Bear in mind that the editor is looking to them for subject knowledge, good judgement, and an honest and fair assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the work and the manuscript.
Make clear at the start of their review if they have been asked to address only specific parts or aspects of a manuscript and indicate which these are.
Be specific in their criticisms, and provide evidence with appropriate references to substantiate general statements such as, ‘this work has been done before’, to help editors in their evaluation and decision and in fairness to the authors.
Confidential comments to the editor should not be a place for denigration or false accusation, done in the knowledge that the authors will not see these comments.
Reviewer towards Manuscript
Decline to review if they feel unable to provide a fair and unbiased review.
Read the manuscript, ancillary material (e.g. reviewer instructions, required ethics and policy statements, supplemental data files) and journal instructions thoroughly, getting back to the journal if anything is not clear and requesting any missing or incomplete items they need to carry out a full review.
Not involve anyone else in the review of a manuscript, including junior researchers they are mentoring, without first obtaining permission from the journal; the names of any individuals who have helped them with the review should be included with the returned review so that they are associated with the manuscript in the journal’s records and can also receive due credit for their efforts.
Ensure their review is based on the merits of the work and not influenced, either positively or negatively, by any personal, financial, or other conflicting considerations or by intellectual biases.
Be objective and constructive in their reviews and provide feedback that will help the authors to improve their manuscript.
Not make derogatory personal comments or unfounded accusations.
Make clear which suggested additional investigations are essential to support claims made in the manuscript under consideration and which will just strengthen or extend the work.
Continue to keep details of the manuscript and its review confidential.
Reviewer towards Author
Remember it is the authors’ paper and not attempt to rewrite it to their own preferred style if it is basically sound and clear; suggestions for changes that improve clarity are, however, important.
Be aware of the sensitivities surrounding language issues that are due to the authors writing in a language that is not their own, and phrase the feedback appropriately and with due respect.
Do not prepare their report in such a way or include comments that suggest the review has been done by another person.
Do not prepare their report in a way that reflects badly or unfairly on another person.
Do not make unfair negative comments or include unjustified criticisms of any competitors’ work that is mentioned in the manuscript.
Ensure their comments and recommendations for the editor are consistent with their report for the authors; most feedback should be put in the report for the authors.
Reviewer towards Publisher
Respond in a reasonable time-frame, especially if they cannot do the review, and without intentional delay.
Declare if they do not have the subject expertise required to carry out the review or if they are able to assess only part of the manuscript, outlining clearly the areas for which they have the relevant expertise.
Only agree to review a manuscript if they are fairly confident they can return a review within the proposed or mutually agreed time-frame, informing the journal promptly if they require an extension.
Declare any potentially conflicting or competing interests (which may, for example, be personal, financial, intellectual, professional, political or religious), seeking advice from the journal if they are unsure whether something constitutes a relevant interest.
Follow journals’ policies on situations they consider to represent a conflict to reviewing. If no guidance is provided, they should inform the journal if: they work at the same institution as any of the authors (or will be joining that institution or are applying for a job there); they are or have been recent (e.g. within the past 3 years) mentors, mentees, close collaborators or joint grant holders; they have a close personal relationship with any of the authors.
Ensure suggestions for alternative reviewers are based on suitability and not influenced by personal considerations or made with the intention of the manuscript receiving a specific outcome (either positive or negative).
Do not agree to review a manuscript just to gain sight of it with no intention of submitting a review.
Decline to review if they have been involved with any of the work in the manuscript or its reporting.
Notify the journal as soon as possible if they find they do not have the expertise to assess all aspects of the manuscript; they shouldn’t wait until submitting their review as this will unduly delay the review process.
keep all manuscript and review details confidential.
Do not contact the authors directly without the permission of the journal.
Respond promptly if contacted by a journal about matters related to their review of a manuscript and provide the information required.