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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.

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 10 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

Unlike many journals which attempt to use the peer review process to determine whether or not an article reaches the level of 'importance' required by a given journal, PLOS ONE uses peer review to determine whether a paper is technically sound and worthy of inclusion in the published scientific record.

Please carefully review our seven editorial criteria for publication as the criteria employed by PLOS ONE are quite different to other journals you may have reviewed for.

To be accepted for publication in PLOS ONE, research articles must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The study presents the results of primary scientific research.
  2. Results reported have not been published elsewhere.
  3. Experiments, statistics, and other analyses are performed to a high technical standard and are described in sufficient detail.
  4. Conclusions are presented in an appropriate fashion and are supported by the data.
  5. The article is presented in an intelligible fashion and is written in standard English.
  6. The research meets all applicable standards for the ethics of experimentation and research integrity.
  7. The article adheres to appropriate reporting guidelines and community standards for data availability.

Writing the Review

PLOS ONE employs a structured reviewer form to help reviewers focus on our publication criteria and improve the efficiency of peer review. Preview the form (PDF).

The form consists of two sections:

Comments to the author

This section includes questions about whether the submission meets the PLOS ONE publication criteria.

The answers to all questions in this section are required and will be included in the decision letter to the author.

The specific questions in this section focus on the following:

For each of these questions, reviewers must choose between a selection of answer choices (e.g., “Yes,” “No,” “I don't know,” “N/A”). Reviewers should explain their answers, and may raise additional issues, in the free-text box following the questions.

Confidential to editor

In this section, reviewers must declare any potential or perceived competing interests that may influence their review.

This section includes an optional question about whether the submission should be highlighted on the PLOS ONE webpage. These questions are part of our effort to develop tools like Article-Level Metrics to highlight specific content. These answers will not play any role in the editorial decision-making process and will not be shared with the authors.

PLOS ONE does not allow “confidential comments to the editor” in the review form, aside from the declaration of competing interests. If you do have confidential concerns about issues relating to publication or research ethics, please contact us at plosone@plos.org.​

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. 

Editorial Process

Decision process

The final decision on a manuscript is made by the Academic Editor. The Academic Editor’s decision is based on the reviewers’ comments as well as the PLOS ONE Criteria for Publication and the editor’s own assessment of the manuscript. When reviewers disagree, the decision is not necessarily made according to majority rule.

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 Academic Editor to make a decision.

Revisions

When an author revises a manuscript, the Academic Editor will often ask the original reviewer(s) to evaluate the authors’ revision. We expect the reviewers to be available to provide these additional comments.

Revised manuscripts are indicated with the letter “R” in the manuscript number (e.g., R1, R2, R3, etc.). The invitation letter will also mention that the assignment is for a revision.

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.

Become a Reviewer

Academic Editors decide which experts to invite to review papers they are handling. If you are interested in reviewing for PLOS ONE, you may want to look through our list of Academic Editors to identify the ones who are in your field of research, and send them a brief summary of your expertise as well as your interest in being a reviewer. Make sure you sign up for an account in our submission system  so your name can be searched in the database.

Help

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