How to conduct a review

1- Before you begin

Before 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.

Respond to the invitation as soon as you can (even if it is to decline) – a delay in your decision slows down the review process and means more waiting for the author.

If you do decline the invitation, it would be helpful if you could provide suggestions for alternative reviewers.

2- Managing your review

Confidential material

If 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.

How to log in and access your review

Your review will be managed via an online submission system eJManager.

Article- and journal-specific instructions

If the journal in question does not require you to respond to a list of specific questions, you might find it helpful to consider the below points before preparing your comments to the editor/author(s):

Full length research article

  • Examine the importance of the research question addressed in the manuscript (e.g. are objectives and justification clearly stated?).
  • Assess the originality (contribution, addition of knowledge to scientific literature or field) of the manuscript.
  • Clearly identify the strengths and weaknesses of the method described in the manuscript.
  • Make specific useful comments on the writing of the manuscript (e.g. writing, organization, figures, etc.).
  • Offer specific comments on the author’s interpretation of the results and conclusions drawn from the results.
  • In case applicable, comment on the statistics (for example question if they are robust and fit-for-purpose and if the controls and sampling mechanisms are sufficient and well described).

Review article

  • Discuss the importance of the topic/scope of the review.
  • Assess the originality of the review.
  • Comment on the author's representation of the most relevant recent advances in the field. Specifically, determine whether the references are relevant to the topic and cover both historical literature and more recent developments.
  • Offer comments on the writing, organization, tables, and figures of the manuscript.
  • Comment on the author's interpretation of the results.

In any case, your first task is to read the article. You might consider spot checking major issues by choosing which section to read first. Below we offer some tips about handling specific parts of the paper.

Methodology

If the manuscript you are reviewing is reporting an experiment, check the methods section first. The following cases are considered major flaws and should be flagged:

  • Unsound methodology
  • Discredited method
  • Missing processes known to be influential on the area of reported research
  • A conclusion drawn in contradiction to the statistical or qualitative evidence reported in the manuscript

For analytical papers examine the sampling report, which is mandated in time-dependent studies. For qualitative research make sure that a systematic data analysis is presented and sufficient descriptive elements with relevant quotes from interviews are listed in addition to the author’s narrative.

Sex and gender reporting

Although it might sound late, given that the research has already been concluded and the data analyzed, the peer review process can still play an important role in ensuring effective, transparent and complete sex and gender reporting.

Assess manuscripts for inclusion of sex-disaggregated data and gender analysis. It could well be that the study was not designed to analyze sex and/or gender. Nevertheless, we recommend referees to consider if sex and gender are relevant to the topic of the study, and whether the study follows relevant guidelines, wherever applicable.

As a general principle, the SAGER guidelines recommend careful use of the words “sex” and “gender” in order to avoid confusing both terms. The use of common definitions will improve the ability to conduct meta-analyses of published and archived data. The term “sex” should be used as a classification of male or female based on biological distinction to the extent that this is possible to confirm. Per Heidari et al.: "Gender refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours and identities of female, male and gender-diverse people . It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they behave and interact and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually incorrectly conceptualized as a binary (female/ male) factor. In reality, there is a spectrum of gender identities and expressions defining how individuals identify themselves and express their gender."

Please check if authors have underlined in the methods section whether the sex of participants was defined based on self-report or assigned following external or internal examination of body characteristics, or through genetic testing or other means. In studies of animals, the term “sex” should be used. In cell biological, molecular biological or biochemical experiments, the origin and sex chromosome constitutions of cells or tissue cultures should be stated. If unknown, the reasons should be stated. In other disciplines, such as the testing of devices or technology, authors should explain whether it will be applied or used by all genders and if it has been tested with a user’s gender in mind.

Research data and visualizations

Once you are satisfied that the methodology is sufficiently robust, examine any data in the form of figures, tables, or images. Authors may add research data, including data visualizationsto their submission to enable readers to interact and engage more closely with their research after publication. Please be aware that links to data might therefore be present in the submission files. These items should also receive your attention during the peer review process.

Critical issues in research data, which are considered to be major flaws can be related to insufficient data points, statistically non-significant variations and unclear data tables.

Ethical considerations

Experiments including patient or animal data should properly be documented. Most journals require ethical approval by the author’s host organization.

Overview

If you don’t spot any major flaws, take a break from the manuscript, giving you time to think. Consider the article from your own perspective. When you sit down to write the review, again make sure you familiarize yourself with any journal-specific guidelines (these will be noted in the journal’s guide for authors).

3. Structuring your review

Your review will help the editor decide whether or not to publish the article. It will also aid the author and allow them to improve their manuscript. Giving your overall opinion and general observations of the article is essential. Your comments should be courteous and constructive, and should not include any ad hominem remarks or personal details including your name.

Providing insight into any deficiencies is important. You should explain and support your judgement 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 and evidence.

Your recommendation

When you make a recommendation, it is worth considering the categories the editor will likely use for classifying the article:

  • Reject (explain your reasoning in your report)
  • Accept without revision
  • Revise – either major or minor (explain the revision that is required, and indicate to the editor whether you would be happy to review the revised article). If you are recommending a revision, you must furnish the author with a clear, sound explanation of why this is necessary.

The final decision

The editor ultimately decides whether to accept or reject the article. The editor will weigh all views and may call for another opinion or ask the author for a revised paper before making a decision.

4. After your review

Reviewer acknowledgements


Peer reviewers are fundamental to the peer review process; therefore, we recognise their vital role by publishing annual reviewer acknowledgements (e.g. see here). 

Publons


Biomedical Research and Therapy will partner with Publons a service that seamlessly tracks, verifies and showcases peer review activity across all of the world’s journals, allowing reviewers to showcase their activity.

Get recognition for your reviews of Biomedical Research and Therapy in Publons:
+ Reviewers can set up a profile on Publons at https://publons.com
+ You can then manually add any reviews completed from throughout your entire career by forwarding the reviewer receipt email to reviews@publons.com or filling out the online form from your account

General Certificate of Reviewing

Authors can get the General Certifate of Reviewing in the Reviewer's Panel. The sample of certificate is here

 

 

 



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