For Referees

  1. Aims and scope
  2. Criteria for publication
  3. The review process
  4. Selecting referees
  5. Writing the review
  6. Confidentiality
  7. Timing
  8. Anonymity
  9. Editing referees’ reports
  10. Competing interests
  11. Online manuscript review

The Guide to Referees, Guide to Authors, Submission Guidelines and Editorial Policies are also available to download as a PDF.

Aims and scope

Palgrave Communications, published by Palgrave Macmillan, is a fully open-access, online journal publishing peer-reviewed academic research across the full spectrum of the humanities and social sciences. It began publication in January 2015.

The journal editors are dedicated to publishing high-quality original scholarship. Actively welcomed for submission is research on agenda-setting issues, grand societal challenges and emerging areas of thinking, irrespective of the field of study. This also includes research that reflects on, or seeks to inform, policymaking of all types. 

Palgrave Communications additionally welcomes interdisciplinary research that makes an explicit and valuable contribution to the advancement of the humanities and/or social sciences. This includes research arising in the physical, life, clinical and environmental sciences in areas such as the medical humanities, digital humanities, environmental sociology, and complex network analysis. 

We aspire to be the definitive peer-reviewed outlet for open access academic research in and between fields in our scope. The journal is open to all theoretical and methodological perspectives.

We are committed to providing an efficient service for both authors and readers. A streamlined peer-review system, together with the support of an eminent Editorial Board, allows us to make rapid and fair publication decisions. Prompt dissemination of accepted papers to Palgrave Macmillan’s wide readership and beyond is achieved through a program of continuous online publication. Published manuscripts are enhanced by innovative web technologies, including interactive browsing and article level metrics.

Criteria for publication

To be published in Palgrave Communications a paper should meet several general criteria:

  • the methodology and any data utilised are technically sound;
  • the paper provides strong evidence for its conclusions;
  • the results are novel (we do not consider abstracts and internet preprints to compromise novelty); and
  • the manuscript is important to the specific field(s) and/or is important in interdisciplinary terms.

In general, to be acceptable, a paper should represent an advance in understanding likely to influence thinking in the field.

The review process

To save authors and referees time, only those papers that seem most likely to meet our editorial criteria are sent for formal review. Those papers judged to be of insufficient interest to the field, or otherwise inappropriate, are rejected promptly without external formal review (although these decisions may be based on informal advice from the Editorial Board).

Manuscripts judged to be of potential interest to our readership are sent for formal review, typically to two reviewers. A decision is then made, based on the reviewers' advice, from among several possibilities:

  • Accept
  • Accept after minor revision
  • Probably acceptable after major revision with re-review
  • Unacceptable as is, but worth reconsideration if extensively revised
  • Reject                                                                          

Referees are asked to recommend a particular course of action. The most useful reports, therefore, provide us with the information on which a decision should be based. Setting out the arguments for and against publication is often also helpful.

We may go back to referees for further advice, particularly in cases where referees disagree with each other, or where the authors believe they have been misunderstood on points of fact. We therefore ask that referees should be willing to provide follow-up advice as requested. We are very aware, however, that referees are normally reluctant to be drawn into prolonged disputes, so we try to keep consultation to the minimum we judge necessary to provide a fair hearing for the authors.

When referees agree to review a paper, we consider this a commitment to review subsequent revisions as well. However, editors will not send resubmitted papers to the referees if it seems that the authors have not made a serious attempt to address the referees' criticisms.

We take referees' criticisms very seriously, and in particular, we are very reluctant to disregard technical criticisms. In cases where one referee opposes publication, we may consult with the other referee(s) as to whether s/he is applying an unduly critical standard. We occasionally bring in additional referees to resolve disputes, but we prefer to avoid doing so unless there is a specific issue on which we feel a need for further advice.

Selecting referees

Referee selection is critical to the review process, and our publishing team, in conjunction with the editorial board will base their choice on many factors, including expertise, specific recommendations, and previous experience. When inviting referees to review manuscripts we may send confidential information with the invitation letter, which should be treated as such. Authors can suggest reviewers during the submission process, but we are not bound to accept such suggestions.

We normally check with potential referees before sending them manuscripts to review. Referees should bear in mind that these messages contain confidential information, which should be treated as such.

Writing the review

The primary purpose of the review is to provide us with the information needed to reach a decision. It could also instruct the authors on how they can strengthen their paper to the point where it may be acceptable.

As far as possible, a negative review should explain to the authors the weaknesses of their manuscript, so that rejected authors can understand the basis for the decision. This is secondary to the other functions, however, and referees should not feel obliged to provide detailed advice to authors of papers that do not meet the criteria for Palgrave Communications.

Confidential comments are welcome, but it is helpful if the main points are stated in the comments for transmission to the authors. To enable rapid and easy decisions we have developed a template approach. The review process will answer the following questions:

  • Is the paper methodologically and technically sound?
  • What are the major claims of the paper?
  • Are the claims novel? If not, please identify the major papers that compromise novelty
  • Are the claims convincing? If not, what further evidence is needed?
  • Will the paper be of interest to others in the field?
  • Will the paper influence thinking in the field?
  • Are the claims fully supported by the argument(s) and/or any associated data?
  • Are the claims appropriately discussed in the context of previous literature?
  • Have the authors complied with the journal's policy and the research community's expectations on the availability of research data, and documented this in their Data availability statement?
  • 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?

Please note that it is Palgrave Communications’ 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 academic content of a manuscript.

In addition to answering the previous questions, referees can provide further information, including comments that may answer the following:

  • Is the manuscript clearly written? If not, how could it be made more accessible?
  • Have the authors done themselves justice without overselling their arguments/claims?
  • Have they been fair in their treatment of previous literature?
  • Have they provided sufficient methodological detail?
  • Is any statistical analysis of any data sound?

Referees are given the opportunity to provide comments that will be transmitted to authors and to provide comments that are solely for us.

Finally referees are asked for their overall recommendation:

  • Accept
  • Accept after minor revision
  • Probably acceptable after major revision with re-review
  • Unacceptable as is, but worth reconsideration if extensively revised
  • Reject  

Confidentiality

We ask all referees to treat the review process as strictly confidential, and not to discuss the manuscript with anyone not directly involved in the review. If it is deemed necessary to consult with colleagues, please identify them to us. Consulting with experts from outside the referee's own institution may also be acceptable, but please check with us before doing so, to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the authors.

Timing

Palgrave Communications is committed to rapid editorial decisions and publication, and we believe that an efficient editorial process is a valuable service both to our authors and to the scholarly community as a whole. We therefore ask referees to respond promptly (within four weeks of receiving a manuscript, although this may be either longer or shorter by prior arrangement). If referees anticipate a longer delay, we ask them to let us know so that we can keep the authors informed and, where necessary, find alternative referees.

Anonymity

We do not release referees' identities to authors or to other referees, except when referees specifically ask to be identified. Unless they feel strongly, however, we prefer that referees should remain anonymous throughout the review process and beyond. We ask referees not to identify themselves to authors without our knowledge.

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

Editing referees' reports

As a matter of policy, we do not suppress referees' reports; 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 saying anything that may cause needless offence; conversely, authors should recognize that criticisms are not necessarily unfair simply because they are expressed in robust language.

Competing interests

Our normal policy is to avoid referees whom the authors have excluded, for whatever reason. We also usually 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 similar research, 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 publishing team or our editorial board to know of all possible biases, however, so we ask referees to draw our attention to anything that might affect their review, and to decline 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 skeptical attitude towards a particular claim does not mean that a referee cannot be persuaded by new evidence.

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 Palgrave Communications. 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 his or her opinion.

Online manuscript review

Referees must submit their comments via our online submission system by following the link provided in our email. For help with the system please contact palcomms@palgrave.com.

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