Reviewer Services Archives - ACS Axial | ACS Publications
Search
Close

How ACS Creates and Supports Trust in Research: Part 5

As the scientific community comes together to celebrate and recognize the importance of the peer review process and the value of peer reviewers this week, we also want to call attention to the individuals, initiatives, and areas of ACS Publications that are dedicated and committed to creating trust and integrity in research.

Follow along with this five-part series to learn about how ACS Publications develops, implements, and embeds research integrity along every step of the publishing and review process.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

Meet Prof. Tierui Zhang, Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry (TIPC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)

ACS Peer Review Week 2022 Part 5: Meet Tierui Zhang

We end this series with Prof. Tierui Zhang, Technical Institute of Physics and Chemistry (TIPC), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Prof. Zhang was selected because of the impressive number of ACS manuscripts he reviewed over the past year as well as being a highly cited author in the fields of chemistry and material sciences.

Find out how Prof. Zhang approaches the peer review process and read the advice he gives to fellow peer reviewers. Then take the ACS Reviewer Lab  “How Well Do You Know Peer Review? quiz to test your knowledge of the peer review process.

What is the one thing you frequently do before you sit down to start a review?

I make sure to look at the article title, author information to prevent conflict of interest, and the scope of the journal before I start reviewing the manuscript. I also plan my time so the submission date of my review will be as early as possible and according to the deadline and schedule the journal has set.

What are some challenges you experience as a peer reviewer?

For me, the main challenges are twofold. One is to have a sufficient understanding of the research field to which the article belongs, to have a clear understanding of its cutting-edge developments, and to be able to accurately evaluate the value of the work, such as whether similar works have been published, or whether the authors have omitted some important relevant references, etc.

Another challenge involves dedicating enough time to read through the whole manuscript at least twice, so as not to misread the author’s intentions and not miss important details. I think these two points are challenging to most reviewers in terms of expertise and time management, but only by doing this can we make an accurate assessment of the innovation and academic contribution of the submitted manuscript.

What would you tell someone if they asked you why they should be a Peer Reviewer?

Reviewing manuscripts is very helpful to researchers. Not only can they get a first-hand look at the latest developments in the related fields, thereby broadening their research thinking, but they can also clearly grasp the key factors that they need to pay attention to during the review process. Being a peer reviewer can improve the quality of their own manuscripts.

What is your advice for those who are just starting out as peer reviewers?

Peer reviewers need to take their responsibility seriously, and develop their skills by learning from excellent reviews. They need to treat each manuscript with care and respect. When rejecting a manuscript, the reasons should be clear, thoughtful, and productive.

Remember that review comments cannot be given without reading the article carefully a number of times, and vague comments shouldn’t be given without explanation. Reviewers should focus their assessments on the innovation and academic contribution of the work while paying attention to the reproducibility of the experiment and referring textual errors to the editor.

Learn More About Prof. Zhang

How Well Do You Know Peer Review?

Peer Review Week 2022 Quiz

Whether you accomplish 365 reviews or are invited to review one manuscript over the course of the year, your contribution and impact are still significant, valuable, and essential to supporting and creating trust in research as part of the research and publishing processes.

Take the ACS Publications How Well Do You Know Peer Review? quiz to test your knowledge of the peer review process.

Take the Quiz!

How ACS Creates and Supports Trust in Research: Part 4

As the scientific community comes together to celebrate and recognize the importance of the peer review process and the value of peer reviewers this week, we also want to call attention to the individuals, initiatives, and areas of ACS Publications that are dedicated and committed to creating trust and integrity in research.

Follow along with this five-part series to learn about how ACS Publications develops, implements, and embeds research integrity along every step of the publishing and review process.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

Meet Dr. Sofia Garakyaraghi, Senior Managing Editor, ACS Central Science 

ACS Peer Review Week 2022 Part 4: Meet Kathy Canul

Dr. Sofia Garakyaraghi is the Senior Managing Editor of ACS Central Science and also oversees the Transparent Peer Review Pilot. In this segment, we asked Sofia for her input and perspective on the pilot and how it supports accessibility, ethics, and trust in the peer review and publishing process.

What is the importance of transparent peer review?

Transparent peer review provides readers with insights into the scientific dialogue between authors and reviewers. Not only does this highlight the critical role of reviewers and peer review in assessing data and claims and shaping the quality of research output, but it is also of significant benefit to the broader scientific community as it allows readers to understand the scientific questions raised by reviewers and the responses to those questions by authors, providing much greater context behind the final article. The greater context and transparency can serve to strengthen trust in the peer review process and system in general.

What are the benefits of transparent peer review?

Transparent peer review has fantastic pedagogical value, especially for new and early-career researchers. Peer reviewing is both educational and instructive for both the reviewer and the author and by publishing these exchanges alongside the article, these educational opportunities extend to readers. Readers can now learn from these constructive exchanges and also make their own interpretations of the rigor of the peer review process on an individual article level. 

Transparent peer review also fosters collegiality throughout the review process and may help to address the author’s concern about bias in peer review.

How does the transparent peer review pilot help support, uphold, and influence research integrity at ACS?

Peer review is the cornerstone of scientific publishing and underpins the quality and trust in scholarly literature. This makes peer review integral to our collective ability to trust research. As global research output continues to grow in quantity, unfortunately so do instances of retractions and reports of manipulated peer review. Growing awareness of these issues in the published literature has resulted in some scientists losing confidence in peer review. Transparent peer review can strengthen trust in peer review as the higher level of transparency allows readers to judge the content and quality of the peer review process itself. Publication of the peer review reports may also increase accountability amongst authors, reviewers, and editors alike. Increased transparency and accountability together may even improve the rigor and collegiality of peer review as well. 

The ACS Transparent Peer Review Pilot is currently active in two journals, ACS Central Science and The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters. ACS Publications recognizes peer review as a critical element of our journals program as part of ACS’ commitment to exploring new ways of conducting peer review to better serve our community and demonstrate our commitment to open science. 

About the ACS Transparent Peer Review Pilot

Upcoming Peer Review Week Events

Make sure to follow along on ACS Axial for the final part of this series featuring an interview with Prof. Tieru Zhang, one of ACS Publications’ Top Peer Reviewers over the past year, and a quiz to test your knowledge about Peer Review in Part 5 of this five-part series tomorrow!  

How ACS Creates and Supports Trust in Research: Part 3

As the scientific community comes together to celebrate and recognize the importance of the peer review process and the value of peer reviewers this week, we also want to call attention to the individuals, initiatives, and areas of ACS Publications that are dedicated and committed to creating trust and integrity in research.

Follow along with this five-part series to learn about how ACS Publications develops, implements, and embeds research integrity along every step of the publishing and review process.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

Meet Dr. Kathy Canul, ACS Ombudsperson

ACS Peer Review Week 2022 Part 3: Meet Kathy Canul

Dr. Canul was appointed as the first-ever ACS Ombudsperson in November 2021. The ACS Ombudsperson is an independent, impartial, off-the-record, and confidential channel for concerns regarding the peer review process.

The purpose of the Ombudsperson is to serve as an independent liaison between ACS Publications and the chemistry community to address concerns about Editors, Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) members, or reviewers regarding the peer review process.

We asked Kathy about her role at ACS, how it supports research integrity, and how she approaches her responsibilities to the ACS publishing community.

In a nutshell, what does your role as Ombudsperson at ACS entail?

The ACS Publications Ombudsperson role is new as of November 2021 and was established to address questions, problems, and conflicts regarding the peer review process. The concerns may involve Editors, Editorial Advisory Board members, or reviewers, and include issues related to suspected bias or discrimination, handling of the peer review process, mismanagement of appeals, and concerns around scientific misconduct. The Ombudsperson is an independent, impartial, and confidential resource who works at an informal level, independent of formal organizational structures.

As the ACS Ombudsperson, how does your work support, uphold, and influence research integrity at ACS?

As a confidential resource, the Ombudsperson may hear concerns surrounding research integrity and offer guidance on finding a means to stop and/or correct actions that could jeopardize the integrity of an author’s, editor’s, or reviewer’s responsibilities.

What do you like most about what you do?

I enjoy helping people find solutions to struggles experienced in their professional lives. We invest so much of our time, energy, and commitment to work, and when we face conflicts, problems, or inequity it can be demoralizing and anxiety-provoking. Having someone to share your struggles with is a great option to tackle what seems insurmountable at the moment.

What is the most important piece of advice you can give to a peer reviewer when it comes to maintaining and upholding integrity in research during the peer review process?

Sometimes we get so caught up in fulfilling our individual responsibilities for a role or job that we forget there is a larger scope to what we do. Science goes beyond publishing.  Upholding integrity in research is paramount to the dissemination of discoveries and knowledge for the betterment of our world and humanity.

Learn More About the ACS Ombudsperson

Upcoming Peer Review Week Events

Make sure to follow along on ACS Axial to meet Dr. Sofia Garakyaraghi and hear her thoughts on the ACS Transparent Peer Review Pilot in Part 4 of this five-part series tomorrow! 

How ACS Creates and Supports Trust in Research: Part 2

As the scientific community comes together to celebrate and recognize the importance of the peer review process and the value of peer reviewers this week, we also want to call attention to the individuals, initiatives, and areas of ACS Publications that are dedicated and committed to creating trust and integrity in research.

Follow along with this five-part series to learn about how ACS Publications develops, implements, and embeds research integrity along every step of the publishing and review process.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

Meet Prof. Marc Hillmyer, ACS Publications Ethics Committee Chair and Editor-in-Chief of Macromolecules

ACS Peer Review Week 2022 Part 2: Meet Marc Hillmyer

For the second part of this five-part series, we spoke with Prof. Marc Hillmyer, the current ACS Publication Ethics Committee (APEC) Chair. Marc is currently the Editor-in-Chief of the ACS journal Macromolecules and previously served as an Associate Editor for the journal from 2008–2017. He is also the director of the NSF Center for Sustainable Polymers, a National Science Foundation Center for Chemical Innovation headquartered at the University of Minnesota.

We asked Marc to share how his current roles as the ACS Publication Ethics Committee Chair and as an ACS journal editor influence and contribute to the collective foundation at ACS that supports research integrity and what advice he may have for Peer Reviewers.

What is the overall mission of the ACS Publications Ethics Committee (APEC)?

In short, the ACS Publications Ethics Committee is charged with evaluation, analysis, and most importantly, updating the ACS Publications Ethical Guidelines to reflect modern publishing and relevant ethical considerations for readers, reviewers, authors, editors, and Society.

What are the major challenges you have seen concerning maintaining and staying current with research integrity?

Research integrity has been critical to the scientific enterprise from the beginning. Trust in science and the scientific method are so critical in our modern society with the spread of misinformation (for example through social media) and mistrust of scientists/science (for example during the pandemic).

Providing frameworks, oversight, guidelines, and education focused on achieving and maintaining the highest level of research integrity is as important as ever. In particular, I think that publication ethics education is so important, and we need to continue to be sure to reach out to younger researchers and help them understand best ethical practices as they pertain to research integrity and publishing.

What advice would you give peer reviewers on how to approach, consider, and fulfill ethical responsibilities when reviewing manuscripts?

The first thing that comes to mind is the preservation of confidentiality in the peer review process. Editors ask reviewers to not only review a manuscript but also to not share the results or content of the manuscript with others (without permission). Moreover, the reviewers should not share with others (including the authors) that they were the reviewer of a particular manuscript. This connects with bias in peer review (e.g., I just positively reviewed your paper, so when you review mine…), and allows reviewers to be more open and candid in their assessment. There is much more I could write in this category, but I would point reviewers to the ACS Publications Ethical Guidelines and ask them to review it prior to the next peer reviewing assignment they receive!

If a researcher has received an invitation to review an article where they believe there may be a conflict, what is an important question or questions they can ask themselves when deciding whether to accept or reject?

Is there an actual conflict (I currently collaborate with the authors, the authors are at my institution, I am related to one of the authors, etc.), a possible conflict (I work in the area that is the subject of the manuscript, the author was a collaborator 10 years ago, I have met this author at a meeting and we discussed the work, the author was in my research group when I was a student), or a possible appearance of a conflict that encompasses elements of the above scenarios? 

Basically, the onus is on the reviewer. The reviewer has to decide if a prior or current situation could bias their judgment of the manuscript. If the answer is yes, the reviewer should return the manuscript and let the editor know why they are doing so. If the reviewer has any doubts, I’d encourage them to alert the editor to the potential conflict, and the Editor can help to determine if the reviewer should recuse themselves from reviewing the submitted work.

What do you find most satisfying about the work you do as both the APEC Chair and Editor-in-Chief of Macromolecules, and how does each influence the other?

I very much appreciate the opportunity I have had to lead the newly formed APEC. It has allowed me to think more deeply about ethical issues and help guide the community along with a wonderfully thoughtful, highly engaged, and experienced group of other editors on the committee. Leading Macromolecules has been a highlight of my career, and I have a strong sense of responsibility to the journal, its readers, authors, reviewers, and editors to keep it at the top of the polymer publishing world while upholding the highest standards of ethics!

Upcoming Peer Review Week Events

If you want to hear more from Marc, register below to join in the conversation tomorrow (Wednesday, September 21) from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST to further discuss how we can all create and support trust in scientific research. The webinar is free for all to attend. 

Register for the Webinar

Make sure to follow along on ACS Axial to learn about the ACS Ombudsperson, Dr. Kathy Canul in Part 3 of this five-part series tomorrow.

How ACS Creates and Supports Trust in Research: Part 1

As the scientific community comes together to celebrate and recognize the importance of the peer review process and the value of peer reviewers this week, we also want to call attention to the individuals, initiatives, and areas of ACS Publications that are dedicated and committed to creating trust and integrity in research.

Follow along with this five-part series to learn about how ACS Publications develops, implements, and embeds research integrity along every step of the publishing and review process.

Part 1  Part 2  Part 3  Part 4  Part 5

Meet Shaina Lange, Manager, ACS Publishing Integrity Office

ACS Peer Review Week 2022 Part 1: Meet Shaina Lange

We are opening this series by highlighting ACS Publications’ Publishing Integrity Office, and Shaina Lange who manages the office.

The Publishing Integrity Office was formally established in 2021, bringing together a team of experts responsible for supporting equitable, reproducible, and ethical research publications across the ACS journal portfolio. This office is part of the Research Integrity and Global Developments unit, charged with advancing and upholding quality standards to ensure trust and reproducibility in ACS journals.

The individuals, initiatives, and programs featured throughout this five-part series are interconnected with the work of the Publishing Integrity Office. Together, they support ACS Publications’ holistic approach to research integrity and demonstrate the community it takes to create and support trust in research on a global scale.

What is the role of the Publishing Integrity Office in ACS Publications?

The Publishing Integrity Office is made up of several expert staff responsible for publication ethics, data availability and reproducibility, and diversity, equity, inclusion, and respect (DEIR) at ACS journals. We work in several capacities in these areas: maintaining and developing portfolio-wide policies and guidelines; providing training and educational resources for staff, editors, authors, and reviewers; advising and supporting staff and editors on reported issues and questions; and collaborating with other organizations to drive change in the research and scholarly communications communities.

How does the Publishing Integrity Office engage with other ACS Publications staff, editors, and external collaborators?

Our work requires an incredibly close partnership with other ACS Publications teams, journal editors, and journal support staff all of whom prioritize research integrity in their roles. We often work with these stakeholders to address potential ethical or scientific issues in submitted manuscripts and published articles and to ensure adherence to policies and best practices, including the ACS Ethical Guidelines to Publication of Chemical Research, the ACS Research Data Policy and Data Guidelines, and industry standards.

The Publishing Integrity Office also leads targeted initiatives to support equity and integrity in the peer review and publishing processes, including efforts to improve the diversity of journal contributors and minimize bias. Acknowledging that all of our processes and systems need to advance trust in our published research, we’re often asked to consult on projects in other areas of the publishing program such as the Transparent Peer Review Pilot which you will hear more about later in this series.

The theme of Peer Review Week 2022 is Research Integrity: Creating and Supporting Trust in Research. What initiatives have the Publishing Integrity Office undertaken recently to create and support trust in ACS’ published research? 

Creating and supporting trust is an essential component of everything the Publishing Integrity Office does. Notably, we have taken several critical steps in the last year to ensure the results reported in our journals are verifiable, reproducible, and easily accessible to researchers. The ACS Research Data Policy and an evolving set of Research Data Guidelines were released in 2021, and we continue to progress in our policy levels with a Data Availability Statement Pilot launched just last week. Read this editorial to learn more about why data availability and data availability statements are crucial to maintaining trust in research.

What has surprised you most about your role and the work the Publishing Integrity Office does? 

As someone who stepped into the scholarly publishing industry from another field (and eventually into a role dedicated to publishing integrity), I was pleasantly surprised and deeply inspired by the impact our work can have on an individual’s professional career and personal well-being. Our Author Name Change Policy, for example, was launched in late 2020 to offer an inclusive and respectful option for authors to change their names on prior publications with the ACS. Nearly 400 publications have been updated under this policy to date, which has enabled dozens of authors to receive proper credit for their work and reduced barriers to professional mobility.

Research integrity is embedded in the foundation of ACS Publications’ peer review and publishing process. The ACS Publishing Integrity Office is vital to supporting the global research community and the advancement of trusted science through the promotion of equitable, reproducible, and ethical publication policies and practices. 

Learn more about the ACS Publishing Integrity Office here

Make sure to follow along by signing up for notifications and learn about the role of the ACS Ethics Committee Chair, Prof. Marc Hillmyer in Part 2 of this five-part series tomorrow.

You can also REGISTER HERE to join in the conversation with Marc Hillmyer on Wednesday, September 21 from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm EST to further discuss how we can all create and support trust in scientific research.

ACS Reviewer Lab is Now Part of the ACS Institute

ACS Reviewer Lab, a flagship learning course from ACS Publications, is now available on the ACS Institute. The ACS Institute is a comprehensive learning platform providing educational opportunities spanning topics such as scientific communication, lab safety, and professional development. ACS Reviewer Lab will remain free to all learners.

With this transition, ACS Reviewer Lab features an all-new experience with narration and interactive elements to guide you through the key concepts of peer review. The course was also designed with accessibility in mind, and we have updated and expanded the downloadable resources that summarize each module. You will find the same six modules and rigorous final assessment, which unlocks when the content in all other modules has been viewed.

Whether you are new to peer review, looking to sharpen your skills, or actively mentoring the next generation of reviewers, ACS Reviewer Lab is a great resource!

For more information about ACS Reviewer Lab and everything the ACS Institute has to offer, please visitinstitute.acs.orgtoday!

Celebrating Peer Review Week 2021 

This week marks the 7th annual Peer Review Week (September 20 – 24), an annual global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality.

Peer Review Week 2021 is dedicated to the theme of “identity”, highlighting the role of personal and social identity in peer review and ways the scholarly community can foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive peer review practices.

ACS Publications would like to thank all our peer reviewers. We appreciate your hard work and dedication to ensuring the highest scientific standards associated with ACS journals.

Here’s what’s going on during Peer Review Week 2021:

Attend an ACS on Campus webinar

Celebrate Peer Review Week with ACS on Campus! Join Inorganic Chemistry Editor-in-Chief William B. Tolman on September 21to learn about the best (and worst!) practices for peer review in your publishing process. All researchers of the sciences, not just chemistry, are encouraged to sign up for this free webinar!

Find out more information and register for free

Suggest reviewers to improve your manuscript

In this Journal of Physical Chemistry C editorial, Anastassia N. Alexandrova and Gregory V. Hartland provide tips for suggesting reviewers that will help you get constructive comments to improve the scientific content and impact of your manuscript.

Read the full editorial

Learn more about peer review with ACS Author University

Learn more about the peer review process in these expert videos. ACS editors share advice on how to be a reviewer and tips for reviewing, including how to structure a review and typical reviewing criteria.

Watch the Videos

Sign up for ACS Reviewer Lab

ACS Reviewer Lab is a free online course created to help educate researchers on the fundamentals of scholarly peer review.

Whether you are new to peer review, looking to sharpen your skills, or actively mentoring the next generation of reviewers, ACS Reviewer Lab is a great resource.

Take the Course Today

Get ACS Reviewer Credit

ACS Reviewer Credit allows reviewers to receive credit for their hard work and contributions to the peer review process through a collaboration with ORCID.

Reviewers are able to receive one credit on their ORCID account for all review activity associated with each manuscript reviewed for a given journal.

Learn More

Track and manage reviews with the ACS Publishing Center

The ACS Publishing Center is the centralized hub for authors and reviewers to prepare and track their submitted manuscripts. Customized to the individual researcher, it allows you to view the status of your submitted work and any manuscripts you may be reviewing.

Visit the ACS Publishing Center

Advance Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Respect (DEIR)

ACS Publications is committed to making peer review equitable and inclusive for everyone. Over the past year, we have taken several steps to advance DEIR in our journals – many of which we continue to progress.

Learn more about ACS Publications’ DEIR efforts and resources.

As an essential first step to understanding our position and identifying areas where we need to improve representation, this year we began to collect self-reported demographic data from authors, reviewers, editors, and advisors. We are pleased to share some preliminary results from that survey, below. As we continue to gather and analyze data from our community, we will share more information on trends and areas for us to increase the diversity of all contributors to our journals, including our collective group of peer reviewers.

Click to download a high-quality PDF.

Peer Review Week 2020 – What You Need to Know

This week marks the 6th annual Peer Review Week (September 21 – 25), an annual global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality.

Peer Review Week 2020 is dedicated to the theme of “Trust in Peer Review,” highlighting how the peer review process works and why this helps to build trust in research.

ACS Publications would like to thank all our peer reviewers. We appreciate your hard work and dedication to ensuring the highest scientific standards associated with ACS journals.

Here what ACS Publications is offering this Peer Review Week:

Peer Review webinar

Join the ACS on Campus team and Pamela Tadross, Associate Editor of Organic Process Research & Development, for a rebroadcast of the webinar “Peer Review – Why, How-to and What Not to Do!” at 10 A.M. on Friday, September 25.

In this webinar, you can expect to learn:

  • What editors look for when reviewing submissions
  • Tips for responding to reviewer reports
  • Strategies to evaluate a manuscript
  • Training courses to help you become a reviewer

Register for the webinar.

Peer Review and You

To mark Peer Review Week 2020, Pamela Tadross, Associate Editor of Organic Process Research & Development, has written a special Axial post on the peer review process, you can read her post “Peer-Review and You: How It Works and Why Its Success Depends on Reviewers Like You” here.

2020 Reviewer Awards

I&EC Research is thrilled to announce this year’s 2020 Reviewer Awards! For the fifth year, the global team of editors recognizes reviewers who have made especially notable contributions to the journal. Join us in congratulating these 35 individuals.

ACS Editor’s Thank Peer Reviewers

Editors from Environmental Science & Technology, Analytical Chemistry, and Organometallics would like to thank their reviewers in this short video from ACS Publications.

ACS Reviewer Lab

ACS Reviewer Lab is a free online course created to help educate researchers on the fundamentals of scholarly peer review.

Whether you are new to peer review, looking to sharpen your skills, or actively mentoring the next generation of reviewers, ACS Reviewer Lab is a great resource.

Take the course today.

ACS Reviewer Credit

ACS Reviewer Credit allows reviewers to receive credit for their hard work and contributions to the peer review process through a collaboration with ORCID.

Reviewers are able to receive one credit on their ORCID account for all review activity associated with each manuscript reviewed for a given journal.

Learn more.

Track and manage reviews with the ACS Publishing Center

The ACS Publishing Center is the centralized hub for authors and reviewers to prepare and track their submitted manuscripts. Customized to the individual researcher, it allows you to view the status of your submitted work and any manuscripts you may be reviewing.

Visit the ACS Publishing Center.

Peer-Review and You: How It Works and Why Its Success Depends on Reviewers Like You

The peer-review process can appear intimidating and complex. However, it is an essential element of scientific publishing, ensuring that a manuscript is relevant and suitable for publication and upholding scientific integrity. Peer review helps to maintain high standards for published research. This post will walk you through the peer-review process, show you how reviewers are critical to the success of the process, and give you the tools to become a reviewer.

Peer review is the practice of subjecting scholarly work to the scrutiny of experts in the field (i.e., you, the reviewers) with the goal of validating and improving the content before publication. The peer-review process covers every aspect of your scientific contribution, including your approach to the problem, experimental design, execution of your studies, interpretation of your results, and your scholarly presentation and effectiveness of communication. If you’ve authored a scientific publication, you’ve benefitted from the peer-review process.

The peer-review process starts when you submit your manuscript to the journal through a system such as Paragon Plus, as shown in the flow diagram below. Once submitted, the process begins with a series of pre-screening steps by the editorial office, the Editor-in-Chief, and Associate Editors. Upon passing those evaluations, the manuscript is then sent to reviewers for feedback. Once the feedback has been received, the Associate Editor determines whether to reject the manuscript, accept without revision, or return it to the authors for revision (multiple times if necessary). If a revision is successful in addressing reviewer feedback, the manuscript will ultimately be accepted for publication by the journal.

Credit: ACS on Campus Peer Review Module

Learn More About the Individual Step in the Peer Review Process:

Editorial Pre-Screening

After initial checks by the journal editorial office, the Editor-in-Chief (EiC) evaluates the manuscript to ensure that it fits the scope of the journal, has novelty and urgency, has technical validity, and is of high quality. This pre-screening process is critical to not overburden the reviewer pool and to ensuring timely decisions on manuscripts. Manuscripts not meeting the standards of the journal can be rejected at this point in the process. Meanwhile, those deemed acceptable are assigned to Associate Editors for further screening and action. It is worth noting that the Associate Editors can also determine whether a manuscript meets journal standards, rejecting the manuscript if necessary. Once the assigned Associate Editor determines the manuscript warrants further review, they move on to the next step in the process: selecting reviewers.

Selecting Reviewers

Reviewers are drawn from two different sources: an independent pool of experts maintained by the journal and preferred reviewers recommended by the authors of the manuscript. Regardless of the source of the reviewer, the Associate Editor selects reviewers based on their broad knowledge and understanding of the field; their technical expertise to evaluate the experiments, data, and interpretation; and their ability to offer constructive, fair, and unbiased opinions of the manuscript. As an author, when selecting your preferred reviewers, you should be sure to avoid friends, collaborators, or anyone who could have a conflict of interest.

Reviewers are given a specific (yet, flexible) due date to submit their feedback to the Associate Editor to maintain reasonable timelines for decision-making. Once a sufficient number of reviews have been received, the Associate Editor moves to the next step: making a decision.

Making a Decision

The Associate Editor has several decisions for which they can opt, but they generally fall into three main categories: accept, reject, and revise. To determine which path is most appropriate, the Associate Editor first reads and analyzes each reviewer report alongside the manuscript. Associate Editors will specifically look to see if the manuscript requires revisions or additional experiments to address reviewer feedback and concerns. Once the decision is made, it is communicated to the corresponding authors of the manuscript.

If the decision is to accept the manuscript, no further revision is required, and the manuscript proceeds as is to the publishing office. A decision to accept may come after the initial round of peer-review, or more frequently, following one or more rounds of revision.

If the reviewers provided generally positive feedback but indicated that the manuscript requires some level of revision or addition of new experiments and data, a decision for either major or minor revisions will be communicated. Typically, a decision for major revisions provides the authors more time to address the feedback and will often require additional reviewer feedback following revision to ensure the feedback has been adequately addressed. Several rounds of review and revision may be required to ensure the manuscript meets the journal standards and sufficiently addresses the reviewer’s comments before ultimate acceptance.

Finally, if the majority of the reviewer feedback indicates that the manuscript is not suitable for the journal and will not be improved sufficiently upon revision, a manuscript will typically be rejected. In select situations where a manuscript is rejected primarily based on journal scope and fit, a rejection may be accompanied by an offer to transfer the manuscript to a more suitable journal within the same publishing group. This can be a fantastic way to reduce review time at the new journal by leveraging feedback already provided during the first review with the original journal.

Successfully Dealing with Rejection

From the flow diagram of the peer-review process, you’ll see that there are several decision points where a manuscript may be rejected by either an Editor-in-Chief or Associate Editor. Receiving a rejection can be demoralizing, disappointing, and stressful. Many authors, myself included, have had (multiple) manuscripts communicating years of effort rejected by scientific journals throughout their careers. While your initial reaction might be to feel angry or defensive, there is always the opportunity to successfully lead a rejection toward a positive outcome. Making lemons out of lemonade depends on understanding why your manuscript was rejected by the journal.

If an Editor-in-Chief or Associate editor determined during pre-screening that the manuscript did not meet the journal’s defined scope or standards and you disagree with the decision, you may contact the editorial office and request an explanation. It is possible to appeal the decision if you believe that the significance of your work has been overlooked, but doing so is uncommon and should be done judiciously.

If your manuscript has been rejected after peer-review, it is sometimes best to take a step back after reading the reviewers’ comments to refocus on the science. Approach the comments with a growth mindset and ask yourself how you could improve the content of your manuscript and the communication of that content to your intended audience. Update your manuscript and resubmit to either the same journal or a different one better suited for your work.

Responding to Reviewer Comments

When you receive reviewer comments on your manuscript, you’ll need to address them through the revision process promptly. Whether you add new experiments or update the text to better explain the existing content, you’ll need to provide a point-by-point rebuttal of all the reviewer comments with your revised manuscript.

When I read reviewer comments, I try to approach them with a mindset focused on the audience’s experience and understanding of the manuscript. Essentially, a reviewer’s feedback represents a gap between what my manuscript communicates at the moment and what I want the manuscript to communicate about my research. In revising a manuscript, I think about how I can best bring the audience closer to my intended message and experience. By helping the audience see your research the way you see it, you will more effectively communicate your achievements and improve the impact of your work.

How to Become a Reviewer

If you’ve made it this far, you’ve hopefully noticed that the reviewers are the engine of the peer-review process. Sustainability of the peer-review process depends on journals and editors cultivating a broad pool of independent experts. Three ways to become a reviewer are to establish your expertise in your field, seek out training and practice, and advocate for yourself. By authoring your own published research, attending conferences, networking, and building an online presence, you can enhance your standing and expertise in the scientific community.

The ACS Reviewer Lab is a free online training course that offers hands-on training for new reviewers. Upon completion of the training, it will be reflected in your ACS Publications profile in Paragon Plus that editors like myself can see when selecting reviewers for new manuscripts. Finally, you can advocate for yourself with your research advisors or colleagues in your network. They can list you as suitable alternative reviewers when they are unable to accept an invitation. Reach out to journals directly to indicate your interest in reviewing manuscripts, including your CV and publication record. Serving as a reviewer is one of the most rewarding professional activities available in our field, often bringing you tangential benefits as an author as well.

Anatomy of a Good Review

This table highlights the elements editors expect when receiving feedback from a reviewer on a manuscript.

Credit: ACS on Campus Peer Review Module

In general, the information included in a review is visible to both the authors and the editors with one exception. There is space allocated to share comments only with the editor; some examples of what may be included in this section is information regarding potential conflicts of interest, scientific misconduct, or if you reviewed the manuscript for another journal.

Conclusions

Ultimately, the reliability and sustainability of the peer-review process depend on you, the reviewers, to provide feedback for authors to improve the quality and effectiveness of scientific publications. The scrutiny of our peers is central to upholding scientific integrity and maintaining high standards for published research. The core partnership between authors, editors, and reviewers builds enduring trust in the peer-review process, to the benefit of our field and society at large.

Take the Stress Out of Peer Review

Have you received an invitation to review a manuscript, but you’re not sure whether to accept it? Do you want to be reminded of all the important points to consider when evaluating a manuscript?

As an ACS Reviewer Lab course graduate, you can now access a specially designed toolkit to guide you through the peer-review process in real time.

The toolkit’s decision trees and checklists will take you step-by-step through the key factors to consider before accepting a review (such as conflicts of interest). It also covers how to prepare before you begin, how to assess the manuscript’s technical quality, presentation, and readiness for publication, and how to craft the final written review.

What’s more, you can use this toolkit any time you need it with the click of a button.

What’s Covered in the Toolkit

  • What to consider before accepting a review
  • Ethics/conflicts of interest
  • Preparing for review
  • Assessing significance and technical quality
  • Assessing presentation and readiness for publication
  • Writing your review

Accessing the Toolkit

To access the toolkit, you will need to create a free account on ACS Reviewer Lab and complete the course, which typically takes between two and four hours total. The course will help educate you on the fundamentals of scholarly peer review and has been developed by ACS Editors, leading chemistry researchers, and ACS Publications staff.

Once you have completed the course and passed the assessment, you will unlock graduate benefits, including:

  • Interactive graduate toolkit
  • Certificate of completion to share with your network
  • ACS Reviewer Lab Graduate badge in ACS Paragon Plus, visible to ACS journal editors

Find Out More About ACS Reviewer Lab