Peer Review: An Introduction and Guide (by Mark Ware,
published by the Publishing Research Consortium, September 2013) offers a
readable overview of the processes used in peer review that assesses
its strengths and limitations and looks at alternative approaches that
are now being developed and trialled. Ware discusses why, although
inevitably imperfect, peer review remains a vital element of scholarship
and the means by which the quality benchmark that distinguishes
scholarly discourse is established. The Guide describes the elements
that make up the peer review process, the workflows and tracking
systems, the issues around publication ethics, and the developments in
post-publication review and altmetrics that may represent the direction
peer review will take in the future.
The reader of this short Guide will be left with a coherent and
forward-looking insight into the processes, the shortcomings and the
innovations around peer review, and a deeper understanding of why peer
review is such an enduring factor in the research process.
PRC Guide Peer Review Executive Summary
Get the full PRC Peer Review Guide (27pp)
Plagiarism is the use of others' published and unpublished ideas or words (or other intellectual property) without attribution or permission, and presenting them as new and original rather than derived from an existing source. The intent and effect of plagiarism is to mislead the reader as to the contributions of the plagiarizer. This applies whether the ideas or words are taken from abstracts, research grant applications, Institutional Review Board applications, or unpublished or published manuscripts in any publication format (print or electronic).
Plagiarism is scientific misconduct and should be addressed as such. Editors and reviewers of iMedPub Journals are both encouraged to detect plagiarism and reject any manuscript containing texts from other works. Editors and reviewers can use any of the next free online tools for detecting plagiarism:
Self-plagiarism refers to the practice of an author using portions of their previous writings on the same topic in another of their publications, without specifically citing it formally in quotes. This practice is widespread and sometimes unintentional, as there are only so many ways to say the same thing on many occasions, particularly when writing the Methods section of an article. Although this usually violates the copyright that has been assigned to the publisher, there is no consensus as to whether this is a form of scientific misconduct, or how many of one's own words one can use before it is truly "plagiarism." Probably for this reason self-plagiarism is not regarded in the same light as plagiarism of the ideas and words of other individuals. iMedPub journals also rejects self-plagiarism.
Peer review, for all its faults, remains the main method of ensuring
consistency and quality in biomedical publications. It is far from a
flawless system, but is probably the least worst we have.
Authors commonly complain of the time it takes to get a paper
published, but the usual hold-up is with peer reviewers. iMedPub tries
very hard to get papers through as rapidly as possible, but is
constrained by reviewers. To try to get around this, reviewers are asked
(and reminded) to submit their review within two weeks. How many
reviewers you get for your paper depends on how many agree and how many
submit on time so you will find that there is no set number of reviews.
You can see that iMedPub do all they can to give you a decision as soon
Many authors are upset when they receive peer reviewer criticisms.
iMedPub uses anonymous peer reviewers as it feels this is the best way
to get honest opinions on papers. Unfortunately, honest opinions can
sometimes be critical of papers or parts of papers. Once this initial
anger has passed it is important to deal with the reviewers comments and
here is a guide:
However unfair you feel reviewers comments
are, do use them constructively. It is rare that a reviewer is trying to
be personal or get your work rejected in favor of their own work
Remember that the Editor is using the reviewer
comments as a guide. As discussed above, electronic publishing allows
for far greater numbers of papers to be published than does print. The
commonest reasons for rejection of a paper are discussed below.
When you are replying to reviewers’ comments,
please do so by writing a letter to the Editor and answer all the
reviewers’ points one by one. It is important to remember that you do
NOT have to accept the reviewer suggestions, however if you do not agree
you MUST explain why in a rebuttal in your covering letter. If you are
changing the paper in light of the reviewers’ comments, please do
describe how and where you have made the changes.
Sometimes a paper will be rejected based on the reviewers’ comments. The usual reasons for this are:
The reviewer has suggested plagiarism,
research fraud, or redundant (duplicate) publication. This is very rare
and it is likely that the Editor or Publisher will get in touch with you
to discuss this event. If you wish to know more about this area and how
to avoid crossing the boundary from multiple papers from a single study
to duplicate publication/self plagiarism, please do have a look at the COPE website
Language is too poor. iMedPub journals are
English or Spanish language journals and papers must be readable in it
language. Many authors’ first language is not English and
understandably there may be errors in the paper. Please do get a native
English speaker to check the paper and advise you.
Alternatively, iMedPub provide an English and Spanish language service
for papers. If you need this service, please contact us to
firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. There is a per page charge for
The paper has no ‘narrative’. An academic
paper is no different from other types of written information. It has to
make logical sense. The paper has to ‘flow’ and show why the
study/review was done, how it was done, what results were found, what
conclusions were drawn for these results. This is how your audience will
understand what you’ve done and how your paper will be remembered by
them. If it is difficult to understand why you did the study and how you
did it, the reader is unlikely to pay much attention to your paper. In
extreme cases the paper will be rejected as it seems to serve no purpose
to the reader. So again, spend time getting this right and if the
reviewer or editor has suggested your paper has poor structure make sure
you carefully address this problem.
All papers submitted to iMedPub Journals are subject to peer reveiw.
Purpose of Peer Review
Thank you for the effort and expertise that you contribute to reviewing, without which it would be impossible to maintain the high standards of peer-reviewed journals.
Peer review is a critical element of scholarly publication, and one of the major cornerstones of the scientific process. Peer Review serves two key functions:
- Acts as a filter: Ensures research is properly verified before being published
- Improves the quality of the research: rigorous review by other experts helps to hone key points and correct inadvertent errors
- Does the article you are being asked to review truly match your expertise?
The Editor who has approached you may not know your work intimately, and may only be aware of your work in a broader context. Only accept an invitation if you are competent to review the article.
- Do you have time to review the paper?
Reviewing an article can be quite time consuming. The time taken to review can vary greatly between disciplines and of course on article type, but on average, an article will take about 5 hours to review properly. Will you have sufficient time before the deadline stipulated in the invitation to conduct a thorough review? If you cannot conduct the review let the editor know immediately, and if possible advise the editor of alternative reviewers.
- Are there any potential conflicts of interest?
A conflict of interest will not necessarily eliminate you from reviewing an article, but full disclosure to the editor will allow them to make an informed decision. For example; if you work in the same department or institute as one of the authors; if you have worked on a paper previously with an author; or you have a professional or financial connection to the article. These should all be listed when responding to the editor’s invitation for review.
Conducting the Review
Reviewing needs to be conducted confidentially, the article you have been asked to review should not be disclosed to a third party. If you wish to elicit an opinion from colleagues or students regarding the article you should let the editor know beforehand. Most editors welcome additional comments, but whoever else is involved will also need to keep the review process confidential.
You should not attempt to contact the author.
Be aware when you submit your review that any recommendations you make will contribute to the final decision made by the editor.
Depending upon the journal, you will be asked to evaluate the article on a number of criteria. Some journals provide detailed guidance others do not, but normally you would be expected to evaluate the article according to the following:
Is the article sufficiently novel and interesting to warrant publication? Does it add to the canon of knowledge? Does the article adhere to the journal's standards? Is the research question an important one? In order to determine its originality and appropriateness for the journal, it might be helpful to think of the research in terms of what percentile it is in? Is it in the top 25% of papers in this field? You might wish to do a quick literature search using tools such as Scopus to see if there are any reviews of the area. If the research has been covered previously, pass on references of those works to the editor.
Is the article clearly laid out? Are all the key elements (where relevant) present: abstract, introduction, methodology, results, conclusions? Consider each element in turn:
- Title: Does it clearly describe the article?
- Abstract: Does it reflect the content of the article?
- Where graphical abstracts and/or highlights are included, please check the content and if possible make suggestions for improvements. Follow these links for more information on graphical abstracts and highlights.
- Introduction: Does it describe what the author hoped to achieve accurately, and clearly state the problem being investigated? Normally, the introduction should summarize relevant research to provide context, and explain what other authors' findings, if any, are being challenged or extended. It should describe the experiment, the hypothesis(es) and the general experimental design or method.
- Method: Does the author accurately explain how the data was collected? Is the design suitable for answering the question posed? Is there sufficient information present for you to replicate the research? Does the article identify the procedures followed? Are these ordered in a meaningful way? If the methods are new, are they explained in detail? Was the sampling appropriate? Have the equipment and materials been adequately described? Does the article make it clear what type of data was recorded; has the author been precise in describing measurements?
- Results: This is where the author/s should explain in words what he/she discovered in the research. It should be clearly laid out and in a logical sequence. You will need to consider if the appropriate analysis has been conducted. Are the statistics correct? If you are not comfortable with statistics, please advise the editor when you submit your report. Interpretation of results should not be included in this section.
- Conclusion/Discussion: Are the claims in this section supported by the results, do they seem reasonable? Have the authors indicated how the results relate to expectations and to earlier research? Does the article support or contradict previous theories? Does the conclusion explain how the research has moved the body of scientific knowledge forward?
- Language: If an article is poorly written due to grammatical errors, while it may make it more difficult to understand the science, you do not need to correct the English. You should bring this to the attention of the editor, however.
Finally, on balance, when considering the whole article, do the figures and tables inform the reader, are they an important part of the story? Do the figures describe the data accurately? Are they consistent, e.g. bars in charts are the same width, the scales on the axis are logical.
- Previous Research
If the article builds upon previous research does it reference that work appropriately? Are there any important works that have been omitted? Are the references accurate?
- Ethical Issues
- Plagiarism: If you suspect that an article is a substantial copy of another work, please let the editor know, citing the previous work in as much detail as possible
- Fraud: It is very difficult to detect the determined fraudster, but if you suspect the results in an article to be untrue, discuss it with the editor
- Other ethical concerns: For medical research, has confidentiality been maintained? Has there been a violation of the accepted norms in the ethical treatment of animal or human subjects? If so, then these should also be identified to the editor
Communicating Your Report to the Editor
Once you have completed your evaluation of the article the next step is to write up your report. As a courtesy, let the editor know if it looks like you might miss your deadline.
Some journals may request that you complete a form, checking various aspects of the paper, others will request an overview of your remarks. Either way, it is helpful to provide a quick summary of the article at the beginning of your report. This serves the dual purpose of reminding the editor of the details of the report and also reassuring the author and editor that you have understood the article.
The report should contain the key elements of your review, addressing the points outlined in the preceding section. Commentary should be courteous and constructive, and should not include any personal remarks or personal details including your name.
Providing insight into any deficiencies is important. You should explain and support your judgment so that both editors and authors are able to fully understand the reasoning behind your comments. You should indicate whether your comments are your own opinion or are reflected by the data.
When you make a recommendation regarding an article, it is worth considering the categories the editor most likely uses for classifying the article.
a) Rejected due to poor quality, or out of scope
b) Accept without revision
c) Accept but needs revision (either major or minor)
In the latter case, clearly identify what revision is required, and indicate to the editor whether or not you would be happy to review the revised article.
Peer reviewers should provide an objective critical evaluation of the
paper in the broadest terms practicable. Reviewers need to make a
recommendation to the Editor-in-Chief by deciding on a rank between 1-9,
where 1 is well-written and 9 needs a lot of work to make it
You should also indicate if the manuscript requires its English grammar, punctuation or spelling to be corrected.
Your report must contain a recommendation and a description of your
reasons for that recommendation. If you believe the paper needs changes
to be made before it is acceptable, please make suggestions on how to
improve the paper.
Consideration should be given to whether the paper is suitable for the
journal it is submitted to. Each journals' aims and scope is available
on its home page.
In order to ease the process we have developed a form you can download to write your review. Please, find the form here.
Deadline for completion of peer-review
We request that you provide your input via the journal's site at
imedpub.com/ojs. The invitation sent to you provides a date when we
require to have received your comments.
Conflicts of interest
You may not undertake a peer review on a submission if you are unable to do so objectively.
Strategy and guidance
Providing an objective, expert and rapid peer-review service is not
only your responsibility but also one of the best 'advertisements' for
the journal – authors are more likely to return if they are treated
well, and new authors are more likely to submit if the journal has a
reputation for good peer review.
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
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
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
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
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.