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Reviewer Guidelines

Reviewing for Us

Accepting or declining invitations

Reviewer invitations are sent by email from the submission system. Use the links in the email to accept or decline.

How to accept or decline an invitation to review

Submitting the review

Reviews must be entered in the submission system. Email the journal office if you are having trouble accessing the manuscript or entering your comments.

Competing interests

You should not accept a review assignment if you have a potential competing interest, including the following:

  • Prior or current collaborations with the author(s)
  • You are a direct competitor
  • You may have a known history of antipathy with the author(s)
  • You might profit financially from the work

Please inform the editors or journal staff and recuse yourself if you feel that you are unable to offer an impartial review.

When submitting your review, you must indicate whether or not you have any competing interests. 

Timing

If you are reviewing a manuscript, please aim to complete your review within 14 days. If you need more time or are unable to perform the review, please notify us immediately so that we can keep the authors informed and assign alternate reviewers if necessary.

What to assess

Manuscripts must meet the criteria for publication described below. Manuscripts must also comply with our editorial and publishing policies.

Confidentiality

Reviewers are required to treat all submitted manuscripts in strict confidence and should not share information about submissions with any other parties unless previously agreed with the editor. The involvement of a third party in the review must be declared at the time of the submission of the review.

Correspondence as part of the review process is also to be treated confidentially by all parties.

We expect that reviewers will not make use of any material or take advantage of any information they gain through the peer review process.

Criteria for Publication

Manuscripts should represent a substantial advance in medical science or medical practice within the scope of the journal in terms of:

  • Originality
  • Importance to researchers or practitioners in the field
  • Interest for researchers or practitioners outside the field
  • Rigorous methodology with substantial evidence for its conclusions
  • Conducted according to the highest ethical standards

Writing the Review

The purpose of the review is to provide the Academic Editor and professional editors with an expert opinion regarding the quality of the manuscript under consideration, and should also supply authors with explicit feedback on how to improve their papers so that they will be acceptable for publication in PLOS Medicine.

In the interests of complete transparency we do not allow confidential comments for the editors. Please therefore assume that all the comments you make will be transmitted to the authors.

The best possible review would answer the following questions:

  • What are the main claims of the paper and how important are they?
  • Are these claims novel? If not, please specify papers that weaken the claims to the originality of this one.
  • Are the claims properly placed in the context of the previous literature?
  • Do the results support the claims? If not, what other evidence is required?
  • If a protocol is provided, for example for a randomized controlled trial, are there any important deviations from it? If so, have the authors explained adequately why the deviations occurred?
  • Would any other experiments or additional information improve the paper? How much better would the paper be if this extra work was done, and how difficult would such work be to do, or to provide?
  • Is this paper outstanding in its discipline? (For example, would you like to see this work presented in a seminar at your hospital or university? Do you feel these results need to be incorporated in your next general lecture on the subject?) If yes, what makes it outstanding? If not, why not?
  • Who would find this paper of interest? Why?
  • If the paper is considered unsuitable for publication in its present form, does the study itself show sufficient enough potential that the authors should be encouraged to resubmit a revised version?

If you intend to provide a marked up copy of your manuscript as part of your review, you can do so by uploading the file to the review form. However, we prefer to have these marked-up files in PDF format rather than Word to ensure that the comments and annotations can be easily forwarded to the author. Please remember to anonymize your comments.

In the case of manuscripts deemed worthy of consideration, we would appreciate additional advice from the reviewer on the following:

  • Is the manuscript clearly enough written so that it is understandable to non-specialists? If not, how could it be improved? (Please concentrate on matters of organization and content and not on grammatical or spelling errors that will be corrected by our copyeditor after acceptance.)
  • Have the authors provided adequate proof for their claims without overselling them?
  • Have the authors cited the previous literature appropriately?
  • Does the paper offer enough details of its methodology that its experiments or its analyses could be reproduced?
  • PLOS Medicine encourages authors to publish detailed methods as supporting information online. Do any particular methods used in the manuscript warrant such publication?

Editing reviewers’ reports

The editors and PLOS staff do not edit any comments made by reviewers that have been intended to be read by the authors unless the language is deemed inappropriate for professional communication or the comments contain information considered confidential. Such remarks should be reserved for the confidential section of the review form, which is intended to be read by the editors only.

In their comments to authors, reviewers are encouraged to be honest but not offensive in their language. On the other hand, authors should not confuse frank and perhaps even robust language with unfair criticism.

Anonymity

Reviewers are anonymous by default. Reviewers’ identities are not revealed to authors or to other reviewers unless reviewers specifically request to be identified by signing their names at the end of their comments. 

The Academic Editor is also anonymous to authors and reviewers unless and until a manuscript is accepted for publication. The editor’s name is then indicated in the published article.

Editorial Process

Decision process

The professional editors and Academic Editor together make a decision based on the reviewers' comments. 

Conflicting reviews

If reviewers appear to disagree fundamentally, the editors may choose to share all the reviews with each of the reviewers and by this means elicit additional comment that may help the editors to make a decision. That said, decisions are not necessarily made according to majority rule. Instead, the editors evaluate the recommendations and comments of the reviewers alongside comments by the authors and material that may not have been made available to those reviewers.

Notifying reviewers of decisions

We send reviewers’ comments along with the decision letter to all reviewers of that manuscript. If reviewers have identified themselves, this information will be passed on to other reviewers.

Reviewers who may have offered an opinion not in accordance with the final decision should not feel that their recommendation was not duly considered and their service not properly appreciated. Experts often disagree, and it is the job of the editorial team to make a decision.

Revisions and appeals

When a paper has been revised in response to the review, or when authors appeal against a decision, we often ask the reviewers to offer additional comments. We request that reviewers make themselves available to provide such follow-up advice. We are nevertheless aware that reviewers do not wish to be involved in extended discussions over papers, and our goal is to keep such consultations to a minimum while still allowing authors a fair hearing.

Transferring reviews to other journals

Occasionally, editors recommend after peer review that a particular article is more suitable for another PLOS journal. If the authors choose to pursue that option, we transfer the manuscript and the reviews to the other journal. We expect that reviewers for any PLOS journal are willing to have their reviews considered by the editors of another PLOS journal.

Reviewing Magazine Submissions

The best possible review of an article in the PLOS Medicine Magazine section will consider the following questions:

Relevance and interest

  • Is the article relevant and of interest to a general international medical audience?
  • Does it address a health topic that matters on a global scale? Will it be relevant to readers in both high and low income countries?

Impact

  • Do you think this article will have an impact—upon clinicians, researchers, health policymakers, or the broader public? Will it be widely read, disseminated, and cited? Could it help to improve public and/or global health? Will health reporters find it of interest?

Content

  • Does the article contain any inaccurate information? Are the authors' claims evidence-based?
  • Have the authors missed out anything important—including important research findings—on the topic they're writing about? Please provide details of anything important that is missing.

Originality

  • Does this article contain enough new information to warrant publication? Does it take the discussion and debate on this topic in a novel direction?

Presentation

  • Is the article well written, clear, and easy for a non-specialist—or for someone whose first language is not English—to understand?
  • Are there any specific sections that do not make sense?
  • If tables and figures have been included, do they help the reader, or are they unnecessary? Could they be improved? Do you have suggestions for additional items (summary boxes, graphics etc.)?

Help

If you have questions or concerns about the manuscript you are reviewing, or if you need assistance submitting the review, please email us

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