Guide to referees

About Scientific Reports

Scientific Reports is an online, open access journal that publishes scientifically valid primary research from all areas of the natural and clinical sciences.

Editorial decisions are made by our Editorial Board of active researchers who manage the peer review process and decide which manuscripts should be published. Our Editorial Board Members are supported by an Editorial Advisory Panel and an in-house publishing team.

Criteria for publication

To be published in Scientific Reports, a paper must be scientifically valid and technically sound in methodology and analysis. Manuscripts are not assessed based on their perceived importance, significance or impact; the research community makes such judgements after publication. We are happy to publish papers of niche scope, that lie between disciplines, report negative results, or scientifically-justified replications.

The review process

Manuscripts that appear to be scientifically valid upon initial assessment will be sent for formal review.

After considering the reviewer reports, the Editorial Board Member will make one of the following decisions:

  • Accept outright
  • Request a minor revision, where authors revise their manuscript to address specific concerns
  • Request a major revision, where authors revise their manuscript to address significant concerns and perhaps undertake additional work
  • Reject outright

Upon submission of a revised manuscript, the Editorial Board Member may wish to ask the original reviewers for further advice. We therefore request that reviewers are willing to provide follow-up advice as requested. But Editorial Board Members will not send resubmitted papers to referees if it seems that the authors have not made a serious attempt to address the reviewers' criticisms.

Selecting referees

Reviewer selection is critical to the review process, and it is the responsibility of our Editorial Board Members to choose appropriate referees. Their choice is based on multiple factors, including expertise, specific recommendations, and previous experience. Invitations to review a manuscript are confidential.

Writing the review

The primary purpose of the review is to provide our Editorial Board Members with the information needed to reach a decision. It should also instruct the authors on how they can strengthen their manuscript to the point where it may be acceptable for publication.

Reviewers should be mindful that they are assessing the manuscript on technical soundness and scientific validity. This refers to both the methods and analysis: the methods must be appropriate and properly conducted, and the conclusions drawn must be fully supported by the data. We ask that referees do not assess the importance or significance of a paper - the research community will make this judgement after publication. The review should consider the following questions:

  • Is the paper technically sound?
  • Are the claims convincing? If not, what further evidence is needed?
  • Are the claims fully supported by the experimental data?
  • Is the statistical analysis of the data sound?
  • Does the availability of data adhere to the expected standards of your research community?
  • Are the claims appropriately discussed in the context of previous literature?
  • If the manuscript is unacceptable in its present form, does the study seem sufficiently promising that the authors should be encouraged to consider a resubmission in the future?
  • Is the manuscript clearly written? If not, how could it be made more accessible?
  • Are they any special ethical concerns arising from the use of animals or human subjects?

Please note that it is Scientific Reports' policy to remain strictly neutral with respect to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations, and the naming conventions used in maps and affiliation are left to the discretion of authors. Referees should not, therefore, request authors to make any changes to such unless it is critical to the clarity of the scientific content of a manuscript.

Confidentiality

Editorial Board Members and reviewers must treat the review process as strictly confidential, and not discuss the manuscript with anyone not directly involved in the review. It is acceptable to consult with laboratory colleagues, but we ask that they are identified to the Editorial Board Member. Consulting with experts from outside the referee's own laboratory may also be acceptable, but please check with the Editorial Board Member before doing so, to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the authors.

Timing

We are committed to providing rapid editorial decisions and publication, and we believe that an efficient editorial process is a valuable service both to our authors and to the scientific community. We therefore ask reviewers to provide a report within one week of receiving a manuscript, but this may be extended by prior arrangement. If referees anticipate a delay, we ask them to inform the Editorial Board Member and the publishing offices so we can keep the authors informed and, where necessary, find alternative referees.

Anonymity

We do not release reviewers' identities to authors or to other reviewers, except when reviewers specifically ask to be identified. We prefer that reviewers remain anonymous throughout the review process and beyond.

We ask referees not to identify themselves to authors without the Editorial Board Member's knowledge. If they wish to reveal their identities, this should be done via the publishing office.

We deplore any attempt by authors to confront reviewers or determine their identities. We neither confirm nor deny any speculation about reviewers' identities, and we encourage referees to adopt a similar policy.

Editing referees' reports

As part of our editorial policies, we do not edit reviewer reports and any comments that were intended for the authors are transmitted, regardless of what we may think of the content. On rare occasions, we may edit a report to remove offensive language or comments that reveal confidential information about other matters. We ask referees to avoid comments that may cause needless offence but authors should recognize that criticisms are not necessarily unfair simply because they are expressed in robust language.

Competing interests

We aim to respect requests of our authors to exclude specific Board Members or referees. We also try to avoid referees who have recent or ongoing collaborations with the authors, who have commented on drafts of the manuscript, who are in direct competition to publish the same finding, who we know to have a history of dispute with the authors, or who have a financial interest in the outcome. It is not possible for the Editorial Board or publishing team to know of all potential biases, so we ask referees to draw attention to anything that might affect their review, and to decline invitations to review in cases where they feel unable to be objective.

We recognize, however, that competing interests are not always clear-cut, and the above circumstances need not automatically undermine the validity of a report. Indeed, the people best-qualified to evaluate a paper are often those closest to the field, and a sceptical attitude towards a particular claim does not mean that a referee cannot be persuaded by new evidence. Editorial Board Members try to take these factors into account when weighing referees' reports.

Referees who have reviewed a paper for another journal might feel that it is unfair to the authors for them to re-review it for Scientific Reports. We disagree - the fact that two journals have independently identified a particular person as well-qualified to review a paper does not, in our view, decrease the validity of their opinion.

Online manuscript review

Referees must submit their comments via our online submission system by following the link provided in the Editorial Board Member's invitation email. For help with our manuscript tracking system please contact the MTS helpdesk.