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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.

  How to submit your review

Viewing Figures and Supporting Information in the compiled submission PDF
The compiled submission PDF includes low-resolution preview images of the figures after the reference list. The function of these previews is to allow you to download the entire submission as quickly as possible. Click the link at the top of each preview page to download a high-resolution version of each figure. Links to download Supporting Information files are also available after the reference list.

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 2 weeks. If you need more time or are unable to perform the review, please notify us immediately and provide suggestions for 2 or 3 alternate qualified reviewers.

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

To be considered for publication in PLOS Pathogens, any given manuscript must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Originality

  • High importance to researchers in the field

  • High importance and broad interest to the community of researchers studying pathogens and pathogen-host interactions

  • Rigorous methodology

  • Substantial evidence for its conclusions

Writing the Review

The purpose of the review is to provide the editors with an expert opinion regarding the significance, quality, relevance, and clarity of the manuscript under consideration, based on the criteria for publication. The review should also supply authors with explicit feedback on how to improve their manuscripts so that they are acceptable for publication in PLOS Pathogens.

Although reviewers are welcome to make a particular recommendation for a manuscript's suitability for publication, they should do so with the understanding that other reviewers may offer other opinions. To assist the Associate and Section Editors, who often must weigh disparate comments to arrive at a balanced decision, the reviewer should provide the editors with as much information as possible. A review that clearly outlines reasons both for and against publication is often of as much or even more value as one that makes a direct recommendation.

Although confidential comments to the editors are respected, any remarks that might help to strengthen the manuscript should be directed to the authors themselves.

The best possible review of a research article would answer the following questions:

  • What are the main claims of the paper and how significant are they? Is this paper important in its discipline?
  • Have the authors provided adequate proof for their claims?
  • Are these claims novel? If not, please specify papers that weaken the claims of originality of this one.
  • Would additional work improve the paper? How much better would the paper be if this work were performed and how difficult would it be to do this work?
  • Are the claims properly placed in the context of the previous literature? Have the authors treated the literature fairly?
  • Do the data and analyses support the claims? If not, what other evidence is required?
  • Are original data deposited in appropriate repositories and accession/version numbers provided for genes, proteins, mutants, diseases, etc.?
  • Does the study conform to any relevant guidelines such as CONSORT, MIAME, QUORUM, STROBE, and the Fort Lauderdale agreement?
  • Are details of the methodology sufficient to allow the experiments to be reproduced?
  • Is any software created by the authors freely available?
  • PLOS Pathogens encourages authors to publish detailed protocols and algorithms as supporting information online. Do any particular methods used in the manuscript warrant such treatment?
  • Is the manuscript well organized and written clearly enough to be accessible to non-specialists?
  • Would you recommend the author seek the services of a professional science writer? If this is the case, please alert the journal office by email.
  • Have any parts of the paper been published elsewhere? Are there any copyright issues associated with this that conflict with the PLOS license? If this is the case, please alert the journal office by email.
  • Does the paper use standardized scientific nomenclature and abbreviations? If not, are these explained at the first usage?
  • Does this manuscript describe experiments using a select agent or toxin? See a complete list
  • Is it your opinion that this manuscript contains an NIH-defined experiment of Dual Use concern?

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

On receipt of all reviewer comments, the Associate Editor, in consultation with the Section Editor, weighs all comments before rendering a decision. Based on the review comments and potentially further consultation with other members of the Board and the Editors-in-Chief, a decision is rendered by the Associate Editor and co-signed by the Editors-in-Chief and Section Editor, who will send the decision to the corresponding author.

Conflicting reviews

If reviewers appear to disagree fundamentally, the editor may also choose to consult with other editors on the Board. That said, although the reviewers' comments and opinions on the manuscript are very important, 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 Pearls, Review, or Opinion Submissions

The best possible review of a Pearls article, Review, or Opinion would consider the following set of questions:

  • Is the article relevant and of interest to a broad pathogens readership?
  • Does this article take the discussion or debate on this topic in a novel direction?
  • Are the authors' statements focused and well supported?
  • Have the authors missed anything important — including important research findings – on the topic they’re writing about? Please provide details of anything important that is missing.
  • Is the article well written and engaging? 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?
  • In what ways could the article be improved?

Become a Reviewer

Editors decide which experts to invite to review the papers they are handling. The best way to show your interest in reviewing for PLOS Pathogens is to 1) contact an editor on our board and to 2) ensure that you have an account in our submission system where our editors can find you. You may also email the journal for assistance.

  1. Look through our list of editors to identify the ones who are in your field of research, and email them with your interest and a brief summary of your expertise. We cannot guarantee that an editor will invite you to review for the journal after contacting them.
  2. If you don't have an account with us, please sign up in our submission system so that editors can search and find your name in the database. If you do have an account, please ensure that your details and classifications are complete and up-to-date. If you don’t remember whether you already have an account, click Send Login Details on the home screen to access the Account Finder for assistance.

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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