Peer review in all its form plays an important role in ensuring the integrity of the scholarly record. The process depends to a large extent on trust and requires that everyone involved behave responsibly and ethically. In the peer-review process, the role of peer reviewers is highly critical and inevitable; however, due to inadequate guidance, the peer reviewers are often unaware of their ethical obligations. Thus, the Academy of Education and Social Sciences Review (AESSR) follows the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers set out the basic principles and standards to which all peer reviewers should adhere during the double-blind peer-review process. It is hoped they will provide helpful guidance to researchers, be a reference for journals and editors in guiding their reviewers, or act as an educational resource for institutions in training their students and researchers.
Basic principles to which peer reviewers should adhere
Peer reviewers should:
- only agree to review manuscripts for which they have the subject expertise prerequisite to carry out a proper assessment and which they can assess in a timely manner
- respect the confidentiality of peer review and not reveal any details of a manuscript or its review, during or after the peer-review process, beyond those that are released by the journal
- not use information obtained during the peer-review process for their own or any other person’s or organization’s advantage, or to disadvantage or discredit others
- declare all potential conflicting interests, seeking advice from the journal if they are unsure whether something constitutes a relevant interest
- not allow their reviews to be influenced by the origins of a manuscript, by the nationality, religious or political beliefs, gender or other characteristics of the authors, or by commercial considerations
- be objective and constructive in their reviews, refraining from being hostile or inflammatory and from making slanderous or derogatory personal comments
- acknowledge that peer review is largely a reciprocal endeavour and undertake to carry out their fair share of reviewing and in a timely manner
- provide journals with personal and professional information that is accurate and a true representation of their expertise
- recognize that impersonation of another individual during the review process is considered serious misconduct
HOW TO CONDUCT A REVIEW
1- Before you begin
Before you accept or decline an invitation to review, consider the following questions:
- Does the article match your area of expertise? Only accept if you feel you can provide a high-quality review.
- Do you have a potential conflict of interest? Disclose this to the editor when you respond.
- Do you have time? Reviewing can be a lot of work – before you commit, make sure you can meet the deadline.
- Find out more about the Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers.
Respond to the invitation as soon as you can (even if it is to decline) – a delay in your decision slows down the review process and means more waiting for the author. If you do decline the invitation, it would be helpful if you could provide suggestions for alternative reviewers.
2- Managing your review
If you accept, you must treat the materials you receive as confidential documents. This means you can’t share them with anyone without prior authorization from the editor. Since peer review is confidential, you also must not share information about the review with anyone without permission from the editors and authors.
How to log in and access your review
Your review will be managed via AESSR’s Journal Managing System. To access the paper and deliver your review, click on the link in the invitation email you received, which will bring you to the submission/reviewing system.
When you write the review, make sure you familiarize yourself with any journal-specific guidelines (these will be noted in the journal’s guide for authors available on the journal’s homepage).
First, read the article. You might consider spot-checking major issues by choosing which section to read first. Below we offer some tips about handling specific parts of the paper.
If the manuscript you are reviewing is reporting an experiment, check the methods section first. The following cases are considered major flaws and should be flagged:
- Unsound methodology
- Discredited method
- Missing processes are known to be influential on the area of reported research
- A conclusion drawn in contradiction to the statistical or qualitative evidence reported in the manuscript
For analytical papers, examine the sampling report, which is mandated in time-dependent studies. For qualitative research, make sure that systematic data analysis is presented and sufficient descriptive elements with relevant quotes from interviews are listed in addition to the author’s narrative.
Research data and visualizations
Once you are satisfied that the methodology is sufficiently robust, examine any data in the form of figures, tables, or images. Authors may add research data, including data visuals to their submission to enable readers to interact and engage more closely with their research after publication. Please be aware that links to data might; therefore, be present in the submission files. These items should also receive your attention during the peer review process. Manuscripts may also contain database identifiers or accession numbers (e.g. genes) to our database linking program.
Critical issues in research data, which are considered to be major flaws can be related to insufficient data points, statistically non-significant variations, and unclear data tables.
Experiments including patient or animal data should properly be documented. Most journals require ethical approval by the author’s host organization. Please check journal-specific guidelines for such cases (available from the journal’s homepage).
If you don’t spot any major flaws, take a break from the manuscript, giving yourself time to think. Consider the article from your own perspective. When you sit down to write the review, again make sure you familiarize yourself with any journal-specific guidelines (these will be noted in the journal’s guide for authors).
3- Structuring your review
Your review will help the editor decide whether or not to publish the article. It will also aid the author and allow him/her to improve the manuscript. Your comments should be courteous and constructive, and should not include any demeaning remarks or personal details including your name (unless the journal you are invited to review for employs open peer review).
Providing insights into any deficiencies is important. You should explain and support your judgement so that both editors and authors can fully understand the reasoning behind your comments. You should indicate whether your comments are your own opinion or are reflected by the data and evidence.
When you make a recommendation, it is worth considering the categories the editor will likely use for classifying the article.
- Accept Submission: The reviewer recommends the editor accept the submission without any revision
- Revision Required: The reviewer recommends the editor accept the submission with minor revisions (figured out in Reviewing Form)
- Resubmit for Review: The reviewer recommends major revision and would be happy to review the revised article (when the revised manuscript is submitted by the author/s). If you are recommending a revision, you must furnish the author with a clear, sound explanation of why this is necessary.
- Resubmit Elsewhere: The reviewer recommends the author that this journal is not a good fit for the submission.
- Decline Submission: The reviewer recommends the editor not accept the submission.
Bear in mind that there will be an opportunity to direct separate comments to both the editor and author. Once you are ready to submit your report, follow the instructions in the email or visit our support centre if you encounter any difficulties.
The final decision
The editor ultimately decides whether to accept or reject the article. Elsevier plays no part in this decision. The editor will weigh all views and may call for another opinion or ask the author for a revised paper before making a decision. The submission system provides reviewers with a notification of the final decision if the journal has opted into this function.
4- After your review
Do not forget that even after finalizing your review, you must treat the article and any linked files or data like confidential documents. This means you must not share them with anyone without prior authorization from the editor.
Finally, we take the opportunity to thank you sincerely on behalf of the editors and author(s) for the time you have taken to give your valuable input to the article.