Journal Peer Reviewers
Peer Review Guidelines & Best Practices
At Springer Publishing Company (SPC) we understand the importance of peer review and we are committed to providing a rigorous, ethical review process on all our journals. While the review process varies slightly from journal to journal, in general SPC journals utilize double-blind peer review. The reviewers don't know the identity of the author(s), and the author(s) do not know the identity of the reviewer. The number of reviewers used can differ from paper to paper based on a variety of factors. The Editor has final say on all submissions.
Any author or reviewer who has questions related to a specific journal’s peer review process should contact the Editor of that journal directly.
Reviewers frequently lack the resources or training to adequately prepare them to be effective peer reviewers, so we hope these guidelines serve as an overview of our review process, both for reviewers and authors. We also want new reviewers to understand what’s involved when becoming a reviewer for an SPC journal.
COPE Guidelines for Peer Reviewers | Why be a reviewer? | Before agreeing to peer review | Performing Peer Review | Provide detailed comments | Sample comments | Recommending a Decision | Plagiarism Checking Software & Ethical Concerns
COPE GUIDELINES FOR PEER REVIEWERS
Springer Publishing Company is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and as such, all our journal editors have access to their resources. COPE now serves members around the world providing tools related to all aspects of publication ethics, as well as advice on how to handle cases of research and publication misconduct. It also provides a forum for its members to discuss individual cases. We highly encourage all peer reviewers to familiarize themselves with the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers, which is available on their website.
WHY BE A REVIEWER?
Why should you spend hours working as a volunteer peer reviewer? By participating in the peer review process, you:
- Help authors improve their papers by providing your expertise. As an author you’ve benefited from the peer review process. Reviewing is viewed by many as an altruistic, unwritten part of the professional responsibility of academics and researchers.
- Remain up-to-date on current research within your field.
- Get credit for your contributions. Methods and services to recognize reviewers, such as Publons and ORCiD, are beginning to emerge. Some are now including their peer review activities on their CV.
- Improve your writing skills. Reviewing often makes spotting your own errors easier. As you write you may think “If I was reviewing this paper, what might I ask?”
BEFORE AGREEING TO PEER REVIEW
Before agreeing to peer review, contemplate:
- Does the article topic match your area(s) of expertise? If not, can you recommend someone else who might be more qualified?
- Do you have any potential competing or conflicts of interest? If so, make the editor aware immediately. If you’re not sure, ask the editor.
- Respond to a request to review as quickly as possible, especially if you cannot undertake the review.
- Can you complete the review on time? If you accept an invitation to review it is your responsibility to return your comments within the agreed upon time-frame.
- If you cannot review, suggest alternate qualified reviewers if you know of any.
COPE provides a handy flowchart of what to consider when asked to peer review a manuscript (click image for full size)
PERFORMING PEER REVIEW
Try to keep in mind the following:
- Is the article original?
- Does it fit the scope of the journal?
- Would readership of the journal find the paper interesting?
- Does the manuscript expand research in the subject area?
- Does it build on previous work?
- If applicable, do you feel that the possible impact of the submission would be high or low to the research field?
- Is the methodology and any analysis made correct and properly conducted?
- Are relevant data, citations, or references present?
- Is the submission written in grammatically correct English? If not, is the research solid? Would the author benefit from an English language service or editor?
PROVIDE DETAILED COMMENTS
- Any comments to the author should be professional and courteous. (Samples below)
- Your comments to the author is your chance to ask for clarification on any items which you feel are unclear and for additional explanation.
- When possible and appropriate, suggest how the author might improve clarity and the overall quality of the manuscript.
- If you feel the article is too long, the author may appreciate a reviewer that points out specific areas which would benefit from editing.
- It is not the reviewer’s job to correct grammar but making suggestions when the technical meaning is unclear is appropriate.
- It’s OK to disagree with the author’s ideas, but if the author provides reliable evidence your disagreement does not merit rejection.
- Authors welcome positive and constructive feedback. Multiple surveys support the idea that most authors, even those rejected from a journal, feel their manuscript is improved by the peer review process.
- Being critical is OK. Being rude or derogatory is not. Reviewer comments should not include overtly negative comments which aren’t helpful.
Please note that these are just examples of how a reviewer could give feedback. Your review should be written so it is relevant to the manuscript and should follow the requirements of the journal and editor.
Examples of positive comments
- The manuscript is well-written and explains the research clearly.
- This paper should be of great interest to our readership.
- This is a very important and timely subject is very important and is a potentially significant contribution to our field.
- This is a well-written article that does identify an important gap.
Examples of constructive criticism
- In the “Discussion” section it would be helpful if the author included more information on …
- Overall, I don’t feel this article includes enough evidence to support the conclusions.
- This is an interesting premise, however there is insufficient discussion of how or why it might impact the field of….
- The authors could significantly improve their manuscript by including addition details about …
- To make this manuscript suitable for publication the author needs to address the following practical items …
- This article contains some very interesting ideas; however, it is clear the author does not have a strong grasp of the English language and this makes it hard to follow. They’d greatly benefit from a qualified English language copy editor.
Confidential comments to the Editor
You may have the opportunity to send confidential comments to the editor, which will not appear in your review for the author. Again, be professional and courteous, even with confidential remarks.
RECOMMENDING A DECISION
After reading the article and constructing your comments, you will be asked to make a recommendation to the editor regarding a decision. Decision types vary from journal to journal, but in general the options are:
- Accept – if the manuscript in its current form is suitable for publication.
- Minor revision – if the manuscript needs only light revisions or corrections. You should be specific about the revisions you’re suggesting.
- Major revision – Substantial changes or rewriting large sections of the text are needed.
- Reject – The manuscript is simply not suitable for publication with the journal or the revisions needed are too substantial to even consider at this time.
NOTE: Revised manuscripts are usually returned to the original reviewer, who is asked to confirm that the comments have been addressed satisfactorily.
PLAGIARISM CHECKING SOFTWARE & ETHICAL CONCERNS
Crossref Similarity Check is a service that helps editors to verify the originality of papers. The software is driven by the Ithenticate software, commonly known by most in the academic community as the creators of Turnitin.
All new submissions to SPC journals are automatically screened for potential plagiarism using this service.
However, a reviewer may become aware of potential misconduct, or may notice significant similarity between the manuscript they are reviewing and a submission to another journal or a previously published article. In the case of any ethical concerns, contact the editor of the journal.