The peer-review process for journal publication is essentially a quality control mechanism. It is a process by which experts evaluate scholarly works, and its objective is to ensure a high quality of published science. However, peer reviewers do not make the decision to accept or reject papers. They recommend a decision but decision-making authority rests solely with journal Editor-in-Chief or the journal’s Editorial Board.
Typically, after a paper is submitted to a journal, a journal Editor-in-Chief performs an initial check, screens the paper and decides whether or not to send it for full peer review. After the initial check, Editor-in-Chief sends it back to the author (desk rejection) or assigns Managing Editor who invites at least two reviewers. All reviews use a double-blind review process. Reviewers and journal editors are expected to provide comments and critiques in a confidential, constructive, prompt, and unbiased manner appropriate for their position of responsibility. Reviewers submit their recommendations to Managing Editor. Managing Editor makes a decision (Acceptance without changes / Acceptance with minor revisions / Conditional acceptance / Conditional rejection / Outright rejection) and notifies Editor-in-Chief who makes the final decision and notifies the author about final decision.
Reviewing process in steps:
Author submits manuscript with a request for Editor-in-Chief who performs the initial check.
2. Initial Screening
During the initial screening, journal editors mainly check the following:
- Does the paper fit the journal’s scope and aim?
- Will the paper be of interest to the readership?
- Is the paper of minimum acceptable quality?
- Is the content and writing good enough to make it worth reviewing?
- Is the paper compliant with the journal’s instructions for authors?
If the paper clearly lies outside the scope of the journal, then a rapid rejection allows the author to quickly find and submit their paper to another journal.
3. Double-blind Peer Review
Once a paper clears the initial screening, it is sent for double-blind peer review. Double-blind review proves means that the names of reviewers and authors are not revealed to each other. Generally, a minimum of 2 peer reviewers (up to 6) are chosen for the peer review. Peer reviewers are experts in their field that have a good track record of producing high-quality reviews. The peer review is completed once the reviewers send the journal a detailed report with their comments on the paper and their recommendation. Typically, the Editorial Board asks reviewers to complete their reviews within 3-4 weeks.
4. Final decision
The journal Editor-in-Chief or editorial board considers the feedback provided by the peer reviewers and arrives at a decision. The following are the most common decisions that are made:
- accept without any changes (acceptance): the journal will publish the paper in its original form
- accept with minor revisions (acceptance): the journal will publish the paper and asks the author to make small corrections
- accept after major revisions (conditional acceptance): the journal will publish the paper provided the authors make the changes suggested by the reviewers and/or editors
- revise and resubmit (conditional rejection): the journal is willing to reconsider the paper in another round of decision making after the authors make major changes
- reject the paper (outright rejection): the journal will not publish the paper or reconsider it even if the authors make major revisions.
5. Informing the Author
The last step in the review process is to inform the corresponding author about the results of the review process.