Becoming a journal reviewer
Reviewing for IOP Publishing
Would you like to peer review cutting edge science and contribute to the scholarly community? This page explains how you can start your peer review journey with IOP Publishing. We provide a range of benefits and rewards for our reviewers. For information on the benefits of reviewing for IOP Publishing journals, including our 10% reviewer article publication charge discount programme, click here.
How does peer review work at IOP Publishing?
For manuscripts submitted to IOP Publishing journals, we aim to obtain reviewer reports from two independent expert reviewers. Reviewers are selected from our database, and we try to find the best combination of expertise, reliability and experience for each manuscript.
How can I be invited to review for IOP Publishing?
The quickest way to be invited to review a manuscript for IOP Publishing is to complete our free Peer Review Excellence online training course. The course takes 1–2 hours to complete and will provide you with the skills and confidence to be an excellent reviewer. You can read more about the Peer Review Excellence course here.
Once you have completed the course, you can choose to create a ScholarOne account and add your research interests to your profile. More information about writing useful research interests can be found here. After checking your field of study and experience, our editorial team will aim to match you with a suitable manuscript to review as soon as possible.
It is really important for reviewers to keep their research interests up to date on ScholarOne, so we only send them manuscripts that are in the right subject areas.
Graduates of our online training course are also fast-tracked towards IOP Trusted Reviewer status. Here is more information on IOP Trusted Reviewer status.
Our editorial team carefully checks for conflicts of interest when selecting reviewers, but we cannot know all potential conflicts. If you receive an invitation and have a conflict of interest, please decline the invitation.
Reviewers are expected to perform the review of the work themselves, unless they are participating in co-review. Submitting a reviewer report in the name of another person (real or fictional) is misconduct and will not be tolerated. IOP Publishing has the right to request proof of identity in cases where identity fraud or impersonation is alleged or suspected.
If you already have experience of peer review, you can volunteer to review for our journals using this link.
Please note: all reviewers are carefully chosen by our editorial team who balance experience levels, research interests, publication history and volunteer status, among other factors. Volunteers are flagged in our system but we cannot guarantee that you will be selected as a reviewer for one of our journals.
Deciding to review
When you receive an invitation to review, ask yourself the following questions:
Do I have the expertise to review this manuscript?
Do you know the field well enough to be able to assess the scientific rigour, novelty, quality and importance of the research?
If the answer to this question is ‘no’, then you should decline the task and tell the journal that this is not your area of expertise (in which case, if you know of another expert in the field, then please suggest them to us when you decline). If you are an expert in only part of the paper, you can still write a reviewer report and send it to the journal. However, you must make it clear which parts you are not able to assess.
Do I have time to write the reviewer report?
Can you write your reviewer report by the deadline in the invitation email? Some reviewer reports take longer than others, depending on how complex the work is. You should let the journal know as soon as possible if you can or cannot report.
You can ask the editorial team for more time if you need it, but give the journal a realistic timeframe for preparing your reviewer report. You can decline a request if you are too busy. If you do decline, it is very helpful if you can suggest alternative reviewers.
If you are unavailable for a period of time (months) or would like to avoid receiving any more review requests, please send this information with your decline response. We will update your contact record as appropriate.
Do I have a conflict of interest?
You should decline a review request if you have a conflict of interest. For more information on conflicts of interest, see the guidelines here.
What is the time commitment of being a journal reviewer?
As a reviewer for IOP Publishing journals, you will be expected to complete your reviewer report within 28 days, depending on the journal and type of manuscript you are reviewing. If you cannot complete your reviewer report in the requested timeframe, please contact the journal editor and ask for a deadline extension.
We understand you are busy and we try not to send anyone too many tasks. You can always decline any request you are sent. In your ScholarOne account you can indicate if you will be unavailable.
How to respond to the review invitation
When you receive an invitation to review there will a set of links to either accept or decline the review invitation. If you do not want to submit a review, please select a link to decline rather than ignoring the invitation.
Leaving an invitation to auto-decline will cause delays for the authors of the manuscript.
If you are too busy to review the manuscript you should consider co-reviewing with a junior colleague; for example, your PhD or post-doc students.
Response options for review invitations
Agree: If you click on the ‘Agree’ link in the invitation email, you will automatically receive another email. This will contain a direct link to view the full PDF of the manuscript and the reviewer report form, with your submission deadline. You can also view the PDF and reviewer report form by logging in to the journal’s ScholarOne site and going to your Reviewer Centre.
Co-review with a colleague: IOP Publishing is pleased to support co-review across our journals. Co-review allows two people to collaborate on a review with both receiving recognition. This is a great way to help one of your colleagues, especially more junior ones, gain experience as a reviewer. For more information on co-review, see the guidelines here.
Decline: If you click one of the ‘Decline’ links in the invitation email, this response will be sent to the editorial team and we will not contact you again about this paper. If you are unable to review, we would be grateful if you would suggest an alternative reviewer.
Implicit bias in peer review
We all have implicit biases based on our background and experiences. They can cause us to take shortcuts in decision making that can serve us well and save us time, but often they are wrong and end in unfair assessments.
During the peer review process, the following biases can influence how you assess a paper and what conclusion you come to:
- Gender bias
- Bias for or against authors from a geographical area
- Language bias, if a paper is translated poorly
- Bias for or against authors from specific institutions
- Bias against researchers at the beginning of their research career
- Bias against certain methodologies
We can all address our implicit biases through self-awareness. You can minimise the influence of your implicit biases during the peer review process:
- Be aware that you have implicit biases that may affect your decision making
- Treat the paper as if you did not know the authors’ names and institutions
- Focus on facts rather than feelings
- Slow down your decision making
- Consider and reconsider the reasons for your conclusions
Ethics for reviewers
Reviewers are expected to perform the review of the work themselves, unless they are participating in co-review. Submitting a review in the name of another person (real or fictional) is misconduct and will not be tolerated. IOP Publishing has the right to request proof of identity in cases where identity fraud or impersonation is alleged or suspected.
Conflicts of interest
To uphold impartiality, you should consider any potential conflict of interest before agreeing to review and should contact the editorial office in the following instances:
- You are in direct competition with the authors
- You are a co-worker or collaborator with one of the authors
- You are in a position to exploit the authors’ work (commercially or otherwise)
- You may be legally prohibited due to national sanctions
- You are in a position which prevents you from giving an objective opinion of the work.
Minor conflicts do not disqualify you from reporting on an article, but will be taken into account when considering the reviewers’ recommendations. Major conflicts of interest (especially relating to a financial commercial interest >£5000/year) do disqualify you. You should act within the spirit of the Nolan principles of public life.
If you are unable to act as a reviewer due to a conflict of interest, we will select an alternative reviewer.
If the journal is double-anonymous you may not be sure if you have a conflict of interest. If you suspect there may be a reason you should not act as a reviewer, please contact the editorial office who will be able to investigate and advise.
Anonymity and confidentiality
Reviewer names are kept strictly confidential. Reviewer identities may only be disclosed to journal Editorial Board members, who are also instructed to maintain confidentiality. You should not disclose your identity to the authors, including sending reports directly to the authors.
Information and ideas obtained whilst acting as a reviewer must be kept confidential and not used for competitive advantage.
We also ask that you do not discuss the papers you have reviewed with colleagues unless they have been published.
Reviewers should judge objectively the quality of the research reported, give fair, frank and constructive criticism and refrain from personal criticism of the authors. Reviewers’ judgements should be explained and supported so that authors can understand the basis of the comments and judgements.
Reviewers should inform the journal if they are unable to review a paper or can only do so with some delay. Reviewers should not delay the peer review process unnecessarily, either deliberately or inadvertently.
Reviewers are expected to point out relevant work that has not been cited, and use citations to explain where elements of the work have been previously reported. When writing a report, reviewers should justify any literature references suggested for inclusion in the work.
Citations should add value, and should not be unfairly biased towards an individual, group or organisation. Please note that the Editor reserves the right to challenge excessive citation suggestions, especially to the reviewer’s own work. The practice of including superfluous references, including to the reviewer’s own work, to promote and inflate citation scores is unethical. The Editor reserves the right to exclude citation suggestions from reports if these are considered to be potential acts of citation manipulation, and/or to protect reviewers’ anonymity.
Generative AI (including ChatGPT)
IOP Publishing does not accept or condone the use of generative AI, including large language models and AI chatbots such as ChatGPT, to write peer review reports, either fully or partially. By accepting a review invitation, a reviewer agrees to adhere to the ethical standards of IOP Publishing, including reporting any conflicts of interest, ensuring the manuscript under review remains confidential, and retaining their anonymity as a reviewer. Generative AI models are not subject experts as they lack the ability or comprehension to assume responsibility for work they have helped create and are therefore unable to adhere to the ethical standards set out by IOP Publishing. Furthermore, generative AI models do not have the legal personality to sign publishing agreements or licences. Please note that uploading any part of a submitted manuscript to a generative AI model may breach the authors’ rights to confidentiality. If a manuscript contains personally identifiable information, it may also breach data protection rights.
Suspected author misconduct
Reviewers should report any suspicions of misconduct to the journal staff for investigation. This includes, but is not limited to, suspicions of:
- Duplicate publication
- Parallel submission
- Data fabrication / falsification
- Image manipulation
- Incorrect authorship
- Author conflict of interest
- Unethical research practices
- Content that could be considered offensive
We follow the COPE guidelines on responding to whistleblowers, which includes protecting your anonymity.
Which journals do these guidelines apply to?
Our guidelines are applicable to the journals listed below. For guidelines specific to journals co-published with our partner organisations, including the American Astronomical Society titles, please consult those journals’ respective homepages. All IOP Publishing-owned and partner journal homepages can be accessed from here.