Reviewer Guidelines

Expectations during the peer-review process

During review
Peer reviewers should:
• notify the journal immediately and seek advice if they discover either a conflicting interest
that wasn’t apparent when they agreed to the review or anything that might prevent them
providing a fair and unbiased review.
• refrain from looking at the manuscript and associated material while awaiting instructions
from a journal on issues that might cause the request to review to be rescinded.
• read the manuscript, ancillary material (e.g. reviewer instructions, required ethics and policy
statements, supplemental data files) and journal instructions thoroughly, getting back to the
journal if anything is not clear and requesting any missing or incomplete items they need to
carry out a full review.
• notify the journal as soon as possible if they find they do not have the expertise to assess
all aspects of the manuscript; they shouldn’t wait until submitting their review as this will
unduly delay the review process.
• not involve anyone else in the review of a manuscript, including junior researchers they are
mentoring, without first obtaining permission from the journal; the names of any individuals
who have helped them with the review should be included with the returned review so that
they are associated with the manuscript in the journal’s records and can also receive due
credit for their efforts.
• keep all manuscript and review details confidential.
• contact the journal if circumstances arise that will prevent them from submitting a timely
review, providing an accurate estimate of the time they will need to do a review if still asked
to do so.
• in the case of double-blind review, if they suspect the identity of the author(s) notify the
journal if this knowledge raises any potential conflict of interest.
• notify the journal immediately if they come across any irregularities, have concerns about
ethical aspects of the work, are aware of substantial similarity between the manuscript
and a concurrent submission to another journal or a published article, or suspect that
misconduct may have occurred during either the research or the writing and submission
of the manuscript; reviewers should, however, keep their concerns confidential and not
personally investigate further unless the journal asks for further information or advice.
• not intentionally prolong the review process, either by delaying the submission of their
review or by requesting unnecessary additional information from the journal or author.
• ensure their review is based on the merits of the work and not influenced, either positively
or negatively, by any personal, financial, or other conflicting considerations or by intellectual
• not contact the authors directly without the permission of the journal.


When preparing the report
Peer reviewers should:
• bear in mind that the editor is looking to them for subject knowledge, good judgement,
and an honest and fair assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the work and the
• make clear at the start of their review if they have been asked to address only specific parts
or aspects of a manuscript and indicate which these are.
• follow journals’ instructions on the specific feedback that is required of them and, unless
there are good reasons not to, the way this should be organized.
• be objective and constructive in their reviews and provide feedback that will help the
authors to improve their manuscript.
• not make derogatory personal comments or unfounded accusations.
• be specific in their criticisms, and provide evidence with appropriate references to
substantiate general statements such as, ‘this work has been done before’, to help editors
in their evaluation and decision and in fairness to the authors.
• remember it is the authors’ paper and not attempt to rewrite it to their own preferred style
if it is basically sound and clear; suggestions for changes that improve clarity are, however,
• be aware of the sensitivities surrounding language issues that are due to the authors writing
in a language that is not their own, and phrase the feedback appropriately and with due
• make clear which suggested additional investigations are essential to support claims made
in the manuscript under consideration and which will just strengthen or extend the work.
• not prepare their report in such a way or include comments that suggest the review has
been done by another person.
• not prepare their report in a way that reflects badly or unfairly on another person.
• not make unfair negative comments or include unjustified criticisms of any competitors’
work that is mentioned in the manuscript.
• ensure their comments and recommendations for the editor are consistent with their report
for the authors; most feedback should be put in the report for the authors.
• confidential comments to the editor should not be a place for denigration or false
accusation, done in the knowledge that the authors will not see these comments.
• not suggest that authors include citations to the reviewer’s (or their associates’) work
merely to increase the reviewer’s (or their associates’) citation count or to enhance the
visibility of their or their associates’ work; suggestions must be based on valid academic or
technological reasons.

• determine whether the journal allows them to sign their reviews and, if it does, decide as
they feel comfortable doing.
• if they are the editor handling a manuscript and decide themselves to provide a review of
that manuscript, do this transparently and not under the guise of an anonymous review
if the journal operates blind review; providing a review for a manuscript being handled by
another editor at the journal can be treated as any other review.