Guidelines for Reviewers
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
Reviews must be entered in the submission system. Email the journal office if you are having trouble accessing the manuscript or entering your comments.
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.
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.
Manuscripts must meet the criteria for publication described below. Manuscripts must also comply with our editorial and publishing policies.
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.
If you are invited to review a manuscript that you reviewed at another journal, please consider the manuscript as a new submission, taking into account that (a) it may have been revised since the last time you evaluated it, and (b) PLOS Medicine’s criteria for publication may differ from those of the other journal.
When submitting your review, please note to the editor that you reviewed a previous version of the manuscript at another journal. The editors may ask you to provide your original review. Before doing so, please obtain permission from the previous journal.
In addition to being ethically conducted and scientifically valid, research published in PLOS Medicine should fulfill each of the following criteria:
- The research question is an important one to the community of researchers in this general area.
- The results provide a substantial advance over existing knowledge, with clear implications for patient care, public policy, or clinical research agendas.
- Published together with an Author Summary written for general readers, the article is of interest to clinicians and policymakers who are not specialists in this topic.
The purpose of the review is to provide the academic and professional editors with a well substantiated assessment of the quality of the manuscript under consideration, and should also supply authors with specific and constructive feedback on how to improve their manuscript so that it may become acceptable for publication in PLOS Medicine.
Please assume that all the comments you make will be transmitted to the authors.
Your review comments should address the following aspects of the manuscript:
Please briefly describe the key findings of the study, and provide an overall assessment of these findings’ importance and novelty within the field, and wider interest to readers of a general medical journal. If specific published papers limit this work’s novelty, please provide citations.
Please comment on the methodology, noting your own methodologic expertise if relevant, and discuss whether the results fully support the authors’ conclusions. Please comment on potential sources of bias and confounding, identify any overstated claims, and, where appropriate, propose further analysis to substantiate the work. If you consider the manuscript unsuitable for publication in its current form, please tell us whether the study itself shows sufficient potential that the authors should be encouraged to submit a revised version.
Please indicate whether the study has been presented in a transparent and reproducible way, with clarity on whether the analyses were hypothesis-driven or exploratory. If the study used a protocol or analysis plan, please comment on whether the researchers adhered to their initial plan or appropriately described and justified their changes.
Additionally, the manuscript should be written to permit non-specialists to understand its overall significance. If it is not, please describe how it could 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.
If you intend to provide a marked up copy of the manuscript as part of your review, you can do so by uploading the file to the review form. Please remember to anonymize your comments.
If you do not feel that the manuscript is appropriate for PLOS Medicine, and that revisions are unlikely to strengthen the paper sufficiently, we would be grateful for your thoughts on the paper’s suitability for PLOS ONE. Without making a judgement on the perceived impact or scope of the work, PLOS ONE publishes studies that have been performed and reported to high scientific and ethical standards, and in which the data support the conclusions. Please note, we expect that reviewers for any PLOS journal are willing to have their reviews, whether signed or unsigned, considered in confidence by the editors of another PLOS journal.
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.
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.
The professional editors and Academic Editor together make a decision based on the reviewers' comments.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
- 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.
Does this article contain enough new information to warrant publication? Does it take the discussion and debate on this topic in a novel direction?
- 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.)?
If you have questions or concerns about the manuscript you are reviewing, or if you need assistance submitting the review, please email us.