Peer review process
Introduction to peer review, what is peer review.
Peer review is the system used to assess the quality of a manuscript before it is published. Independent researchers in the relevant research area assess submitted manuscripts for originality, validity and significance to help editors determine whether a manuscript should be published in their journal.
How does it work?
When a manuscript is submitted to a journal, it is assessed to see if it meets the criteria for submission. If it does, the editorial team will select potential peer reviewers within the field of research to peer-review the manuscript and make recommendations.
There are four main types of peer review used by BMC:
Single-blind: the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript unless the reviewer chooses to sign their report.
Double-blind: the reviewers do not know the names of the authors, and the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript.
Open peer: authors know who the reviewers are, and the reviewers know who the authors are. If the manuscript is accepted, the named reviewer reports are published alongside the article and the authors’ response to the reviewer.
Transparent peer: the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors do not know who reviewed their manuscript unless the reviewer chooses to sign their report. If the manuscript is accepted, the anonymous reviewer reports are published alongside the article and the authors’ response to the reviewer.
Different journals use different types of peer review. You can find out which peer-review system is used by a particular journal in the journal’s ‘About’ page.
Why do peer review?
Peer review is an integral part of scientific publishing that confirms the validity of the manuscript. Peer reviewers are experts who volunteer their time to help improve the manuscripts they review. By undergoing peer review, manuscripts should become:
More robust - peer reviewers may point out gaps in a paper that require more explanation or additional experiments.
Easier to read - if parts of your paper are difficult to understand, reviewers can suggest changes.
More useful - peer reviewers also consider the importance of your paper to others in your field.
For more information and advice on how to get published, please see our blog series here .
How peer review works
The peer review process can be single-blind, double-blind, open or transparent.
You can find out which peer review system is used by a particular journal in the journal's 'About' page.
N. B. This diagram is a representation of the peer review process, and should not be taken as the definitive approach used by every journal.
What is peer review?
Reviewers play a pivotal role in scholarly publishing. The peer review system exists to validate academic work, helps to improve the quality of published research, and increases networking possibilities within research communities. Despite criticisms, peer review is still the only widely accepted method for research validation and has continued successfully with relatively minor changes for some 350 years.
Elsevier relies on the peer review process to uphold the quality and validity of individual articles and the journals that publish them.
Peer review has been a formal part of scientific communication since the first scientific journals appeared more than 300 years ago. The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society is thought to be the first journal to formalize the peer review process under the editorship of Henry Oldenburg (1618- 1677).
Despite many criticisms about the integrity of peer review, the majority of the research community still believes peer review is the best form of scientific evaluation. This opinion was endorsed by the outcome of a survey Elsevier and Sense About Science conducted in 2009 and has since been further confirmed by other publisher and scholarly organization surveys. Furthermore, a 2015 survey by the Publishing Research Consortium , saw 82 percent of researchers agreeing that “without peer review there is no control in scientific communication.”
To learn more about peer review, visit Elsevier’s free e-learning platform Researcher Academy .
The peer review process
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Types of peer review
Peer review comes in different flavours: you must therefore check which variant is employed by the journal on which you are working so you’re aware of the respective rules. Each system has its own advantages and disadvantages. Often one type of review will be preferred by a subject community but there is an increasing call towards more transparency around the peer review process . In case of questions regarding the peer review model employed by the journal for which you have been invited to review, consult the journal’s homepage or contact the editorial office directly.
Single anonymized review
In this type of review, the names of the reviewers are hidden from the author. This is the traditional method of reviewing and is the most common type by far. Points to consider regarding single anonymizedreview include:
- Reviewer anonymity allows for impartial decisions – the reviewers should not be influenced by the authors.
- Authors may be concerned that reviewers in their field could delay publication, giving the reviewers a chance to publish first.
- Reviewers may use their anonymity as justification for being unnecessarily critical or harsh when commenting on the authors’ work.
Double anonymized review
Both the reviewer and the author are anonymous in this model. Some advantages of this model are listed below.
- Author anonymity limits reviewer bias, for example based on an author's gender, country of origin, academic status or previous publication history.
- Articles written by prestigious or renowned authors are considered on the basis of the content of their papers, rather than their reputation.
But bear in mind that despite the above, reviewers can often identify the author through their writing style, subject matter or self-citation – it is exceedingly difficult to guarantee total author anonymity. More information for authors can be found in our double-anonymized peer review guidelines .
Triple anonymized review
With triple anonymized review, reviewers are anonymous and the author's identity is unknown to both the reviewers and the editor. Articles are anonymized at the submission stage and are handled in such a way to minimize any potential bias towards the author(s). However, it should be noted that:
- the complexities involved with anonymizing articles/authors to this level are considerable
- as with double anonymized review; there is still a possibility for the editor and/or reviewers to correctly divine the author’s identity from their style, subject matter, citation patterns or a number of other methodologies
Open peer review is an umbrella term for many different models aiming at greater transparency during and after the peer review process. The most common definition of open review is when both the reviewer and author are known to each other during the peer review process. Other types of open peer review consist of:
- publication of reviewers’ names on the article page.
- publication of peer review reports alongside the article, whether signed or anonymous.
- publication of peer review reports (signed or anonymous) together with authors’ and editors’ responses alongside the article.
- publication of the paper after a quick check and opening a discussion forum to the community who can comment (named or anonymous).
Many believe this is the best way to prevent malicious comments, stop plagiarism, prevent reviewers from following their own agenda, and encourage open, honest reviewing. Others see open review as a less honest process, in which politeness or fear of retribution may cause a reviewer to withhold or tone down criticism.
For three years, five Elsevier journals experimented with publication of peer review reports (signed or anonymous) as articles alongside the accepted paper on ScienceDirect ( example ).
Read more about the experiment
More transparent peer review
In general, transparency is the key to trust in peer review. Many Elsevier journals therefore publish the name of the article’s handling editor on the published paper on ScienceDirect. Some journals also provide details about the number of reviewers who reviewed the article before acceptance.
Furthermore, in order to provide updates and feedback to reviewers, most Elsevier journals inform reviewers about the editor’s decision and their peers’ recommendations.
Article transfer service: peer review cascade
Elsevier authors can transfer their article submission from one journal to another for free if they are rejected, without the need to reformat, and often without needing further peer review.
We therefore ask referees during the review process for their consent to transfer their full review report (including all comments to the author and editor) along with the manuscript to the receiver journal. The benefits of full manuscript review cascades are twofold:
- Reviewers are not asked to review the same manuscript several times for different journals.
- Authors do not need to spend additional time reformatting their manuscript.
Tools and resources
- Chapter 2 of Academic and Professional Publishing, 2012, by Irene Hames in 2012
- "Is Peer Review in Crisis?" Perspectives in Publishing No 2, August 2004, by Adrian Mulligan
- “The history of the peer-review process” Trends in Biotechnology, 2002, by Ray Spier
Reviewers’ Update articles
Peer review using today’s technology
Lifting the lid on publishing peer review reports: an interview with Bahar Mehmani and Flaminio Squazzoni
How face-to-face peer review can benefit authors and journals alike
Innovation in peer review: introducing “volunpeers”
Results masked review: peer review without publication bias
Is open peer review the way forward?
Elsevier Researcher Academy modules
The certified peer reviewer course
Transparency in peer review
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What is peer review?
From a publisher’s perspective, peer review functions as a filter for content, directing better quality articles to better quality journals and so creating journal brands.
Running articles through the process of peer review adds value to them. For this reason publishers need to make sure that peer review is robust.
"Pointing out the specifics about flaws in the paper’s structure is paramount. Are methods valid, is data clearly presented, and are conclusions supported by data?” (Editor feedback)
“If an editor can read your comments and understand clearly the basis for your recommendation, then you have written a helpful review.” (Editor feedback)
Peer Review at Its Best
What peer review does best is improve the quality of published papers by motivating authors to submit good quality work – and helping to improve that work through the peer review process.
In fact, 90% of researchers feel that peer review improves the quality of their published paper (University of Tennessee and CIBER Research Ltd, 2013).
What the Critics Say
The peer review system is not without criticism. Studies show that even after peer review, some articles still contain inaccuracies and demonstrate that most rejected papers will go on to be published somewhere else.
However, these criticisms should be understood within the context of peer review as a human activity. The occasional errors of peer review are not reasons for abandoning the process altogether – the mistakes would be worse without it.
Some of the ways in which Wiley is seeking to improve the efficiency of the process, include:
- Reducing the amount of repeat reviewing by innovating around transferable peer review
- Providing training and best practice guidance to peer reviewers
- Improving recognition of the contribution made by reviewers
Visit our Peer Review Process and Types of Peer Review pages for additional detailed information on peer review.
Transparency in Peer Review
Wiley is committed to increasing transparency in peer review, increasing accountability for the peer review process and giving recognition to the work of peer reviewers and editors. We are also actively exploring other peer review models to give researchers the options that suit them and their communities.
- Search current calls for papers
- Try the Taylor & Francis Journal Suggester
- How to publish your research
Understanding peer review
Understanding the peer review process, what is peer review a guide for authors, jump to section.
The peer review process starts once you have submitted your paper to a journal.
After submission, your paper will be sent for assessment by independent experts in your field. The reviewers are asked to judge the validity, significance, and originality of your work.
Below we expand on what peer review is, and how it works.
What is peer review? And why is it important?
Peer review is the independent assessment of your research paper by experts in your field. The purpose of peer review is to evaluate the paper’s quality and suitability for publication.
As well as peer review acting as a form of quality control for academic journals, it is a very useful source of feedback for you. The feedback can be used to improve your paper before it is published.
So at its best, peer review is a collaborative process, where authors engage in a dialogue with peers in their field, and receive constructive support to advance their work.
Use our free guide to discover how you can get the most out of the peer review process.
Why is peer review important?
Peer review is vitally important to uphold the high standards of scholarly communications, and maintain the quality of individual journals. It is also an important support for the researchers who author the papers.
Every journal depends on the hard work of reviewers who are the ones at the forefront of the peer review process. The reviewers are the ones who test and refine each article before publication. Even for very specialist journals, the editor can’t be an expert in the topic of every article submitted. So, the feedback and comments of carefully selected reviewers are an essential guide to inform the editor’s decision on a research paper.
There are also practical reasons why peer review is beneficial to you, the author. The peer review process can alert you to any errors in your work, or gaps in the literature you may have overlooked.
Researchers consistently tell us that their final published article is better than the version they submitted before peer review. 91% of respondents to a Sense about Science peer review survey said that their last paper was improved through peer review. A Taylor & Francis study supports this, finding that most researchers, across all subject areas, rated the contribution of peer review towards improving their article as 8 or above out of 10.
Choose the right journal for your research: Think. Check. Submit.
We support Think. Check. Submit. , an initiative launched by a coalition of scholarly communications organizations. It provides the tools to help you choose the right journal for your work.
Think. Check. Submit. was established because there are some journals which do not provide the quality assurance and services that should be delivered by a reputable journal. In particular, many of these journals do not make sure there is thorough peer review or editor feedback process in place.
That means, if you submit to one of these journals, you will not benefit from helpful article feedback from your peers. It may also lead to others being skeptical about the validity of your published results.
You should therefore make sure that you submit your work to a journal you can trust. By using the checklist provided on the Think. Check. Submit. website , you can make an informed choice.
Peer review integrity at Taylor & Francis
Every full research article published in a Taylor & Francis journal has been through peer review, as outlined in the journal’s aims & scope information. This means that the article’s quality, validity, and relevance has been assessed by independent peers within the research field.
We believe in the integrity of peer review with every journal we publish, ascribing to the following statement:
All published research articles in this journal have undergone rigorous peer review, based on initial editor screening, anonymous refereeing by independent expert referees, and consequent revision by article authors when required.
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Different types of peer review
Peer review takes different forms and each type has pros and cons. The type of peer review model used will often vary between journals, even of the same publisher.
So, check your chosen journal’s peer-review policy before you submit , to make sure you know what to expect and are comfortable with your paper being reviewed in that way.
Every Taylor & Francis journal publishes a statement describing the type of peer review used by the journal within the aims & scope section on Taylor & Francis Online.
Below we go through the most common types of peer review.
Single-anonymous peer review
This type of peer review is also called ‘single-blind review’. In this model, the reviewers know that you are the author of the article, but you don’t know the identities of the reviewers.
Single-anonymous review is most common for science and medicine journals.
Find out more about the pros and cons of single-anonymous peer review .
Double-anonymous peer review
In this model, which is also known as ‘double-blind review’, the reviewers don’t know that you are the author of the article. And you don’t know who the reviewers are either. Double-anonymous review is particularly common in humanities and some social sciences’ journals.
Discover more about the pros and cons of double-anonymous peer review .
If you are submitting your article for double-anonymous peer review, make sure you know how to make your article anonymous .
Open peer review
There is no one agreed definition of open peer review. In fact, a recent study identified 122 different definitions of the term. Typically, it will mean that the reviewers know you are the author and also that their identity will be revealed to you at some point during the review or publication process. Find out more about open peer review .
Further reading: A new scholar’s perspective on open peer review .
Post-publication peer review
In post-publication peer review models, your paper may still go through one of the other types of peer review first. Alternatively, your paper may be published online almost immediately, after some basic checks. Either way, once it is published, there will then be an opportunity for invited reviewers (or even readers) to add their own comments or reviews.
You can learn about the pros and cons of post-publication peer review here.
The Registered Reports process splits peer review into two parts.
The first round of peer review takes place after you’ve designed your study, but before you’ve collected or analyzed any data. This allows you to get feedback on both the question you’re looking to answer, and the experiment you’ve designed to test it.
If your manuscript passes peer review, the journal will give you an in-principle acceptance (IPA). This indicates that your article will be published as long as you successfully complete your study according to the pre-registered methods and submit an evidence-based interpretation of the results.
Find out about Registered Reports at Taylor & Francis .
F1000Research: open and post-publication peer review
F1000Research is part of the Taylor & Francis Group. It operates an innovative peer review process which is fully transparent and takes place after an article has been published.
How it works:
Before publication, authors are asked to suggest at least five potential reviewers who are experts in the field. The reviewers also need to be able to provide unbiased reports on the article.
Submitted articles are published rapidly, after passing a series of pre-publication checks that assess, originality, readability, author eligibility, and compliance with F1000Research’s policies and ethical guidelines.
Once the article is published, expert reviewers are formally invited to review.
The peer review process is entirely open and transparent. Each peer review report, plus the approval status selected by the reviewer, is published with the reviewer’s name and affiliation alongside the article.
Authors are encouraged to respond openly to the peer review reports and can publish revised versions of their article if they wish. New versions are clearly linked and easily navigable, so that readers and reviewers can quickly find the latest version of an article.
The article remains published regardless of the reviewers’ reports. Articles that pass peer review are indexed in Scopus, PubMed, Google Scholar and other bibliographic databases.
Get to know the peer review process
Peer review follows a number of steps, beginning with submitting your article to a journal.
Step 1: Editor assessment
When your manuscript arrives at the journal’s editorial office it will receive an initial desk assessment by the journal’s editor or editorial office. They will check that it’s broadly suitable for the journal.
They will ask questions such as:
Is this the right journal for this article?
Does the paper cover a suitable topic according to the journal’s aims & scope ?
Has the author followed the journal’s guidelines in the instructions for authors ? They will check that your paper meets the basic requirements of the journal, such as word count, language clarity, and format.
Has the author included everything that’s needed for peer review? They will check that there is an abstract, author affiliation details, any figures, and research-funder information.
Does it make a significant contribution to the existing literature?
If your article doesn’t pass these initial checks the editor might reject the article immediately. This is known as a ‘desk reject’ and it is a decision made at the editor’s discretion, based on their substantial experience and subject expertise. By having this initial screening in place, it can enable a quick decision if your manuscript isn’t suitable for the journal. This means you can submit your article to another journal quickly.
If your article does pass the initial assessment, it will move to the next stage, and into peer review.
Michael Reiss, Founding Editor of Sex Education
Step 2: First round of peer review
Next, the editor will find and contact other researchers who are experts in your field, and will ask them to review the paper. A minimum of two independent reviewers is normally required for every research article. The aims and scope of each journal will outline their peer review policy in detail.
The reviewers will be asked to read and comment on your article. They may also be invited to advise the editor whether your article is suitable for publication in that journal.
So, what are the reviewers looking for? This depends on the subject area, but they will be checking that:
Your work is original or new.
The study design and methodology are appropriate and described so that others could replicate what you have done.
You’ve engaged with all the relevant current scholarship.
The results are appropriately and clearly presented.
Your conclusions are reliable, significant, and supported by the research.
The paper fits the scope of the journal.
The work is of a high enough standard to be published in the journal.
Important: if you have not already shared your research data publicly , peer reviewers may request to see your datasets, to support validation of the results in your article.
Once the editor has received and considered the reviewer reports, as well as making their own assessment of your work, they will let you know their decision. The reviewer reports will be shared with you, along with any additional guidance from the editor.
If you get a straight acceptance, congratulations, your article is ready to move to publication. But, please note, that this isn’t common. Very often, you will need to revise your article and resubmit it. Or it may be that the editor decides your paper needs to be rejected by that journal.
Please note that the final editorial decision on a paper and the choice of who to invite to review is always the editor’s decision. For further details on this, please see our peer review appeals and complaints policy.
Step 3: Revise and resubmit
It is very common for the editor and reviewers to have suggestions about how you can improve your paper before it is ready to be published. They might have only a few straightforward recommendations (‘minor amendments’) or require more substantial changes before your paper will be accepted for publication (‘major amendments’). Authors often tell us that the reviewers’ comments can be extremely helpful, to make sure that their article is of a high quality.
During this next stage of the process you will have time to amend your article based on the reviewers’ comments, resubmitting it with any or all changes made. Make sure you know how to respond to reviewer comments, we cover this in the next section.
Once you resubmit your manuscript the editor will look through the revisions. They will often send it out for a second round of peer review, asking the reviewers to assess how you’ve responded to their comments.
After this, you may be asked to make further revisions, or the paper might be rejected if the editor thinks that the changes you’ve made are not adequate. However, if your revisions have now brought the paper up to the standard required by that journal, it then moves to the next stage.
If you do not intend to make the revisions suggested by the journal and resubmit your paper for consideration, please make sure you formally withdraw your paper from consideration by the journal before you submit elsewhere.
Make sure you resubmit
Some researchers don’t revise and resubmit their manuscript when they receive changes in the initial peer review. This is a lost opportunity. Revisions and feedback are an essential and normal part of the publishing process. It’s unlikely a journal will accept your manuscript first time; just as most great novels don’t get published without being edited.
Step 4: Accepted
And that’s it, you’ve made it through peer review. The next step is production .
How long does peer review take?
Editorial teams work very hard to progress papers through peer review as quickly as possible. But it is important to be aware that this part of the process can take time.
The first stage is for the editor to find suitably qualified expert reviewers who are available. Given the competing demands of research life, nobody can agree to every review request they receive. It’s therefore not uncommon for a paper to go through several cycles of requests before the editor finds reviewers who are both willing and able to accept.
Then, the reviewers who do accept the request, have to find time alongside their own research, teaching, and writing, to give your paper thorough consideration.
Please do keep this in mind if you don’t receive a decision on your paper as quickly as you would like. If you’ve submitted your paper via an online system, you can use it to track the progress of your paper through peer review. Otherwise, if you need an update on the status of your paper, please get in touch with the editor.
Top tip: Many journals publish key dates alongside new articles, including when the paper was submitted, accepted, and published online. While you’re at the stage of choosing a journal to submit to, take a look at these dates for a range of recent articles published in the journals you’re considering. While each article will have a slightly different timeline, this may help you to get an idea of how long publication may take.
A 360⁰ view of peer review
Peer review is a process that involves various players – the author, the reviewer and the editor to name a few. And depending on which of these hats you have on, the process can look quite different.
To help you uncover the 360⁰ peer review view, read these interviews with an editor, author, and reviewer.
If the editor asks you to revise your article, you will be given time to make the required changes before resubmitting.
When you receive the reviewers’ comments, try not to take personal offence to any criticism of your article (even though that can be hard).
Some researchers find it helpful to put the reviewer report to one side for a few days after they’ve read it for the first time. Once you have had chance to digest the idea that your article requires further work, you can more easily address the reviewer comments objectively.
When you come back to the reviewer report, take time to read through the editor and reviewers’ advice carefully, deciding what changes you will make to your article in response. Taking their points on board will make sure your final article is as robust and impactful as possible.
Please make sure that you address all the reviewer and editor comments in your revisions.
It may be helpful to resubmit your article along with a two-column grid outlining how you’ve revised your manuscript. On one side of the grid list each of the reviewers’ comments and opposite them detail the alterations you’ve made in response. This method can help you to order your thoughts, and clearly demonstrate to the editor and reviewers that you’ve considered all of their feedback.
If there are any review comments which you don’t understand or don’t know how to respond to, please get in touch with the journal’s editor and ask for their advice.
What if you don’t agree with the reviewers’ comments?
If there’s a review comment that you don’t agree with, it is important that you don’t ignore it. Instead, include an explanation of why you haven’t made that change with your resubmission. The editor can then make an assessment and include your explanation when the amended article is sent back to the reviewers.
You are entitled to defend your position but, when you do, make sure that the tone of your explanation is assertive and persuasive, rather than defensive or aggressive.
Gary McCulloch, Editor, British Journal of Educational Studies
What if my paper is rejected?
Nobody enjoys having their paper rejected by a journal, but it is a fact of academic life. It happens to almost all researchers at some point in their career. So, it is important not to let the experience knock you back. Instead, try to use it as a valuable learning opportunity.
Take time to understand why your paper has been rejected
If a journal rejects your manuscript, it may be for one of many reasons. Make sure that you understand why your paper has been rejected so that you can learn from the experience. This is especially important if you are intending to submit the same article to a different journal.
Are there fundamental changes that need to be made before the paper is ready to be published, or was this simply a case of submitting to the wrong journal? If you are unsure why your article has been rejected, then please contact the journal’s editor for advice.
Some of the common reasons manuscripts are rejected
The author has submitted their paper to the wrong journal: it doesn’t fit the aims & scope or fails to engage with issues addressed by the journal.
The manuscript is not a true journal article, for instance it is too journalistic or clearly a thesis chapter.
The manuscript is too long or too short.
There is poor regard of the journal’s conventions, or for academic writing in general.
Poor style, grammar, punctuation or English throughout the manuscript. Get English language editing assistance.
The manuscript does not make any new contribution to the subject.
The research has not been properly contextualized.
There is a poor theoretical framework used. There are actio nable recommendations to improve your manuscript .
The manuscript is poorly presented.
The manuscript is libelous or unethical.
Carefully consider where to submit next
When you made your original submission, you will probably have had a shortlist of journals you were considering. Return to that list but, before you move to your second choice, you may wish to assess whether any feedback you’ve received during peer review has changed your opinion. Your article may also be quite different if it has been through any rounds of revision. It can be helpful at this stage to re-read the aims & scope statements of your original shortlisted journals.
Once you have selected which journal to submit to next, make sure that you read through its information for authors and reformat your article to fit its requirements. Again, it is important to use the feedback from the peer review process to your advantage as you rewrite and reformat the manuscript.
Is ‘transferring’ an option?
A growing number of publishers offer a transfer or cascade service to authors when their paper is rejected. This process is designed for papers which aren’t suitable for the journal they were originally submitted to.
If your article falls into this category then one or more alternative journals from the same publisher will be suggested. You will have the option either to submit to one of those suggested journals for review or to withdraw your article.
If you choose to transfer your article this will usually save you time. You won’t need to enter all of the details into a new submission system. Once you’ve made any changes to your paper, bearing in mind previous editor or reviewer comments, the article will be submitted to the new journal on your behalf.
We have some more information about article transfers, including FAQs about the Taylor & Francis transfer process.
Why you should become a peer reviewer
When you’re not in the middle of submitting or revising your own article, you should consider becoming a reviewer yourself.
There are many demands on a researcher’s time, so it is a legitimate question to ask why some of that precious time should be spent reviewing someone else’s work. How does being a reviewer help you in your career? Here are some of the benefits.
Keep up with the latest thinking As a reviewer you get an early view of the exciting new research being done in your field. Not only that, peer review gives you a role in helping to evaluate and improve this new work.
Improve your own writing Carefully reviewing articles written by other researchers can give you an insight into how you can make your own work better. Unlike when you are reading articles as part of your research, the process of reviewing encourages you to think critically about what makes an article good (or not so good). This could be related to writing style, presentation, or the clarity of explanations.
Boost your career While a lot of reviewing is anonymous, there are schemes to recognize the important contribution of reviewers. You can also include reviewing work on your resume. Your work as a reviewer will be of interest to appointment or promotion committees who are looking for evidence of service to the profession.
Become part of a journal’s community Many journals act as the center of a network of researchers who are in conversation about key themes and developments in the field. Becoming a reviewer is a great way to get involved with that group. This can give you the opportunity to build new connections for future collaborations. Being a regular reviewer may also be the first step to becoming a member of the journal’s editorial board.
Your research community needs you
Of course, being a reviewer is not just about the benefits it can bring you. The Taylor & Francis peer review survey found that these are the top 3 reasons why researchers choose to review:
Being an active member of the academic community Peer review is the bedrock of academic publishing. The work of reviewers is essential in helping every piece of research to become as good as it can be. By being a reviewer, you will play a vital part in advancing the research area that you care about.
Reciprocating the benefit Researchers regularly talk about the benefits to their own work from being reviewed by others. Gratitude to the reviewers who have improved your work is a great motivation to make one’s own contribution of service to the community.
Enjoying being able to help improve papers Reviewing is often anonymous, with only the editor knowing the important contribution you’ve made. However, many reviewers attest that it is work that makes them feel good, knowing that they have been able to support a fellow researcher.
Mike J. Smith, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Maps
How to be an effective peer reviewer
Our popular guide to becoming a peer reviewer covers everything you need to know to get started, including:
How to become a peer reviewer
Writing review reports: step-by-step
Ethical guidelines for peer reviewers
Read the Taylor & Francis reviewer guidelines .
We hope you’ve found this short introduction to peer review helpful. For further useful advice check out the following resources.
Peer Review: the nuts and bolts A guide to peer review written by early career researchers, for early career researchers and published by Sense about Science.
A guide to becoming a peer reviewer An overview of what’s involved in becoming a reviewer for a Taylor & Francis journal.
Ethical guidelines for peer reviewer Produced by COPE, the Committee on Publication Ethics, setting out the standards all peer reviewers should follow.
Using peer review effectively: quick tips Advice available to staff and students at institutions with a Vitae membership.
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A beginner’s guide to the peer review system.
Thinking throught the Peer Review system, especially for first time writers.
Carolyn Trietsch is a PhD candidate in Entomology at Penn State. You can check out her research at the Frost Museum at Penn State or follow her on Twitter, @CarolynTrietsch .
I was thrilled to receive my first request to peer review a paper while working on my Ph.D. Then I realized I didn’t know how to peer review. It had never been covered in my classes, so I started asking around and sending emails, reaching out to my friends in other programs, but with little luck. As important as peer review is, it seems that few STEM programs actively teach students about how to navigate the peer review process and make the decisions involved, such as whether to accept or reject a paper for publication.
Fortunately, this is why we have mentors. I set up a meeting with a veteran peer reviewer and journal editor who was kind enough to spend an afternoon answering my questions and sharing important takeaways gleaned over years of experience. I realized that others could benefit from this advice, and I put together the following post from our discussion (with permission, of course, though my mentor wished to remain anonymous).
Here is some guidance for students, early career professionals and others who are new to the peer review system:
Why peer review? What do I get out of it?
The peer review system is the cornerstone of scientific research. Manuscripts cannot (and should not) be published in scientific journals until they have been verified by other experts in the field. Peer reviewers offer a valuable service––they strengthen papers by checking them for mistakes, anticipating potential problems or gaps in the research, and offering suggestions for how the manuscript can be improved, then ultimately decide whether the manuscript is ready for publication or not. Peer reviewers ensure the quality of the research being published, benefiting the greater scientific community and all those who depend on it.
Scientists are not usually paid to review articles—rather, they donate and volunteer their time as a professional service to their field. This is a way for scientists to ensure the quality of research being done in their field. This is also a way for scientists to give back to the scientific community, reviewing papers for others just as others have reviewed papers for them.
Scientists need to be able to read, analyze and critique scientific papers—that’s why so many qualifying and comprehensive exams test for these skills. The ability to critically review articles is crucial to practicing science and being an active member of the scientific community.
Saying yes or no to requests
After receiving a request to peer review an article, the first thing to do is to check out the journal the article was submitted to. Is the journal legitimate? Have you or others heard of the journal before? Be wary of emails that contain lots of misspellings or mistakes—these are classic signs of a scam or predatory journal.
Once you’ve determined that the journal is valid, take a look at the title and abstract of the paper. Is the field of research something you have experience in? Do you know enough about the subject to confidently evaluate the paper? If not, then reply to the journal editor promptly so they can find another reviewer. If you can think of someone who would be better to review the article, let the journal editor know. By doing this, you are helping to facilitate the peer review process and get manuscripts processed more quickly.
You do not need a doctorate, master’s, or even a bachelor’s to be an expert in a field. If you lack an education but have several years of professional experience that is directly applicable to the field, chances are good that you can provide valuable input to the work that was done or approach the work from a perspective that researchers may not have considered. However, students who are new to graduate school or new to the field (i.e. in the first 6 months) typically have not built up enough expertise to evaluate papers and should not act as peer reviewers until they have become more established.
Though you should review articles for others, just as others have reviewed articles for you, you do not have to review every article that comes into your inbox. If you’re overwhelmed with paper requests or deadlines and do not have time to give a manuscript the attention it needs, let the journal editor know so they can find another reviewer.
If you commit to reviewing a paper, it is your responsibility to finish it in a timely manner. Don’t let manuscripts sit in your email inbox for months––you are effectively delaying another scientist’s work by doing so.
Things to focus on when reviewing a paper
The main focus of a peer reviewer is the science. If you are a student, approach it in the same way as you would approach a paper for a class or exam: is the science valid? Do the methods make sense? Are the statistical tests appropriate to the study? Have the authors interpreted the data correctly and made valid conclusions? Also, check for what might be missing. Are there recent publications they have not discussed or taken into account in their paper? Take nothing for granted.
The purpose of a peer reviewer is typically not to fix grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or clunky language, but it does not hurt to point them out to the authors. Every mistake or impediment to successful communication caught early helps to improve the paper.
However, if you find that the manuscript is full of spelling, language-related or careless mistakes, chances are good that the manuscript was not ready to be sent to reviewers yet. It is perfectly acceptable to contact the editor and request that the manuscript be worked on further, or given to a native speaker of the language the paper is written in to fix it. Peer reviewers are not a free writing or editing service; it is the responsibility of the authors to ensure that their manuscript is free of mistakes and checked by a native speaker of the language the paper is written in.
Deciding whether or not to accept a paper
By the time you have gone through the paper, you should have a pretty good idea of whether the paper is acceptable or not. If there are major flaws in reasoning, multiple missing references, or any other evidence that the authors do not have a firm understanding of the field, then the paper should be rejected. Justify this decision with a written explanation to the editor of what is wrong with the paper and why you are rejecting it.
If the paper is scientifically sound but is missing an experiment or needs to have sections rewritten, it is appropriate to accept with major revision. Provide guidance to the authors and tell them what they need to do. Be patient and be prepared to work with the authors on further drafts until it is ready for publication.
If the paper is well-written and only needs a few tweaks or adjustments, recommend it to be accepted with minor revision. It is very rare for a paper to be accepted with no revision needed.
Don’t be reviewer #2
Some peer-review is double blind, meaning that the authors and the reviewers don’t know each other’s identities. However, the majority of peer review is single-blind, where the reviewers know the names of the authors, but the authors don’t necessarily know the identity of the reviewers.
When you review a paper, you can usually decide whether or not you want the authors to know who you are. Some prefer to remain anonymous, believing that it allows them to be more open and honest with their reviews, as well as helping to protect themselves against possible negative backlash. Others prefer to have their names known to the authors to promote transparency and fairness, as well as to hold themselves accountable for what they write in their reviews. The decision to remain anonymous or not is your choice, and may vary from situation to situation. If you’re unsure, ask around in your field and see what others have to say on the matter.
Whether you reveal your identity the the authors or not, you can still take credit for the time and work you put into the lengthy peer review process, and show how you are contributing to your field. Many keep a list of the reviews they have done, whether in a private document, on their CVs, or through public review-tracking platforms like Publon. Information about the number of peer reviews you have done is usually requested in promotion and tenure applications, so it’s important to keep track of what you have done.
If you decide to remain anonymous, don’t use this as an opportunity to leave your ethics at the door. Act professionally––your goal is to help the authors, not criticize them unnecessarily. If there are problems with the paper, explain them in detail to the authors and give examples from the manuscript text to support your explanation. Then, most importantly, tell the authors how they can fix the problems and improve the manuscript. You are here to promote science, not impede it.
How students can be proactive
Being asked to peer review your first paper is a thrilling moment in any young scientist’s career—it is an accomplishment that signifies that your reputation and expertise has grown to the point where others rely on you for your input. It is also a valuable opportunity to not only make a difference in your field, but also to continue to learn more, stay up to date in your field, and grow your own scientific career. If you are asked to review a paper but have questions, doubts or concerns, reach out to your advisor or others in your program for advice.
Even if you aren’t invited to peer review a paper yourself, it is likely that your advisor is inundated with requests. Ask your advisor if you could assist them with an article they are reviewing to gain insight and experience into how the process works. Peer-reviewing articles and evaluating research are skills that all scientists need, so take the initiative and be proactive in your professional development.
How advisors can help
Advisors can take the extra step by telling students about the types of papers they review, what their process is for managing requests and reviewing manuscripts, and how they decide whether to accept or reject a paper. One professor at Penn State even shares with his students old drafts of papers he has peer reviewed, and guides them through how he reviewed those papers. There are so many aspects of being a researcher that can go untaught (such as writing grants or lesson plans), and something as crucial to science as peer review should not be counted among these untaught subjects.
[ Image from Flickr user Mark Hample and used under the Creative Commons License .]
Carolyn trietsch, inside higher ed careers.
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Editing referees' reports, the peer-review system, peer-review publication policies, ethics and security, nature portfolio journals' editorials.
The following types of contribution to Nature Portfolio journals are peer-reviewed: Articles, Letters, Brief Communications, Matters Arising, Technical Reports, Analysis, Resources, Reviews, Perspectives and Insight articles. Correspondence and all forms of published correction may also be peer-reviewed at the discretion of the editors.
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If a reviewer does not have access to any published paper that is necessary for evaluation of a submitted manuscript, the journal will supply the reviewer with a copy. Under these circumstances, the reviewer should send the publication reference of the paper required to the editor who sent them the paper to review. The editor will obtain the paper, paying any necessary fees, and send it to the reviewer.
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We ask reviewers the following questions, to provide an assessment of the various aspects of a manuscript:
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We deplore any attempt by authors to confront reviewer or determine their identities. Our own policy is to neither confirm nor deny any speculation about reviewers' identities.
Double anonymized peer review
All Nature-branded journals and Communications journals offer a double-anonymized peer review option. Authors who choose this option at submission remain anonymous to the referees throughout the consideration process. The authors are responsible for anonymizing their manuscript accordingly; a checklist is provided to help with this process. More information is available in Editorials, including this Nature announcement and earlier publications related to trials that started in 2013 in Nature Geoscience and Nature Climate Change .
Several Nature journals (see list below) follow a transparent peer review system, publishing details about the peer review process as part of the publication (including the reviewer comments to the authors, author rebuttal letters, as well as the editorial decision letters in some cases). With the exception of Nature Communications, Communications Earth & Environment, and Communications Psychology , for which transparent peer review is applied to all published articles, authors are provided the opportunity to opt in to this scheme at the completion of the peer review process, before the paper is accepted. Please refer to the journal website for more information on the specific application of this policy. If the manuscript was transferred to us from another Nature Portfolio journal, we will not publish reviewer reports or author rebuttals of versions of the manuscript considered by the originating Nature Portfolio journal. The peer review file is published online as a supplementary peer review file. Although we hope that the peer review files will provide a detailed and useful view into our peer review process, it is important to note that these files will not contain all the information considered in the editorial decision making process, such as the discussions between editors or any confidential comments made by reviewers or authors to the editors. List of journals offering transparent peer review: Nature, Nature Communications, Communications Biology, Communications Chemistry, Communications Physics, Communications Earth & Environment, Communications Materials, Communications Medicine, Communications Psychology, Nature Biomedical Engineering, Nature Cell Biology, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Nature Human Behaviour, Nature Immunology, Nature Microbiology and Nature Structural & Molecular Biology.
As a matter of policy, we do not suppress reviewers' 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 reviewers to avoid statements that may cause needless offence; conversely, we strongly encourage reviewers to state plainly their opinion of a paper. Authors should recognize that criticisms are not necessarily unfair simply because they are expressed in robust language.
It is editors' experience that the peer-review process is an essential part of the publication process, which improves the manuscripts our journals publish. Not only does peer review provide an independent assessment of the importance and technical accuracy of the results described, but the feedback from referees conveyed to authors with the editors' advice frequently results in manuscripts being refined so that their structure and logic is more readily apparent to readers.
Nature Portfolio journals are appreciative of its peer-reviewers, of whom there are many tens of thousands. It is only by collaboration with our reviewers that editors can ensure that the manuscripts we publish are among the most important in their disciplines of scientific research. We appreciate the time that reviewers devote to assessing the manuscripts we send them, which helps ensure that Nature Portfolio journals publish only material of the very highest quality. In particular, many submitted manuscripts contain large volumes of additional (supplementary) data and other material, which take time to evaluate. We thank our reviewers for their continued commitment to our publication process.
Much has been written, in Nature Portfolio journals and elsewhere, on the peer-review system as a whole. Alternative systems have been proposed in outline: for example, signed peer-review, anonymized peer-review and open peer review. The system has been exhaustively studied, reported on, and assessed -- both positively and negatively.
Nature Portfolio journals' position on the value of the peer-review system is represented in the following extract from an editorial in Nature Immunology.
Reviewing peer review
The goals of peer review are both lofty and mundane. It is the responsibility of journals to administer an effective review system. Peer review is designed to select technically valid research of significant interest. Referees are expected to identify flaws, suggest improvements and assess novelty. If the manuscript is deemed important enough to be published in a high visibility journal, referees ensure that it is internally consistent, thereby ferreting out spurious conclusions or clumsy frauds.
One problem with manuscript selection is the inherent tension between referees and authors. Referees wish for only the most solid science to be published, yet when they 'switch hats' to that of author, they desire quick publication of their novel ideas and approaches. Authors of papers that blow against the prevailing winds bear a far greater burden of proof than normally expected in publishing their challenge to the current paradigm. Veering too far in one direction or the other leads to complaints either that peer review isn't stringent enough, or that it is stifling the freshest research. It is the job of the editors to try to avoid both extremes.
Journal editors do not expect peer review to ferret out cleverly concealed, deliberate deceptions. A peer reviewer can only evaluate what the authors chose to include in the manuscript. This contrasts with the expectation in the popular press that peer review is a process by which fraudulent data is detected before publication (although that sometimes happens).
We are continually impressed with peer review's positive impact on almost every paper we publish. Even papers that are misunderstood by reviewers are usually rewritten and improved before resubmission. Mistakes are made, but peer review, through conscientious effort on the part of referees, helps to protect the literature, promote good science and select the best. Until a truly viable alternative is provided, we wouldn't have it any other way.
The full text of this editorial is available through Nature Immunology.
In 2006, Nature published a comprehensive web focus on the peer review system . All articles in this focus are open for readers' comments via a link at the end of each article.
All contributions submitted to Nature Portfolio journals that are selected for peer review are sent to at least one, but usually two or more, independent reviewers, selected by the editors. Authors are welcome to suggest suitable independent reviewers and may also request that the journal excludes one or two individuals or laboratories. The journal sympathetically considers such requests and usually honours them, but the editor's decision on the choice of referees is final.
Editors, authors and reviewers are required to keep confidential all details of the editorial and peer review process on submitted manuscripts. Unless otherwise declared as a part of open peer review, the peer review process is confidential and conducted anonymously; identities of reviewers are not released. Reviewers must maintain confidentiality of manuscripts. If a reviewer wishes to seek advice from colleagues while assessing a manuscript, the reviewer must consult with the editor and should ensure that confidentiality is maintained and that the names of any such colleagues are provided to the journal with the final report. Regardless of whether a submitted manuscript is eventually published, correspondence with the journal, referees' reports and other confidential material must not be published, disclosed or otherwise publicised without prior written consent. Reviewers should be aware that it is our policy to keep their names confidential and that we do our utmost to ensure this confidentiality. We cannot, however, guarantee to maintain this confidentiality in the face of a successful legal action to disclose identity.
Nature Portfolio reserves the right to contact funders, regulatory bodies, journals and the authors’ institutions in cases of suspected research or publishing misconduct.
Nature Portfolio journal editors may seek advice about submitted papers not only from technical reviewers but also on any aspect of a paper that raises concerns. These may include, for example, ethical issues or issues of data or materials access. Very occasionally, concerns may also relate to the implications to society of publishing a paper, including threats to security. In such circumstances, advice will usually be sought simultaneously with the technical peer-review process. As in all publishing decisions, the ultimate decision whether to publish is the responsibility of the editor of the journal concerned.
Our most recent editorials on peer review
- Double-blind peer review is now available at all Nature Portfolio journals. Nature Biotechnology . Double-blind peer review, March 2015.
- Exploring avenues to optimize the peer- review process and improve author experience. Nature Cell Biology . Improving author experience, December 2014.
- Reporting on a double-blind peer review trial. Nature Geoscience. Peer-review variations , January 2014. Nature Climate Change . Blind stock-taking , January 2014.
- Advice on responding to criticism during and after peer review. Nature Methods . The way you say it , October 2013.
About the peer review process
- Exploring avenues to optimize the peer-review process and improve author experience. Nature Cell Biology. Improving author experience , December 2014.
- UK Parliament concludes that pre- publication peer review is vital and cannot be dismantled. Nature Cell Biology. UK Parliament comments on peer review, October 2011.
- Nature Photonics’ peer review process explained. Nature Photonics . All about review , August 2011.
- The role of editors and referees in peer review. Nature . There's a time to be critical , May 2011.
- Blogs complement the current system of peer review. Nature Medicine . Perfecting peer review? January 2011.
- How can peer review be improved? Nature Immunology . Support for peer review , December 2010.
- Seeking to optimize the peer-review system. Nature Neuroscience . Striving for excellence , January 2009.
- Nature Chemical Biology ’s peer review process explained. Nature Chemical Biology. Decoding decisions , December 2008.
- Nature Cell Biology 's peer review process, and planned enhancements. Nature Cell Biology. What to publish? March 2008.
- Peer-review for strong claims. Nature . Replicator review, November 2007.
- Nature Immunology ’s peer review process explained in light of a Nature open peer review trial. Nature Immunology. Under review , August 2006.
- Nature Methods ’s peer review process explained. Nature Methods . A method for peer review, a peer review for methods , May 2006.
- Nature Cell Biology ’s peer review process explained. Nature Cell Biology . Editorial procedures reviewed , July 2003.
- Assessing the efficacy of peer review. Nature Immunology . Reviewing peer-review , April 2003.
Excellence in peer review
- Peer review is an essential part of scientific discourse, and referees deserve formal recognition for the service they provide. Nature Methods . In praise of referees , August 2012.
- Highlighting the central elements of the ideal referee report. Nature Cell Biology . Reviewing refereeing, February 2011.
- What makes the ideal referee report? Nature Chemistry. The perfect peer , October 2011.
- Rewards for peer-reviewing, and what constitutes a good report. Nature Cell Biology . Good review , April 2008.
- What do we seek in reviewers? And how do we retain the best reviewers? Nature Medicine . Why review? August 2007.
Authors and peer review
- Responding to referee comments constructively improves the quality of published papers. Nature Neuroscience . Crafting a revision , August 2011.
- Conduct guide for authors responding to referees. Nature Chemistry. Revision notes , November 2010.
- When and how should an author appeal a rejection? Nature Immunology . Reviewing appeals, June 2007.
- Advice for authors responding to peer review. Nature Neuroscience . Making the most of peer-review, July 2000.
- Nature Biotechnology
- Nature Cell Biology
- Nature Chemical Biology
- Nature Communications
- Nature Genetics
- Nature Immunology
- Nature Materials
- Nature Medicine
- Nature Nanotechnology
- Nature Photonics
- Nature Physics
- Nature Structural and Molecular Biology
- Reporting on a double-blind peer review trial. Nature Geoscience . Peer-review variations , January 2014. Nature Climate Change . Blind stock-taking , January 2014.
- Announcing a double-blind peer review trial. Nature Geoscience . Double-blind peer review, June 2013. Nature Climate Change . Blind faith , June 2013.
- Should there be author anonymity in peer review? Nature . Working double-blind , 7 February 2008.
Open peer review
- Would published peer reviews benefit scientific debate? Nature Materials . Transparency in peer review, January 2011.
- In a recent trial Nature explored ways to improve the peer review system. Nature Cell Biology . Opening up peer review , January 2007.
- A brief discussion of fraud in light of the results of a Nature open peer review trial. Nature . Peer review and fraud , December 2006.
- Announcing an open peer review trial. Nature . Peer review on trial , June 2006. Nature Chemical Biology . Reviewing all options , August 2006.
- What are some arguments for and against open peer review? Nature Neuroscience . Pros and cons of open peer-review, March 1999.
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Applicants can use eRA Commons to:
- Find contact information for the assigned program and scientific review officers
- Find review meeting and council meeting dates
- Locate the priority score and summary statement after the application is reviewed
First Level of Review
A. peer review roles and meeting overview, scientific review officer :.
Each SRG is led by a Scientific Review Officer (SRO). The SRO is an NIH extramural staff scientist and the designated federal official responsible for ensuring that each application receives an objective and fair initial peer review, and that all applicable laws, regulations, and policies are followed.
- Analyze the content of each application, and check for completeness.
- Document and manage conflicts of interest.
- Authority in their scientific field
- Dedication to high quality, fair, and objective reviews
- Ability to work collegially in a group setting
- Experience in research grant review
- Balanced representation
- Assign applications to reviewers for critique preparation and assignment of individual criterion scores.
- Attend and oversee administrative and regulatory aspects of peer review meetings.
- Prepare summary statements for all applications reviewed.
- Serves as moderator of the discussion of scientific and technical merit of the applications under review.
- Also serves as a peer reviewer for the meeting.
- For details, see the Managing Conflict of Interest in NIH Peer Review of Grants and Contracts page
- Receive access to the grant applications approximately six weeks prior to the peer review meeting.
- Ensure they maintain the confidentiality of peer review information (See Integrity and Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review )
- Prepare a written critique (as directed by the Scientific Review Officer) for each application assigned, based on review criteria and judgment of merit.
- Assign a numerical score to each scored review criterion (see Review Criteria at a Glance ).
- Make recommendations concerning the scientific and technical merit of applications under review, in the form of final written comments and numerical scores.
- Make recommendations concerning protections for human subjects; inclusion of women, minorities, and children in clinical research; welfare of vertebrate animals; and other areas as applicable for the application (see guidance for reviewers on Human Subjects Protection and Inclusion , Human Embryonic Stem Cells , and Vertebrate Animals ).
- Make recommendations concerning appropriateness of budget requests (see Budget Information for Reviewers ).
Other NIH Staff
- Federal officials who have need-to-know or pertinent related responsibilities are permitted to attend closed review meetings.
- NIH Institute/Center staff or other federal staff members wishing to attend an SRG meeting must have advance approval from the responsible SRO. These individuals may provide programmatic or grants management input at the SRO's discretion.
- Must maintain the integrity of the peer review process by not contacting reviewers to influence the outcome of the review; not sending information directly to a reviewer; and not accessing information related to the review. There are consequences to any of these actions (See Integrity and Confidentiality in NIH Peer Review ).
B. Peer Review Criteria and Considerations
Review criteria for research grants and cooperative agreements (for criteria for other types of grants, like training grants, please see review criteria at a glance ).
The mission of the NIH is to support science in pursuit of knowledge about the biology and behavior of living systems and to apply that knowledge to extend healthy life and reduce illness and disability. Applications submitted in support of the NIH mission are evaluated for scientific and technical merit through the NIH peer review system. Overall Impact : Reviewers will provide an overall impact score to reflect their assessment of the likelihood for the project to exert a sustained, powerful influence on the research field(s) involved, in consideration of the following review criteria, and additional review criteria (as applicable for the project proposed).
Scored Review Criteria
- Study Timeline (specific to applications involving clinical trials)
- Protections for Human Subjects
- Inclusion of Women, Minorities, and Children
- Vertebrate Animals
- Applications from Foreign Organizations
- Select Agent
- Resource Sharing Plans
- Authentication of Key Biological and/or Chemical Resources
- Budget and Period Support
The NIH utilizes a 9-point rating scale (1 = exceptional; 9 = poor) for all applications; the same scale is used for overall impact scores and for criterion scores ( Scoring Guidance ). Before the SRG meeting, each reviewer assigned to an application gives a separate score for each of (at least) five review criteria (i.e., Significance, Investigator(s), Innovation, Approach, and Environment for research grants and cooperative agreements; see Review Criteria at a Glance ). For all applications the individual scores of the assigned reviewers and discussant(s) for these criteria are reported to the applicant. In addition, each reviewer assigned to an application gives a preliminary overall impact score for that application. In many review meetings, the preliminary scores are used to determine which applications will be discussed in full at the meeting. For each application that is discussed at the meeting, a final impact score is given by each eligible committee member (without conflicts of interest) including the assigned reviewers. Each member's score reflects his/her evaluation of the overall impact that the project is likely to have on the research field(s) involved. The final overall impact score for each discussed application is determined by calculating the mean score from all the eligible members' final impact scores, and multiplying the average by 10; the final overall impact score is reported on the summary statement. Thus, the final overall impact scores range from 10 (high impact) through 90 (low impact). Numerical impact scores are not reported for applications that are not discussed (ND), which may be reported as ++ on the face page of the summary statement and typically rank in the bottom half of the applications. Applicants just receiving their scores or summary statements should consult our Next Steps page for detailed guidance. Applicants seeking advice beyond that available online may want to contact the NIH Program Official listed at the top of the summary statement. An application may be designated Not Recommended for Further Consideration (NRFC) by the SRG if it lacks significant and substantial merit; presents serious ethical problems in the protection of human subjects from research risks; or presents serious ethical problems in the use of vertebrate animals, biohazards, and/or select agents. Applications designated as NRFC do not proceed to the second level of peer review (National Advisory Council/Board) because they cannot be funded.
D. Summary Statement
Applications that are not discussed at the meeting will be given the designation "ND" (which may be reported as ++ on the face page of the summary statement) as an overall impact score, but the applicant, as well as NIH staff, will see the written comments and scores from the assigned reviewers and discussants for each of the scored review criteria as feedback on their summary statement.
Understanding the Percentile
- For applications reviewed in ad hoc study sections, a different base may be used to calculate percentiles.
- All percentiles are reported as whole numbers.
- Only a subset of all applications receive percentiles. The types of applications that are percentiled vary across different NIH Institutes and Centers.
- The summary statement will identify the base that was used to determine the percentile.
NIH established a peer review appeal system (see NOT-OD-11-064 ) to provide investigators and applicant organizations the opportunity to seek reconsideration of the initial review results if, after consideration of the summary statement, they believe the review process was flawed for reasons of either bias of a reviewer, conflict of interest, absence of appropriate expertise, or factual errors by one or more reviewers that could have substantially altered the review outcome. This policy does not apply to appeals of the technical evaluation of R&D contract projects through the NIH peer review process, appeals of NIH funding decisions, or appeals of decisions concerning extensions of MERIT award.
Second Level of Review - Advisory Council or Board
Who reviews the application, recommendation process.
- NIH program staff members examine applications and consider the overall impact scores given during the peer review process, percentile rankings (if applicable) and the summary statements in light of the Institute/Center's priorities.
- Program staff provide a grant-funding plan to the Advisory Board/Council. Council members have access to applications and summary statements pending funding for that IC in that council round.
- Council members conduct a Special Council Review of grant applications from investigators who currently receive $1 million or more in direct costs of NIH funding to support Research Project Grants (see NOT-OD-12-140 ). This additional review is to determine if additional funds should be provided to already well-supported investigators and does not represent a cap on NIH funding.
- The Advisory Council/Board also considers the Institute/Center’s goals and needs and advises the Institute/Center director concerning funding decisions.
- The Institute/Center director makes final funding decisions based on staff and Advisory Council/Board advice.
Not Funded - Next Steps ?
The NIH receives thousands of applications for each application receipt round and competition for funding can be fierce. If the original application is not funded, applicants may resubmit the application, making changes that address reviewer concerns, or they may submit a new application. Once an applicant receives a summary statement, they are directed to information on Next Steps , and they may contact the NIH program official assigned to their application for guidance.
Fundable Score - Next Steps ?
Some of the ICs publish paylines as part of their funding strategies to guide applicants on their likelihood of receiving funding. Application scores can only be compared against the payline for the fiscal year when the application will be considered for funding, which is not necessarily the year when it was submitted. There may be a delay of several months to determine paylines at the beginning of fiscal years. If the application is assigned to an IC that does not announce a payline, the program official listed at the top of the summary statement may be able to provide guidance on the likelihood of funding. After the Advisory Council meeting, if an application results in an award, the applicant will be working closely with the program official of the funding Institute or Center on scientific and programmatic matters and a Grants Management Officer on budgetary or administrative issues. The Grants Management Specialist will contact the applicant to collect information needed to prepare the award. How to Volunteer to Be a Reviewer For those interested in volunteering on NIH review panels, please see:
- Becoming a Peer Reviewer page
For more details about Peer Review, visit Peer Review Policies & Practices .
This page last updated on: October 24, 2021
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How science REALLY works...
- Understanding Science 101
- Peer-reviewed journals are publications in which scientific contributions have been vetted by experts in the relevant field.
- Peer-reviewed articles provide a trusted form of scientific communication. Peer-reviewed work isn’t necessarily correct or conclusive, but it does meet the standards of science.
Scrutinizing science: Peer review
In science, peer review helps provide assurance that published research meets minimum standards for scientific quality. Peer review typically works something like this:
- A group of scientists completes a study and writes it up in the form of an article. They submit it to a journal for publication.
- The journal’s editors send the article to several other scientists who work in the same field (i.e., the “peers” of peer review).
- Those reviewers provide feedback on the article and tell the editor whether or not they think the study is of high enough quality to be published.
- The authors may then revise their article and resubmit it for consideration.
- Only articles that meet good scientific standards (e.g., acknowledge and build upon other work in the field, rely on logical reasoning and well-designed studies, back up claims with evidence , etc.) are accepted for publication.
Peer review and publication are time-consuming, frequently involving more than a year between submission and publication. The process is also highly competitive. For example, the highly-regarded journal Science accepts less than 8% of the articles it receives, and The New England Journal of Medicine publishes just 6% of its submissions.
Peer-reviewed articles provide a trusted form of scientific communication. Even if you are unfamiliar with the topic or the scientists who authored a particular study, you can trust peer-reviewed work to meet certain standards of scientific quality. Since scientific knowledge is cumulative and builds on itself, this trust is particularly important. No scientist would want to base their own work on someone else’s unreliable study! Peer-reviewed work isn’t necessarily correct or conclusive, but it does meet the standards of science. And that means that once a piece of scientific research passes through peer review and is published, science must deal with it somehow — perhaps by incorporating it into the established body of scientific knowledge, building on it further, figuring out why it is wrong, or trying to replicate its results.
PEER REVIEW: NOT JUST SCIENCE
Many fields outside of science use peer review to ensure quality. Philosophy journals, for example, make publication decisions based on the reviews of other philosophers, and the same is true of scholarly journals on topics as diverse as law, art, and ethics. Even those outside the research community often use some form of peer review. Figure-skating championships may be judged by former skaters and coaches. Wine-makers may help evaluate wine in competitions. Artists may help judge art contests. So while peer review is a hallmark of science, it is not unique to science.
- Science in action
- Take a sidetrip
What’s peer review good for? To find out, explore what happens when the process is by-passed. Visit Cold fusion: A case study for scientific behavior .
- To find out how to tell if research is peer-reviewed and why this is important, check out this handy guide from Sense About Science .
- Advanced: Visit the Visionlearning website for advanced material on peer review .
- Advanced: Visit The Scientist magazine to learn about how peer review benefits the people doing the reviewing .
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Copycats in science: The role of replication
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