Sunday, March 14, 2010

Responsibilities of Reviewers

The AMS does not have guidelines for the ethical obligations of reviewers, authors, and editors. Until that time, I highly recommend the American Geophysical Union's guidelines.

Here are the guidelines for reviewers.

  • Inasmuch as the reviewing of manuscripts is an essential step in the publication process, every scientist has an obligation to do a fair share of reviewing.
  • A chosen reviewer who feels inadequately qualified or lacks the time to judge the research reported in a manuscript should return it promptly to the editor.
  • A reviewer of a manuscript should judge objectively the quality of the manuscript and respect the intellectual independence of the authors. In no case is personal criticism appropriate.
  • A reviewer should be sensitive even to the appearance of a conflict of interest when the manuscript under review is closely related to the reviewer's work in progress or published. If in doubt, the reviewer should return the manuscript promptly without review, advising the editor of the conflict of interest or bias.
  • A reviewer should not evaluate a manuscript authored or co-authored by a person with whom the reviewer has a personal or professional connection if the relationship would bias judgment of the manuscript.
  • A reviewer should treat a manuscript sent for review as a confidential document. It should neither be shown to nor discussed with others except, in special cases, to persons from whom specific advice may be sought; in that event, the identities of those consulted should be disclosed to the editor.
  • Reviewers should explain and support their judgments adequately so that editors and authors may understand the basis of their comments. Any statement that an observation, derivation, or argument had been previously reported should be accompanied by the relevant citation.
  • A reviewer should be alert to failure of authors to cite relevant work by other scientists. A reviewer should call to the editor's attention any substantial similarity between the manuscript under consideration and any published paper or any manuscript submitted concurrently to another journal.
  • Reviewers should not use or disclose unpublished information, arguments, or interpretations contained in a manuscript under consideration, except with the consent of the author.


Blogger jimmyc said...

I am curious after reading your current work on journal articles:
1. How timely are reviewers?
2. How long does it take to review an article that goes through 1 versus 2 rounds of reviews (I guess this could be split also on resubmissions versus just another check on the review process)?

August 20, 2010 at 9:00 PM  
Blogger David Schultz said...

Hi jimmyc,

1. Most reviewers are timely. At most of the journals that I serve on the editorial boards for, editors give reviewers four weeks to return reviews. Depending on the manuscript and the reviewer, I suspect that it takes anywhere from a half a day to two or more days of work to write a review, so this is not something you can just drop down into your schedule easily. That is why I think most full-length articles (8-20 printed pages in the journal) require several weeks of reviewer time. Of course, we appreciate all reviewers who get us reviews quicker than that!

Probably about 10-20% of reviews come in 1-7 days late.

Occasionally, I get a reviewer who stops responding to emailed requests for their late review. I can understand if things come up and the review can't be completed, but I would at least appreciate an explanation. In any case, I think I am less patient than most editors and if I don't hear within two weeks past the deadline, I have contingency plans to get a replacement review and get a decision to the author.

2. In an ideal world, you would submit a manuscript, it would take 1-2 weeks to track down reviewers, a month to get the reviews back, another few days until the editor has the time to sit down with the reviews and the manuscript and make a decision. So, that is why the AMS thinks that 60 days is an appropriate amount of time to get to an initial decision.

The author has two months to revise the manuscript. The manuscript may need to be returned to the reviewers, and we then go through the process again (which, shouldn't take as long because the reviewers have already been identified).

So, the sum total of this exercise with one round of reviews should be less than 4 months. If you have another round of reviews, then add another 4-6 weeks for reviews, and another month for revisions (assuming that the revisions are much minor the second time around). In that case, I think we're talking about something closer to 6-7 months.

I rarely like putting a manuscript through three rounds of reviews, but will do it, if I feel the manuscript needs it.

Your question leads me to an important point: The more work the author does to send us a high-quality manuscript and then respond carefully and thoughtfully to the reviewers, the less time the review process takes.

August 21, 2010 at 2:51 PM  

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