The review process on our journals

IOP Publishing is committed to providing a fair and impartial review process, and to providing the fastest possible service to authors. Here we describe our review process in detail.

IOP journals are international in authorship and readership. Referees are carefully selected from the worldwide research community. Unbiased consideration is given to all manuscripts offered for publication regardless of whether or not the authors request publication on an open access basis and regardless of the race, gender, religious belief, ethnic origin, citizenship, political philosophy, sexual orientation, age or reputation of the authors.

IOP journals operate the single-blind review process, in which referees know the identity of the authors but authors do not know the identity of the referees. While all our journals operate the single-blind review process, our flagship open access journal New Journal of Physics and our ‘Express’ journals (Materials Research Express, Plasma Research Express, Engineering Research Express, and Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express) also offer a double-blind peer review option. Authors who choose the double-blind option on submission to these journals remain anonymous to the referees throughout the review process. Authors are responsible for anonymizing their manuscript before submitting their paper. A checklist is available to help authors with this process.

Transparent peer review. From October 2019, three of our journals (JPhys Materials, Journal of Neural Engineering and Environmental Research Letters) are participating in a one year trial of transparent peer review. This trial enables the publication, alongside a published article, of that article’s entire peer review content (reviewer reports, author responses and decision letters) in an easily discoverable and citable form. We hope that this greater transparency will improve the quality of the review process, give more recognition to the work of reviewers and help with the teaching of best practice in peer review.

During this trial period, both authors and reviewers will have the option of opting out of transparent peer review should they wish to (and reviewers who do opt in may choose to remain anonymous): the peer review history will only appear for articles where the author and (all) reviewers opt in. The peer review history is available only for articles displaying a blue Publons “P” badge at the top of the article (next to the title) with a number in a red circle, indicating the number reviewer reports, which can be viewed by clicking on the badge. All peer review content displayed will be covered by a Creative Commons CC-BY 4.0 license. IOP Publishing retains the right to make minor edits to reports to improve readability and ensure they are suitable for publication, and in exceptional circumstances to withdraw reports.

Some example articles published with transparent peer review content are available here:
ERL: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab5f96; https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/ab763f
JNE: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1741-2552/ab5e08; https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1741-2552/ab6cba
JPMat: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2515-7639/ab749c

While we do not have any functionality on our site for post-publication review, we welcome comments on published work. This could be via social media (many of our journals have their own Twitter accounts, for example), or via an external website such as PubPeer. Some of our journals publish comments on previously published work. Check your journal instructions for more information.

1

Do not include author names or affiliations anywhere in the manuscript, or in any Supplementary Information files (or in any file names).

2

Provide a separate title page giving all the author names and affiliations (when you reach the 'File Upload' stage on submission, please choose the file designation 'Title Page').

3

Do not include any author names in the Acknowledgments section in the manuscript on submission (though please do include information about funding). Author names can be added to the Acknowledgments section after completion of the peer review process.

4

Do not include work in the reference list that has not yet been accepted for publication.

5

When referring to your own work within the paper, avoid using terminology that might reveal your identity (e.g. avoid phrases such as 'we have previously shown (reference)').

6

Do not sign rebuttals at revision stage with author names, nor appeals.

Pre-refereeing stage

Upon receiving a new manuscript, the editorial office conducts initial pre-refereeing checks to ensure the article is legible, complete, correctly formatted, original, within the scope of the journal in question, in the style of a scientific article and written in clear English. Any article that has problems with any of the above criteria may be rejected at this stage.

Some of our journals also conduct a pre-refereeing quality assessment. If the journal has a particular requirement for articles to be of exceptionally high interest or urgency (for example, if the article is being submitted as a Fast Track Communication or a Letter), then submissions that do not appear to meet these criteria may be rejected at this point.

Refereeing stage

Articles passing successfully through the pre-refereeing stage then begin formal peer review.

Research papers submitted for publication in the majority of IOP journals are sent to two independent referees who are asked to report on the quality, scientific rigour, novelty, significance to the field, and presentation. (Non-paper article types, such as reviews or notes, may differ.)

Referees are selected from our reviewer database and we try to find the best combination of scientific expertise and referee experience for each paper.

Authors are welcome to suggest referees for their paper on submission, but this is not required. In the interests of impartiality, if an author-suggested reviewer is used then we will complement this with a review from a second referee chosen by the journal from the general referee pool.

IOP is committed to publishing high-quality material in its journals and most journals have quite high rejection rates, typically above 50%. Papers referees deem to be technically sound, but of limited interest, are usually rejected. (Exceptions to this are Journal of Physics Communications and our Express journals—Materials Research Express and Biomedical Physics & Engineering Express—where papers are reviewed only to confirm they are original and technically sound.) Decisions are based not only on the content of the written reports, but also taking into consideration the quality assessment scores returned by each reviewer. The editorial office reserves the right to send any papers to journal Editorial Board members where they believe a paper’s quality might not meet the journal’s threshold for publication.

If there is sufficient agreement between the referees:

1

The paper may be accepted in current form.

2

The referees' reports may be sent to the authors for revision of the paper.

3

The paper may be rejected.

4

If the paper contains too many errors or problems for the referees to comment fully on the scientific content, the authors will be asked to make corrections and then resubmit the article.

Use of an adjudicator

If the referees’ reports are not in agreement, the paper and the reports are sent to an independent adjudicator (often a member of the journal’s Editorial Board) who is first asked to form their own opinion of the paper and then to read the referees’ reports and adjudicate between them. A decision is then made based on the adjudicator’s recommendation. If a referee is overruled by an adjudicator, we will normally notify the referee of this.

The processing times on our journals are consistently among the fastest in the communities we serve. On average, for a typical IOP journal, authors can expect to receive a first decision within about six weeks of submission (the different types of first decision are covered here). If a reviewer proves unable to report, we will try to find an alternative referee as quickly as possible. However, if a referee requests a short extension to their deadline for providing a report, we will usually grant this if it is reasonable. We try to strike a balance between the needs of authors (who will often ask for as fast a review as possible) and those of referees (who will often prefer to have more time to thoroughly study the paper and compose their report).

In those rare cases where an article’s review process has been delayed due to unexpected difficulties in obtaining reports, we make use of our Editorial Board members’ expertise to conclude the process swiftly.

Authors can monitor the progress of their article via their Author Centre. If you have any concerns about the progress of your article, you can check your Manuscript ID in the “track your article” box in the left-hand menu. Alternatively, you can send a query to the journal email address, quoting the Manuscript ID.