Responding to an invitation to review a journal article

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 any of these questions 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 report and send it to the journal. However, you must make it clear which parts you are not able to assess.

Can you write your report by the deadline in the invitation email (between 7 and 28 days, depending on the journal and type of article you are reviewing)? Some reports take longer than others, depending on how complex the work is. The authors will want a decision quickly, so you should let the journal know as soon as possible if you can or cannot report.

You can ask for more time if you need it, but give the journal a realistic timeframe for preparing your report. You can decline a request if you are already working on several referee tasks. In that case, it is very helpful if you can suggest alternative referees.

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.

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.

Objectivity

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.

Timeliness

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.

Citations

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. Please note that the Editor reserves the right to challenge excessive citation suggestions, especially to the reviewer’s own work. The Editor also reserves the right to exclude citation suggestions from reports to protect reviewers’ anonymity.

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:

  • Plagiarism
  • 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.

When you click on the ‘Agree’ link in the original invitation email you will automatically receive another email. This will contain a direct link to view online the full PDF of the manuscript and the referee report form, with a deadline for submitting your report. You can also view the PDF and report form by logging in to the journal’s ScholarOne site and going to your Referee Centre. Please remember, any information you are sent about the article is confidential, and should not be shared or discussed with others.

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 referee.