The following ideas about refereeing may seem obvious. Most scientists know mechanically how to review a scientific paper. Yet many prospective referees have interrogations about the refereeing process and want to know what a journal's editor would like to see in a "perfect" referee report.
Conflicts of interest
Let the Editor know immediately if you may have a conflict of interest. For example, is one of the authors
- At your institution?
- One of your students?
- A close collaborator?
- Your nemesis?
- Your spouse?
i-Proclaim journals are committed to rapid editorial decisions and publication as efficiency in this process is a valuable service both to our authors and the scientific community as a whole. We, therefore, ask that referees respond promptly or inform us if they anticipate a significant delay. This allows us to keep the authors informed and, where necessary, find alternative referees.
Please respond promptly to the Editor's message asking whether you are willing to referee an article. If you have other commitments and cannot referee it at the time requested (usually about two weeks), let him or her know immediately so that another referee can be chosen. Questions to keep in mind as you read the article
- Does the paper present original research at a level appropriate for the journal?
- Is the abstract informative?
- Does the article represent a significant contribution to the current literature in the field?
- Are the results adequately documented (e.g., are relevant data included)?
- Could any of the figures or tables be more effectively presented as online-only material in the electronic version of the journal?
- Are errors and uncertainties given and explained?
- Is there sufficient reference to previous work?
- Is the material clearly presented?
Referees should treat the review process as being strictly confidential, and should keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Manuscripts refereed for i-Proclaim journals should not be discussed with anyone not directly involved in the review process
- If colleagues are consulted, they should be identified to the editors
- If experts from outside the referee's own laboratory are consulted, referees should check with the editors beforehand to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the editor
- Referees should, as a rule, not disclose their identities to the authors or to other colleagues since they may be asked to comment on the criticisms of other referees and may then find it difficult to be objective. Should they feel strongly about making their identities known to the authors, they should do so via the editor.
Grammar and English usage
If the manuscript needs a lot of copy editing, please note that fact in your report. It is not necessary for you to do that task yourself, however. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, and format will be corrected when the article passes for production and publication.
If the manuscript makes you angry, keep in mind that insulting or offending the authors may only make them feel you are biased against them. They may pay less attention to your otherwise useful review. A calm and persuasive report that makes exactly the same recommendations will be much more effective in guiding errant authors. Note that the Editor will remove unprofessional comments from referee reports.
Writing the report
The primary purpose of referee reports is to provide the editors with the information that they need to reach a decision, but they should also instruct the authors on how to strengthen their manuscript if revision is a possibility. Referees are asked to submit both confidential comments to the editor and those that can be directly transmitted to the authors.
Comments for transmission to the authors
Referees are asked to maintain a positive and impartial, but critical, attitude in evaluating manuscripts. Criticisms should remain dispassionate; offensive language is not acceptable. As far as possible, a negative report should explain to the authors the weaknesses of their manuscript, so that they can understand the basis for a decision to ask for revision or to reject the manuscript. Reviewer comments should be as specific and constructive as possible.
The ideal report
An initial paragraph that summarizes the major findings and the referee's overall impressions, as well as highlighting the major shortcomings of the manuscript.
The report should answer the following questions:
- What are the major claims and how significant are they?
- Is the claims novel and convincing?
- Are the claims appropriately discussed in the context of earlier literature?
- Who will be interested and why?
- Does the paper stand out in some way from the others in its field?
- Are there other experiments or analyses that would strengthen the paper?
For manuscripts that may merit further consideration, it is also helpful if referees can provide advice on the following points where appropriate:
- How the clarity of the writing might be improved (without necessarily going into specific details of spelling and grammar)
- How the manuscript might be shortened
- How to do the study justice without overselling the claims
- How to represent earlier literature more fairly
- How to improve the presentation of methodological detail so that the experiments can be reproduced.
This author report should not include a recommendation regarding publication, which is regarded as confidential information since the final decision regarding acceptance, revision or rejection rests with the editor.
The manuscript should be rated, either on the form provided or in an email, according to the following:
Overall recommendation : Accept / Minor Revision / Major Revision / Reject
Scientific merit : 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 (1 represents low and 5 is excellent)
Publication priority : Low / Medium / High
Methodology adequate? : Yes / No
Represent an advance in the field? : Significant advance / Major advance / Minor advance / No advance
Additional confidential comments to the editor might include:
- A definite recommendation regarding publication
- An assessment of how much any suggested additional experiments would improve the manuscript, and of how difficult they would be to complete within a reasonable time frame (2-3 weeks)
- In cases where the manuscript is unacceptable in its present form, an opinion about whether the study is sufficiently promising to encourage resubmission in the future.
- Opinion as to whether it should be considered to convert the manuscript to a short communication.
Call for New Reviewers!
i-Proclaim invites applications for new reviewers from suitable candidates. A postgraduate qualification (PhD/PhD Candidate) is preferred. i-Proclaim would like to recruit experienced volunteer editors to join our review teams. We are also looking for editors to join our initial screening team. i-Proclaim is a dynamic platform with an active and responsive editorial board. We are looking for published academics who are reliable at email correspondence and are able to respond to reasonable deadlines. Please send applications with a short CV highlighting academic qualifications and publications. Email your application to email@example.com.