Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers
The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) was established in 1997 in the UK and now has over 7000 members worldwide from all academic fields. COPE launched an important document about ethical guidelines for peer reviewers discussing about basic principles to which peer reviewers should adhere and expectations during and post the peer-review process.
We do consider that the dissemination of this information is important and we will summarize here the main COPE's recommendations.
"According to COPE, when being invited to prepare a review peer reviewers should:
• respond in a reasonable time-frame, especially if they cannot do the review;
• declare if they do not have the subject expertise required to carry out the review;
• declare any potential conflicting or competing interests;
• follow journals' policies on situation they consider to represent a conflict to reviewing;
• review afresh any manuscript they have previously reviewed for another journal as it may have changed between two submissions and the journals' criteria for evaluation and acceptance may be different;
• ensure suggestions for alternative reviewers are based on suitability;
• not agree to review a manuscript just to gain sight of it with no intention of submitting a review;
• decline to review if they feel unable to provide a fair and unbiased review;
• decline to review if they have been involved with any of the work in the manuscript or its reporting;
• decline to review if asked to review a manuscript that is very similar to one they have in preparation or under consideration at another journal;
• decline to review if they have issues with the peer-review model used by a journal.
During review process peer-reviewers should:
• notify the journal immediately if they discover a conflict of interest that was not apparent when they agreed to review;
• read the manuscript, ancillary material and journal instruction thoroughly;
• notify the journal as soon as possible if they find they do not have expertise to assess all aspects of the manuscript;
• not involve anyone else in the review of a manuscript without first obtaining permission from the journal;
• keep all manuscript and review details confidential;
• contact the journal if circumstances arise that will prevent them from submitting a timely review;
• in the case of double-blind review, if they suspect the identity of the author(s) notify the journal;
• notify the journal immediately if they come across any irregularities;
• not intentionally prolong the review process;
• ensure their review is based on the merits of the work;
• not contact the authors directly without the permission of the journal.
When preparing the report peer-reviewers should:
• bear in mind that the editor is looking to them for subject knowledge, good judgement, and an honest and fair assessment of the strengths and weakness of the work and the manuscript;
• make clear at the start of the review if they have been asked to address only specific parts or aspects of a manuscript and indicate which these are;
• follow journals' instructions;
• be objective and constructive in their reviews and provide feedback that will help the authors to improve their manuscript;
• not make derogatory personal comments or unfounded accusations;
• be specific in their criticisms;
• remember it is the authors' paper and not attempt to rewrite it to their own preferred style if it is basically sound and clear;
• be aware of sensitivities surrounding language issues;
• make clear which suggested additional investigations are essential to support claims made in the manuscript;
• not prepare their report in such a way or include comments that suggest the review has been done by another person;
• not prepare their report in a way that reflects badly or unfairly on another person;
• not make unfair negative comments or include unjustified criticisms;
• ensure their comments and recommendations for the editor are consistent with their report for the author;
• confidential comments to the editor should not be a place for denigration or false accusation;
• not suggest that authors include citations to the reviewer's (or their associates') work merely to increase the reviewer's (or their associates') citation count or to enhance the visibility of their or their associates' work;
• determine whether the journal allows them to sign their reviews and, if it does, decide as they feel comfortable doing;
• if they are the editor handling a manuscript and decide themselves to provide a review of that manuscript, do this transparently.
Post review process peer reviewers should:
• continue to keep details of the manuscript and its review confidential;
• respond promptly if contacted by a journal about matters related to their review of a manuscript and provide the information required;
• contact the journal if anything relevant comes to light after they have submitted their review that might affect their original feedback and recommendations;
• read the reviews from the other reviewers, if these are provided by the journal, to improve their own understanding of the topic or the decision reached;
• try to accommodate requests from journals to review revisions or resubmissions of manuscripts they have reviewed. '
We hope all reviewers, authors and readers have enjoyed rethinking about these critical issues and we do recommend a further reading of the full document (please, see Irene Hames on behalf of COPE Council, March 2013, v.1 in: http://publicationethics.org/resources/guidelines).
Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to all reviewers that year after year have helped us to improve the Journal of the Mountain Science and to keep our adherence to all these recommendations.