Peer review is essential for scientific progress as it both validates and improves the research that is published in manuscripts.
Reviewers are thus a critical component of the scientific enterprise, yet training can be irregular and inconsistent. Here we present a brief guide to the roles and responsibilities of reviewers to support those of you with less experience.
Reviewers are responsible for providing an objective opinion about the validity of the work reported in a manuscript. The subsequent course of action is the responsibility of the editor, but reviewers provide information upon which that decision is based, which might include arguments for and against publication.
Reviewers’ reports should include the following points:
- A summary of the key results.
- A statement about the originality and significance of the work (noting relevant references if the conclusions aren’t original).
- Comments about the validity of the approach, the quality of the data, and their suitability for the conclusions that have been drawn.
- Remarks about the appropriateness of data interpretation, including the use of statistical tests and treatment of uncertainties.
- Comments about the adequacy of data and methodological reporting for the purposes of preserving transparency and reproducibility in the published literature.
- Suggestions for additional experiments to support any ambiguous conclusions so that the manuscript can be strengthened for publication (either in the current journal or elsewhere).
- Notes about additional references that have not been cited but that have a strong bearing on the results and conclusions.
- Comments about the clarity and accessibility of the text and figures.
- A statement about any aspects of the manuscript that are beyond your expertise.
Timely reports should be submitted wherever possible and by the date agreed with the editor. Any circumstantial changes that might have an impact on the delivery date should be brought to the editor’s attention at the earliest opportunity.
Subsequent reports may be requested from reviewers in the event that a manuscript is appropriately revised in response to their comments. Journals will anticipate that reviewers do their best to make themselves available for re-review.
Confidentiality of the contents of a manuscript should be respected until the manuscript is published. If a reviewer requires advice from a colleague outside their laboratory in order to complete their review, they should first contact the editor to seek approval. Privileged information obtained during peer review should not be used for competitive gain.
Reviewer anonymity will be preserved by journals except when a reviewer voluntarily signs their report or in the case of open or collaborative peer review.
Conflicts of interest are factors that might be perceived to preclude an objective evaluation of a paper, including collaborations with authors or competitive situations. Any conflicts should be declared to the editor at the earliest opportunity, ideally before the full manuscript has been made available.
If you are interested in submitting to one of AIP Publishing’s journals, you can review our full policy and ethics statements on our dedicated webpage.