PEER REVIEW PROCESS
- Ensuring a fair and appropriate peer review process
- One of the most important responsibilities of editors is organizing and using peer review fairly and wisely. We opt for Closed form peer review - where the reviewers are aware of the authors' identities but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript. Editors should explain their peer review processes in the information for authors and also indicate which parts of the journal are peer reviewed.
- Editors should consider seriously for publication any carefully done study of an important question, relevant to their readers, whether the results for the primary or any additional outcome are statistically significant. Failure to submit or publish findings because of lack of statistical significance is an important cause of publication bias.
- Decision whether to review
- Editors may reject a paper without peer review when it is deemed unsuitable for the journal's readers or is of poor quality. This decision should be made in a fair and unbiased way. The criteria used to make this decision should be made explicit. The decision not to send a paper for peer review should only be based on the academic content of the paper, and should not be influenced by the nature of the authors or the host institution.
- Interaction with peer reviewers
Editors should use appropriate peer reviewers for papers that are considered for publication by selecting people with sufficient expertise and avoiding those with conflicts of interest. Editors should ensure that reviews are received in a timely manner.
Peer reviewers should be told what is expected of them and should be informed about any changes in editorial policies. In particular, peer reviewers should be asked to assess research and publication ethics issues (i.e., whether they think the research was done and reported ethically, or if they have any suspicions of plagiarism, fabrication, falsification, or redundant publication). Editors should have a policy to request a formal conflict of interest declaration from peer reviewers and should ask peer reviewers to inform them about any such conflict of interest at the earliest opportunity so that they can make a decision on whether an unbiased review is possible. Certain conflicts of interest may disqualify a peer reviewer. Editors should stress confidentiality of the material to peer reviewers and should require peer reviewers to inform them when they ask a colleague for help with a review or if they mentor a more junior colleague in conducting peer review. Editors should ideally have a mechanism to monitor the quality and timeliness of peer review and to provide feedback to reviewers.
- Reviewer misconduct
- Editors must take reviewer misconduct seriously and pursue any allegation of breach of confidentiality, non-declaration of conflicts of interest (financial or non-financial), inappropriate use of confidential material, or delay of peer review for competitive advantage. Allegations of serious reviewer misconduct, such as plagiarism, should be taken to the institutional level (for further guidance see: http://publicationethics.org/files/u2/07_Reviewer_misconduct.pdf).
- Interaction with authors
- Editors should make it clear to authors what the role of the peer reviewer is because this may vary from journal to journal. Some editors regard peer reviewers as advisors and may not necessarily follow (or even ask for) reviewers' recommendations on acceptance or rejection. Correspondence from editors is usually with the corresponding author, who should guarantee to involve co-authors at all stages. Communicating with all authors at first submission and at final acceptance stage can be helpful to ensure all authors are aware of the submission and have approved the publication. Normally, editors should pass on all peer reviewers' comments in their entirety. However, in exceptional cases, it may be necessary to exclude parts of a review, if it, for example, contains libellous or offensive remarks. It is important, however, that such editorial discretion is not inappropriately used to suppress inconvenient comments.
There should always be good reasons, which are clearly communicated to authors, if additional reviewers are sought at a late stage in the process.
The final editorial decision and reasons for this should be clearly communicated to authors and reviewers. If a paper is rejected, editors should ideally have an appeals process. Editors, however, are not obliged to overturn their decision.