It may sound like a basic part of an academic’s role, but many basic and clinical researchers don’t get much training in the cornerstone of the life cycle of modern scientific literature: peer review. Assessment by expert peers improves the quality of manuscripts and provides a level of control in scientific communication.
The peer reviewer’s evaluation helps determine the scientific soundness of submitted manuscripts and informs the Editor’s decision to accept a manuscript for publication, send it back to authors for revision or reject it.
Antimicrobial Resistance and Control uses the “standard” model of peer review, single blind. Reviewers know the Author’s identity, but authors do not know the Authors identity. Although this may make our Reviewers less accountable, it gives our Reviewers the freedom to give an open, honest assessment of the work without fear of damaging current and future professional relationships.
Peer Review – a Brief ‘How To’
First things first, you do not have to accept every single invitation sent to you. You should always ask yourself:
1) Do you have the time to do this review?
2) Do you have the knowledge of the topic (or at least the topic for part of the article)?
3) Do you have any conflicts of interest?
If you choose to accept an invitation to review an article, please remember that in order to provide the fairest and most useful analysis of a manuscript, it is suggested you read it three times, making notes of different elements at each stage and whether they are minor or major flaws.
First read. Get an overall impression. What is the manuscript trying to say and how well does it support this? Are there any fatal flaws? . If you notice a fatal flaw, you need not continue to the next steps – if the method is flawed or they’ve skipped an entire section it may be appropriate to reject without any further review. If the flaw isn’t fatal, please move on to the second read.
Second read. This is to assess the details of the research; identify the major and minor flaws in the methodology, analysis and conclusions. Do the conclusions answer questions raised in the introduction?
Third read. This time round, assess the quality of the prose and its presentation. Even good quality research can have its arguments obscured by over-dense or poorly constructed writing! If there are issues with the writing, please give examples for the authors so they know what they need to address. Please ask yourself – is the piece understandable?
Writing the review. Please give an overview of what you feel the outcomes are, and whether the manuscript can be published or if there are fatal flaws that mean it never could. Please also then state major and minor flaws, and any other comments you have for the authors.
Please remember to never write in the review section for the authors whether the manuscript is acceptable for publication or not. That will be decided by the editor, after reading your review and that of at least one more reviewer. If you feel the manuscript should or should not be accepted and wish to say why, write that only in the section for “comments to the Editor”.