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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2015  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-3

Reviewers: The undisputed pillar of journal publishing

Department of Burns, Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery, Safdarjang Hospital and VM Medical College, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication4-Feb-2015

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Karoon Agrawal
T-23 First Floor, Green Park Main, New Delhi - 110 016
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2348-2125.150702

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How to cite this article:
Agrawal K. Reviewers: The undisputed pillar of journal publishing. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniofac Anomal 2015;2:1-3

How to cite this URL:
Agrawal K. Reviewers: The undisputed pillar of journal publishing. J Cleft Lip Palate Craniofac Anomal [serial online] 2015 [cited 2019 Oct 22];2:1-3. Available from: http://www.jclpca.org/text.asp?2015/2/1/1/150702

When we were planning the publication of the Journal of Cleft Lip Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies as an official publication of the Indian Society of Cleft Lip Palate and Craniofacial Anomalies, I browsed through Google and PubMed to familiarize myself with the intricacies of editing and publishing of a good quality journal. I was surprised to learn that the most important component of a good journal is the peer-review process by which the quality of a journal is judged. The aesthetics of the cover, the design of the pages, the quality of the publisher etc. are all secondary.

Our journal is now 1 year old and is celebrating its first birthday. While achieving this milestone successfully, we have revisited the responsibilities of a reviewer for a journal, as I see it as an editor. Everyone realizes that it is impossible for the editor alone to select good relevant papers. Furthermore, it is difficult for one person to put forth suggestions on all the articles to improve them. The reviewers come to the rescue. They share the responsibility. In fact, the reviewers act as a source of knowledge for the editors.

The magnitude of the responsibility of an invited reviewer can be judged by the expectations of the editor, the authors and the readers. As an editor of a new journal, I will like to enumerate the expectations of an editor from a reviewer. The reviewer is expected to respond to the request for review promptly. Normally the publishing house fixes a time frame for review, which is 4 weeks for JCLPCA. But the editor will be very happy if the reviewer accomplishes the task much before the stipulated date. Some articles will be good, some very good and some may not be as good. However, the language of reviewers' comments should always be polite and without any derogatory or personal remarks against the author. It is desirable that every communication remains respectful. One should avoid any harsh statement. The comments should be constructive and in positive tone. [1],[2],[3]

The reviewer is expected to perform a good literature search before writing the comments. Reviewer must go through the manuscript and should include comments in two parts in a positive tone. First is the general comment on the concept and objective of the research and the second part should be a section wise review. All the comments should be aimed at helping the author to bring out their best. I am sure the authors will share the same perception. One should always remember that the review process is for the advancement of knowledge and not to preserve the status quo.

The comments should be explicit so that the authors are able to modify the manuscript with the reviewers' guidance. Hence the reviewer should be magnanimous in sharing his or her thoughts. It should be almost like a teacher explaining to his student. Though the reviewers are not expected to comment on finer English transcript and punctuations, however it is good to mention the deficiencies or corrections, if any. This will reduce the risk of errors in the published material.

Waiting for the reviewers' comments is painful for the editor and more so for the authors. This delays the editorial process. From the author's point of view one should realize that they are eagerly waiting to know the result of the test. If one is hard pressed for time, it is better to withdraw from the review process at the time of first request. Also in case the reviewer feels that he will not be able to do justice to a given article, he or she should not accept the request. If one accepts, the reviewer should give technical comments expeditiously to the best of his capacity and knowledge as the editor may not know the area of knowledge and interest of every reviewer.

The journal emphasizes the avoidance of transfer of identity of the author to the reviewers. While performing the technical screening after receiving new submission, the editor makes all the attempts not to pass on the identity of the author or the place of origin of the manuscript to the reviewers. In spite of all the efforts there are situations where the reviewer may be able to recognize the author because of his past experience. In such situation, there is always a risk of bias that may have impact on comments and decisions. Hence, the reviewer must disclose the conflict of interest or bias to the editor, so that the editor can weigh the significance of the comments. [1],[2],[3]

The reviewer should respect the ownership of the research work or idea. The reviewer is expected to be exploring his knowledge with respect to the material under review. Thereafter the reviewer is expected to forget the idea behind the publication and not take away anything from there. One should realize that the submitted research work is the hard earned product of a researcher. It is the author's intellectual property. It is the responsibility of every individual in the review process to maintain confidentiality. This is equally true for the reviewer, the editor and the publishing team. [1],[2],[3]

I do not agree with people who say that the reviewers' task is thankless and unrewarding. I agree that it is tough, labor intensive and time consuming and one needs to spend energy, but it is rewarding. One must realize that the reviewers' job is the most important pillar of journal publishing. The stronger the pillar, better is the journal. One should be happy that he or she is one such pillar. This also brings in discipline, politeness and kindness in expression and gives an opportunity to browse through the forgotten literature and update one's knowledge.

One may consider it thankless, but the editor always remains thankful to the reviewers and keeps searching for an opportunity to recognize their contribution. Return in kind may not be feasible, but the reviewers' name is published on an annual basis as a token of recognition. The journal may offer credits in the future.

Author is the source of the ingredients for publishing. The reviewers should always think of the authors while reviewing. One should carry a positive outlook towards the acceptance of the article. Authors welcome constructive criticism, which will improve the quality of the manuscript and improve the readership of the article. Authors expect that the secrecy of research will not be disclosed. The authors are concerned if there will be theft of his research material. This is the editors as well as reviewers responsibility to maintain the confidentiality.

Finally, the ultimate users are readers. The whole editorial process is only to fulfill the demands and requirements of the readers. They expect that the material accepted after review process should be original, and there should be some "take home" message. Ultimately readers desire to have good readable material with interesting new findings in the article.

In nutshell,

  Reviewers' Responsibilities Toward Authors Top

  1. Constructive comments with positive outlook on the concept and objectives of the article.
  2. Suggestions to improve the manuscript as a whole and in different sections.
  3. Avoidance of harsh criticism and negativity.
  4. Avoidance of derogatory and personal remarks
  5. Maintaining the confidentiality.

  Reviewers' Responsibilities Towards Editor Top

  1. Acceptance or denial to participate in the review process at the earliest.
  2. Promptness in completion of the review process
  3. Declaration of conflict of interest.
  4. Comments after due literature search.
  5. Polite and respectful comments.
  6. Identify the positive and negative aspects of the study and suggest ways to improve the manuscript
  7. Point out the ethical concerns, if any.
  8. Recommend acceptance with or without modifications or rejection.

  Reviewers' Responsibilities Towards Readers Top

  1. To select article that adds to the knowledge and helps in day-to-day practice.
  2. To ensure that the review of the literature is updated and cites the work of others at the same time so as to encourage original work.
  3. To provide readable and memorable manuscript.
  4. Ensuring that the study design and methods can be replicated if desired.

One day one of the invited reviewers asked me "what is the best way to review an article?" Hope this question is answered through this write-up. I am blessed with highly dependable, quite prompt and knowledgeable reviewers. However, I need more of them. I wish all the readers will read this editorial, and some of you will come forward to review articles for our own journal. I invite all of you to participate in this venture of dissemination and upgradation of knowledge and help in healthy growth of this infantile body. Though JCLPCA is only 1-year-old, still we are working hard toward indexing of the journal with PubMed. This will be possible when large number of good original articles are submitted, the review process is completed timely, and every issue of the journal is published as per schedule.

  References Top

Maclnnis D. Responsibilities of a good reviewer: Lessons learned from kindergarten. J Acad Mark Sci 2003;31:344-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
Responsibilities in the Submission and Peer-Review Process. International Committee of Medical Journal editors. Available from: http://www.icmje.org/recommendations/browse/roles-and-responsibilities/responsibilities-in-the-submission-and-peer-reivew-process.html. [Last accessed on 2014 Nov 30].  Back to cited text no. 2
CSE′s White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications. Council of Scientific Editors; 2012. p. 31-4.  Back to cited text no. 3


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