Peer Review: Is Your Feedback Clear?
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- Publishing and Peer Review
Sep 02, 2015
Now that you’re done peer reviewing a manuscript, how can you best communicate your assessment?
Follow these guidelines to give concise, constructive feedback to the editors and authors you’re working with.
Comments to the Editors
- Comment on the novelty and significance of the manuscript.
- Make a clear recommendation to the editor about whether the manuscript is suitable for publication using language such as accept, minor revision, major revision, or reject.
- Remember that confidential comments will not be disclosed to the authors.
Comments to the Authors
- Be specific in commenting on the design, presentation of data, results, discussion, and conclusions, as well as writing style and presentation.
- Suggest improvements to the presentation and style of the data shown.
- Remark on the general logic and justification of interpretations and conclusions.
- Weigh in on the number of figures, tables, and schemes — including their quality and necessity.
- Distinguish between what needs to change and what would be nice to change.
- Require or suggest other experiments or analyses.
- Comment on the importance, validity, and generality of conclusions, and request “toning down” unjustified claims and generalizations.
- Request removal of redundancies and summaries.
- Frame your comments so that the author can respond with either an implementation or a rebuttal.
- Avoid direct criticism of the author themselves. Be collegial and constructive and aim to improve the paper.
- Do not include recommendations for acceptance or rejection.
- Ensure that comments to the author(s) are consistent with your recommendation to the editors.
Handling the Document
- Keep the manuscript confidential until the review process is over. It’s a privileged document, and the data remain the author’s exclusive property.
- Destroy any paper copies after the editor makes the final decision.
- Share the name and affiliation of any co-reviewers with the editors.
Remember, the final decision to publish or not to publish belongs to the editors. By leaving constructive feedback, the editors and the authors will be able to make the best decisions and continue to improve their research.
Article adapted from the presentation, “Reviewing — The Basics,” by Toby Charkin, executive publisher at Elsevier.