Offering transfer of a rejected manuscript to a more appropriate journal. If a manuscript is rejected because it is out of scope, or sound but not of sufficient priority, you can offer the author the option of transferring to a more suitable journal published by iMedPub Journals. If the Editorial teams of both journals are willing to share their peer review reports, this can lead to an expedited peer review process on the second journal, offering a better service to the author.
Resources for reviewers
We recommend that you refer peer reviewers to the checklists for randomized controlled trials (CONSORT), systematic reviews (PRISMA), meta-analyses of observational studies (MOOSE), diagnostic accuracy studies (STARD) and qualitative studies (RATS) when evaluating these studies. We also recommend reviewers and editors consult the EQUATOR network website for further information on the available reporting guidelines for health research, and the MIBBI Portal for prescriptive checklists for reporting biological and biomedical research where applicable.