REVIEWER GUIDELINES

Criteria for publication
The review process
Selecting reviewers
Upon receiving a manuscript to review
Confidentiality
Writing the report
Editing reviewer reports
Timing
Conflicts of interest
Publication policy and ethical considerations

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Criteria for publication

The American Journal of Gastroenterology (AJG) receives many more submissions than it can publish. It is therefore important that manuscripts are critically evaluated for compliance with the following criteria:

  • strong evidence for the conclusions that are drawn
  • novelty (abstracts, meeting reports and preprints do not compromise novelty)
  • broad biological significance
  • importance to the specific field
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The review process

Manuscripts are assessed by an editor upon submission. To save authors and reviewers time, only manuscripts that meet our editorial criteria are sent out for formal review.

Manuscripts that are sent for formal review are assessed by at least two reviewers. Based on their advice, the editor will:

  • accept the manuscript, with or without minor revision
  • request that the authors revise the manuscript to address specific concerns before a final decision is reached
  • reject the manuscript, typically due to lack of novelty, insufficient conceptual advance or major technical and/or interpretational problems

Reviewers may recommend a particular course of action in their confidential comments to the editor, but should bear in mind that the editors may have to make a decision based on conflicting advice. Furthermore, editorial decisions are not a matter of counting votes or numerical rank assessments, but are based on an evaluation of the arguments raised by each reviewer and by the authors. The most useful reviewer reports, therefore, are those that state clear, substantiated arguments and refrain from recommending a course of action in the comments directed to the authors.

Reviewers may, on occasion, be asked for further advice, particularly when they disagree with one another, or when the authors believe that they have been misunderstood on points of fact. This kind of discussion is sometimes necessary to provide an effective and fair review process. We do understand, however, that reviewers are reluctant to participate in prolonged disputes, and we strive to keep consultation minimal in order to make a fair conclusion. In certain cases, additional reviewers or members of our editorial board may be consulted to resolve disputes.

Reviewers may access and comment on articles via the online reviewing site.

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Selecting reviewers

Reviewer selection is critical to the review process, and our choices are based on many factors, including expertise, reputation, specific recommendations, and our previous experience with the reviewer. We avoid using reviewers who are chronically late, unprofessional, too harsh or too lenient. Reviewers are invited by the editors, and only on acceptance of the invitation will a reviewer have access to the full paper.

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Upon receiving a manuscript to review

To avoid unnecessary delays in manuscript processing, please do the following immediately upon receipt of a manuscript for review:

  • check the deadline to prevent misunderstandings regarding timing, and contact the editorial office immediately if you anticipate any difficulties in submitting the review on time
  • carefully read the editor's letter, noting any points specific to the manuscript that the editor may have requested your opinion about
  • skim the manuscript and determine any conflict of interest for you to serve as reviewer (consider the authors, their institution, their funding sources) and decide whether or not you can judge the article impartially
  • contemplate the topic: does it fit the scope of the journal and is it likely to be of sufficient general interest for publication?
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Confidentiality

The review process is strictly confidential. Reviewers should keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • manuscripts reviewed for AJG should not be discussed with anyone who is not directly involved in the review process
  • if colleagues are consulted, they should be identified to the editors
  • if experts from outside the reviewer's own laboratory are consulted, reviewers should check with the editors beforehand to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the editor
  • reviewers should not disclose their identities to the authors or to other colleagues. We strongly disapprove of any attempt by authors to determine the identities of or confront reviewers, and encourage reviewers to neither confirm nor deny any speculation in this regard
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Writing the report

The primary purpose of referee reports is to provide the editors with the information that they need to reach a decision, but they should also instruct the authors on how to strengthen their manuscript. Referees are asked to submit both confidential comments to the editor and those that can be directly transmitted to the authors. We recommend the following division of the report:

Comments for transmission to the authors

Reviewers are asked to maintain a positive and impartial, but critical, attitude in evaluating manuscripts. Criticisms should remain dispassionate; offensive language is not acceptable. As thoroughly as possible, a negative report should explain to the authors the weaknesses of their manuscript.

The ideal report should include:

  • an initial paragraph that summarizes the major findings and the reviewer's overall impressions and highlights the major shortcomings of the manuscript
  • specifically numbered comments that may be broken down into major and minor criticisms if necessary (numbering facilitates the editor's evaluation of the manuscript and the author's rebuttal to the report)

The report should answer the following questions:

  • what are the major claims and how significant are they?
  • are the claims novel and convincing?
  • are the claims appropriately discussed in the context of earlier literature?
  • who will be interested and why?
  • does the paper stand out in some way from the others in its field?
  • are there other experiments that would strengthen the paper?
  • what figures/tables could be in color?

For manuscripts that may merit further consideration, it is helpful when reviewers provide advice on the following points where appropriate:

  • how the clarity of the writing might be improved (without necessarily going into specific details of spelling and grammar)
  • how the manuscript might be condensed
  • how to do the study justice without overselling the claims
  • how to represent earlier literature more completely
  • how to improve the presentation of methodological detail so that the experiments can be reproduced
  • the submission of supplementary data on www.amjgastro.com to enhance the presentation (depositing, for example, crystallographic information, source code for modelling studies, microarray data, detailed methods, mathematical derivations, long tables and movies)
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Editing reviewer reports

As a matter of policy, we do not suppress reviewer reports. In almost all cases, any comments intended for the authors are transmitted. On rare occasions, we may edit a report where the reviewer has made an obvious factual mistake, or to remove offensive language or comments that reveal confidential information. We ask reviewers to avoid including comments that may cause needless offense, but also expect authors to recognize that criticisms are not necessarily unfair.

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Timing

AJG is committed to rapid editorial decisions and publication. Efficiency in this process is a valuable service to our authors and to the scientific community as a whole. We therefore ask that reviewers respond promptly or inform us if they anticipate a significant delay in the completion of their review, which allows us to keep the authors informed, and, when necessary, find alternative reviewers.

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Conflicts of interest (COI)

In order to ensure fairness in the reviewer process, we avoid selecting reviewers who:

  • have recent or ongoing collaborations with the authors
  • have commented on drafts of the manuscript
  • are in direct competition
  • have a history of dispute with the authors
  • have a financial interest in the outcome.

Reviewers will be asked to complete a COI questionnaire on our score sheet

Because it is not possible for the editors to be aware of all possible biases, we ask reviewers to draw our attention to anything that might affect their report, including commercial interests, and to decline review invitations when they cannot be objective. We do not find it necessary to exclude reviewers who have reviewed a paper for another journal; the fact that two journals have independently identified a particular person as well qualified to review a paper does not decrease the validity of her/his opinion in our view.

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Publication policy

Despite our best efforts to identify breaches of publication policy or ethical conduct such as plagiarism or conflict of interest, the reviewers who are familiar with the field are more likely to recognize such problems and should alert the editors to any potential problems in this regard.


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