What is peer review?
Peer review, also known as refereeing, is a collaborative process that allows manuscripts submitted to a journal to be evaluated and commented upon by independent experts within the same field of research. The evaluation and critique generated from peer review provides authors with feedback to improve their work and, critically, allows the editor to assess the paper’s suitability for publication in the journal. The peer-review process does receive much criticism and is not without its limitations; however, it remains a widely recognized standard in terms of journal quality.
Why review?• To maintain awareness of the current research emerging within your subject area.
• To help authors improve their papers, applying your professional expertise to help others.
• To assist in maintaining a good, rigorous peer-review process resulting in the publication of the best and brightest – you can have a part in championing the next key paper in your own field of interest.
• To build relationships with the editorial team of a journal and improve your academic and professional profile.
• Although often anonymous, the review process can act as a conversation between author, reviewer, and editor as to how the paper can be improved to maximize its impact and further research in the field.
• To maintain awareness of the current research emerging within your subject area and gain a sense of prestige in being consulted as an expert.
What to consider before considering yourself to reviewing?Before agreeing to review for a journal, you should take note of the following:
• What form of review does the journal operate? (single/blind/open)
• How you will need to submit your review – for example, is there a structured form for reviewers to complete or will you be required to write free text?
• Papers and correspondence sent to reviewers in the course of conducting peer review are to be dealt with as privileged confidential documents.
• If a conflict of interest exists, you should make the editor aware of this as soon as possible.
• Whether you are able to complete the level of review required by the editor in the allotted time – extensions can be provided or a brief report may suffice on some occasions. If you are struggling to meet the deadline, let the editor know, so they can inform the author if there is a delay.
Peer review Process
Single-blind reviewThe names of the reviewers are hidden from the author. However, the name of the author is made known to the reviewers.
The anonymity afforded to reviewers by this model allows them to speak honestly and impartially and to recommend decisions without having their critiques attributed. Also, knowledge of an author’s identity can help reviewers place an article in the context of the author’s earlier work.
Anonymity may make reviewers more inclined or likely to be unnecessarily critical or harsh when commenting on the author’s work.
Double-blind reviewNeither the authors' nor the reviewers' identities are disclosed to the other.
Outside of triple blind this is the surest way to ensure that the process is completely objective, that focus remains on the content of the article and the possibility of reviewer bias is eliminated. Reviewer bias may be favourable or unfavourable and could based on the author’s previous work or country of origin, for example.
In some fields it can be difficult to completely disguise the author’s identity. Aspects of style, subject matter and the referencing of previous work are all clues that a reviewer may pick up on, especially in smaller or niche areas of research.
Triple-blind peer reviewThe identities of the author(s), reviewer(s) and editor(s) are not known to one another. This may be where the paper is anonymously uploaded to a journal website by the author(s) and the editor handles the submission without knowledge of who the author is. The author is identified only by a number. Communication happens through the website.
Eliminates any potential bias
Complex administration. As with double blind, author identity may be inferred from specialist subjects and references to previous work.
Open peer reviewBoth author and reviewer are made known to one another. The review may take place either pre or post publication.
The transparency permitted by this model of review is a hugely advantageous factor, according to its advocates. The impression of increased accountability is thought to improve the substance and quality of reviews in terms of both tone and content, as reviewers are more conscious of offering substantive justification for their recommendations. The post publication format publicly recognizes the important work of the reviewers.
Critics argue that such openness makes the process unavoidably susceptible to bias, subjectivity or obfuscation. Moreover, some reviewers may fear that they will suffer the consequences of negative reviews, either professionally or personally. More practically, the degree of support for open peer review models varies substantially by discipline.
How to conduct a reviewBefore you accept or decline an invitation to review, consider the following questions:
• Does the article match your area of expertise? Only accept if you feel you can provide a high quality review.
• Do you have a potential conflict of interest? Disclose this to the editor when you respond.
• Do you have time? Reviewing can be a lot of work – before you commit, make sure you can meet the deadline.
• Finally: Educate yourself on the peer review process through IJEER
Respond to the invitation as soon as you can – delay in your decision slows down the review process, whether you agree to review or not. If you decline the invitation, provide suggestions for alternative reviewers.
Before you startIf you accept, you must treat the materials you receive as confidential documents. This means you can’t share them with anyone without prior authorization from the editor. Since peer review is confidential, you also must not share information about the review with anyone without permission from the editors and authors.
First read the article and then take a break from it, giving you time to think. Consider the article from your own perspective. When you sit down to write the review, make sure you know what the journal is looking for, and have a copy of any specific reviewing criteria you need to consider. ________________________________________
Your review reportYour review will help the editor decide whether or not to publish the article. Giving your overall opinion and general observations of the article is essential. Your comments 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. ________________________________________
Have the questions on your mind while reviewing• Is the submission original?
• Is the research cutting edge or topical?
• Does it help to expand or further research in this subject area?
• Does it significantly build on (the author’s) previous work?
• Does the paper fit the scope of the journal?
• Would you recommend that the author reconsider the paper for a related or alternative journal?
• Should it be shortened and reconsidered in another form?
• Would the paper be of interest to the readership of the journal?
• Is there an abstract or brief summary of the work undertaken as well as a concluding section?
• Is the paper complete?
• Is the submission in Standard English to aid the understanding of the reader?
• For non-native speakers, an English editing service may be useful (see our Author Services website for advice).
• Is the methodology presented in the manuscript and any analysis provided both accurate and properly conducted?
• Do you feel that the significance and potential impact of a paper is high or low? Are all relevant accompanying data, citations, or references given by the author?
Check these while submitting your review report• Summarize the article in a short paragraph. This shows the editor you have read and understood the research.
• Give your main impressions of the article, including whether it is novel and interesting, whether it has a sufficient impact and adds to the knowledge base.
• Point out any journal-specific points – does it adhere to the journal’s standards?
• If you suspect plagiarism, fraud or have other ethical concerns, raise your suspicions with the editor, providing as much detail as possible.
• Give specific comments and suggestions, including about layout and format, Title, Abstract, Introduction, Graphical Abstracts and/or Highlights, Method, statistical errors, Results, Conclusion/Discussion, language and References. ________________________________________
Your recommendationWhen you make a recommendation, it is worth considering the categories the editor most likely uses for classifying the article:
• Reject (explain reason in report)
• Accept without revision
• Revise – either major or minor (explain the revision that is required, and indicate to the editor whether or not you would be happy to review the revised article) ________________________________________