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Reviewer training at IOP Publishing

Peer Review Excellence online course

For the most up-to-date advice on how to assess a manuscript, sign up for our free, comprehensive online training course. Completing the online course is the fastest way to be invited to review.

At IOP Publishing we offer an online course in Peer Review Excellence. We recommend this training to early career researchers and anyone who is submitting their first review. This comprehensive training course is designed to give researchers in the physical sciences the tools and confidence to review well. The course covers the fundamentals of peer review, how to write a review and peer review ethics. Our Peer Review Excellence course takes around 1–2 hours to complete.

If you pass the course, you will be fast-tracked towards IOP Trusted Reviewer status and be badged as a Graduate on our reviewer selection system, making it more likely that you will be selected to review. Also, for reviewers who have completed our Peer Review Excellence training, the threshold for IOP Trusted Reviewer status is reduced to a reviewer report rated 4 or above. Over 50% of all Peer Review Excellence graduates go on to get IOP Trusted Reviewer status when they submit a reviewer report.

This online course will provide you with the skills and confidence to evaluate scientific manuscripts and write an outstanding reviewer report. Importantly, it shows you what the editor is looking out for when they read your report.

Anyone can join the programme, but it is specifically designed for early career researchers or scientists who want to improve their peer review skills.

You can register for free here: Peer Review Excellence.

Please note that in cases where the manuscript editor rescinds a reviewer report due to excessive self-citation, citation manipulation or any other form of reviewer misconduct, the re-submitted reviewer report will receive a maximum rating of 2.

Once you have completed the Peer Review Excellence course and received a review invitation, you can read through IOP Publishing’s information on Becoming a journal reviewer, How to prepare and send in your reviewer report, and After you have submitted your reviewer report.



Peer Review Excellence workshops

These workshops are part of our Peer Review Excellence programme, a first-of-its-kind peer review training and certification programme tailored for the physical sciences. Our goal is to improve the experience of reviewers, editors and authors alike by engaging with and motivating reviewers, and ensuring we receive more high-quality reviews in a timely manner.

The workshops follow the same learning structure as our online course, with modules on peer review fundamentals, writing your review and peer review ethics.

There is also a breakout exercise where you get the opportunity to evaluate real reviewer reports submitted to IOP Publishing. These discussion sessions are in small groups and facilitated by IOP Publishing editors and publishers who are experts in peer review.

The workshops are led by a peer review expert from IOP Publishing and a peer review ambassador. Our peer review ambassadors are senior researchers who have a wealth of experience peer reviewing manuscripts in the physical sciences and a passion for training the next generation of reviewers. The ambassadors co-chair the Peer Review Excellence workshops for physical sciences researchers around the world. Click here to find out who our previous workshop ambassadors have been.


You can sign-up to be contacted about future Peer Review Excellence workshops in your research field.


Here is some feedback we have received for the Peer Review Excellence workshops:

  • “It is really helpful to not only the peer reviewers but also the authors to understand what is expected and what to do and what cannot be done when presenting a paper for publication. The workshop was very informative.”
  • “The presentation was very clear, informative and helpful. Huge thanks to the organisers. It was very useful to test in practice what was discussed before. It was interesting to compare our evaluation of the presented review to the evaluation of the actual editors. I would strongly recommend this workshop for early career researchers who do not have enough experience in reviewing as well as writing scientific articles, to see the process from both perspectives. I think such kind of workshops will also establish certain kinds of standards in the community that will improve the reviewing process.”
  • “The presentation was well structured, beautifully crafted and excellently presented by both the speakers. I enjoyed it throughout. Being an early career researcher, I found it very helpful as I explored some real sample of documents that people submitted as their review report. The practical exercise and the discussion on the effect of AI in modern day content writing was very interesting. These kinds of workshops will make the scientific community more sound towards production of good content.”


This table compares the online course and the workshops:

Online course Workshops
Comprehensive information on scientific peer review including how to write your reviewer report and peer review ethics
Breakout session to discuss real reviewer reports
Examples tailored for specific field
End of course assessment to test your knowledge
Q&A with an expert in your field and in peer review
Informative handouts to refer back to
Personalised certificate on completion
Peer review excellence badge on completion
Complete in your own time
First step to achieve IOP Trusted Reviewer status



How to write an outstanding reviewer report

Our editors rate all of the reviewer reports we receive on a scale of 1–5, with 5 representing a review of outstanding quality. Click here to read the full breakdown of the reviewer report ratings. These are the criteria to have a reviewer report rated 5 out of 5:

Criteria Level to be rated 5 out of 5
Thoroughness Detailed and very thorough: comments on essentially all sections of the manuscript
Assessment of significance Comments on the significance of the work within the context of the field
Literature comparison Includes a comprehensive comparison with existing literature
Feedback quality Constructive feedback that enables the author(s) to improve the manuscript
Recommendation Recommendation is clearly justified and consistent with the journal’s editorial standards
Timeliness Submitted in the agreed timeframe


These documents contain examples of outstanding reviewer reports in the fields of:


This document contains examples of reviewer reports rated 1, 3 and 5.


Here is a template you can use to help structure your reviewer report:

Comments to the editor/s
These comments will not be shared with the authors. Use this section if there is anything you want to say that would not be appropriate to tell the authors. If you suspect any form of author misconduct, mention it here.
Comments to the author/s
The following is a good way to structure your review.
Summary Open your reviewer report with a summary of the manuscript and its findings. This shows the authors and editors of the journal that you have read and understood the work.
Comments on the manuscript
  • Organise your comments into ‘Major points’ and ‘Minor points’ where applicable.
  • Comment on the originality, scientific rigour, significance and clarity of the work.
  • Compare the manuscript to existing literature. Check that the authors have cited the most relevant and recent appropriate work.
  • Make your review as thorough as possible by commenting on all sections of the manuscript. For example, you could structure your comments using manuscript section headings such as: “Abstract”, “Introduction”, “Methods”, “Results and Discussion”, “Conclusion” and “Supplementary material” (as appropriate).
  • Familiarise yourself with the editorial standards of the journal and comment on whether the manuscript meets those standards.
  • Make sure that your recommendations are specific enough for the authors to follow.
  • It is helpful to number your points. This can make it easier for the authors to respond to your comments and when checking the revised manuscript.
Recommendation At the end of your reviewer report, make a recommendation to the editor. Clearly state and justify your recommendation. This means explaining why you have chosen the reject/revise/accept option.


For more information about reviewing for IOP Publishing, go to our homepage for reviewers.


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