Responsibilities in the Submission and Peer-Review Process

1. Authors

Authors should abide by all principles of authorship and declaration of conflicts of interest detailed in section IIA and B of this document.

2. Journals

a. Confidentiality

Manuscripts submitted to journals are privileged communications that are authors’ private, confidential property, and authors may be harmed by premature disclosure of any or all of a manuscript’s details.

Editors therefore must not share information about manuscripts, including whether they have been received and are under review, their content and status in the review process, criticism by reviewers, and their ultimate fate, to anyone other than the authors and reviewers. Requests from third parties to use manuscripts and reviews for legal proceedings should be politely refused, and editors should do their best not to provide such confidential material should it be subpoenaed.

Editors must also make clear that reviewers should keep manuscripts, associated material, and the information they contain strictly confidential. Reviewers and editorial staff members must not publicly discuss the authors’ work, and reviewers must not appropriate authors’ ideas before the manuscript is published. Reviewers must not retain the manuscript for their personal use and should destroy paper copies of manuscripts and delete electronic copies after submitting their reviews.

When a manuscript is rejected, it is best practice for journals to delete copies of it from their editorial systems unless retention is required by local regulations. Journals that retain copies of rejected manuscripts should disclose this practice in their Information for Authors.

When a manuscript is published, journals should keep copies of the original submission, reviews, revisions, and correspondence for at least three years and possibly in perpetuity, depending on local regulations, to help answer future questions about the work should they arise.

Editors should not publish or publicize peer reviewers’ comments without permission of the reviewer and author. If journal policy is to blind authors to reviewer identity and comments are not signed, that identity must not be revealed to the author or anyone else without the reviewers’ expressed written permission.

Confidentiality may have to be breached if dishonesty or fraud is alleged, but editors should notify authors or reviewers if they intend to do so and confidentiality must otherwise be honored.

b. Timeliness

Editors should do all they can to ensure timely processing of manuscripts with the resources available to them. If editors intend to publish a manuscript, they should attempt to do so in a timely manner and any planned delays should be negotiated with the authors. If a journal has no intention of proceeding with a manuscript, editors should endeavor to reject the manuscript as soon as possible to allow authors to submit to a different journal.

c. Peer Review

Peer review is the critical assessment of manuscripts submitted to journals by experts who are usually not part of the editorial staff. Because unbiased, independent, critical assessment is an intrinsic part of all scholarly work, including scientific research, peer review is an important extension of the scientific process.

The actual value of peer review is widely debated, but the process facilitates a fair hearing for a manuscript among members of the scientific community. More practically, it helps editors decide which manuscripts are suitable for their journals. Peer review often helps authors and editors improve the quality of reporting.

It is the responsibility of the journal to ensure that systems are in place for selection of appropriate reviewers. It is the responsibility of the editor to ensure that reviewers have access to all materials that may be relevant to the evaluation of the manuscript, including supplementary material for e-only publication, and to ensure that reviewer comments are properly assessed and interpreted in the context of their declared conflicts of interest.

A peer-reviewed journal is under no obligation to send submitted manuscripts for review, and under no obligation to follow reviewer recommendations, favorable or negative. The editor of a journal is ultimately responsible for the selection of all its content, and editorial decisions may be informed by issues unrelated to the quality of a manuscript, such as suitability for the journal. An editor can reject any article at any time before publication, including after acceptance if concerns arise about the integrity of the work.

Journals may differ in the number and kinds of manuscripts they send for review, the number and types of reviewers they seek for each manuscript, whether the review process is open or blinded, and other aspects of the review process. For this reason and as a service to authors, journals should publish a description of their peer-review process.

Journals should notify reviewers of the ultimate decision to accept or reject a paper, and should acknowledge the contribution of peer reviewers to their journal. Editors are encouraged to share reviewers’ comments with co-reviewers of the same paper, so reviewers can learn from each other in the review process.

As part of peer review, editors are encouraged to review research protocols, plans for statistical analysis if separate from the protocol, and/or contracts associated with project-specific studies. Editors should encourage authors to make such documents publicly available at the time of or after publication, before accepting such studies for publication. Some journals may require public posting of these documents as a condition of acceptance for publication.

Journal requirements for independent data analysis and for public data availability are in flux at the time of this revision, reflecting evolving views of the importance of data availability for pre- and post-publication peer review. Some journal editors currently request a statistical analysis of trial data by an independent biostatistician before accepting studies for publication. Others ask authors to say whether the study data are available to third parties to view and/or use/reanalyze, while still others encourage or require authors to share their data with others for review or reanalysis. Each journal should establish and publish their specific requirements for data analysis and posting in a place which potential authors can easily access.

Some people believe that true scientific peer review begins only on the date a paper is published. In that spirit, medical journals should have a mechanism for readers to submit comments, questions, or criticisms about published articles, and authors have a responsibility to respond appropriately and cooperate with any requests from the journal for data or additional information should questions about the paper arise after publication (see Section III).

d. Integrity

Editorial decisions should be based on the relevance of a manuscript to the journal and on the manuscript’s originality, quality, and contribution to evidence about important questions. Those decisions should not be influenced by commercial interests, personal relationships or agendas, or findings that are negative or that credibly challenge accepted wisdom. In addition, authors should submit for publication or otherwise make publicly available, and editors should not exclude from consideration for publication, studies with findings that are not statistically significant or that have inconclusive findings. Such studies may provide evidence that combined with that from other studies through meta-analysis might still help answer important questions, and a public record of such negative or inconclusive findings may prevent unwarranted replication of effort or otherwise be valuable for other researchers considering similar work.

Journals should clearly state their appeals process and should have a system for responding to appeals and complaints.

3. Peer Reviewers

Manuscripts submitted to journals are privileged communications that are authors’ private, confidential property, and authors may be harmed by premature disclosure of any or all of a manuscript’s details.

Reviewers therefore should keep manuscripts and the information they contain strictly confidential. Reviewers must not publicly discuss authors’ work and must not appropriate authors’ ideas before the manuscript is published. Reviewers must not retain the manuscript for their personal use and should destroy copies of manuscripts after submitting their reviews.

Reviewers are expected to respond promptly to requests to review and to submit reviews within the time agreed. Reviewers’ comments should be constructive, honest, and polite.

Reviewers should declare their conflicts of interest and recuse themselves from the peer-review process if a conflict exists.


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