Peer Review Policy, Process and Guidance
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All research articles, and most other article types, published in Springer journals undergo peer review. This usually involves review by at least two independent, expert peer reviewers. Individual journals may differ in their peer review processes (e.g. open or anonymized), please refer to the specific journal for details.
Peer review policy
All submissions to Springer journals are first reviewed for completeness and only then sent to be assessed by an Editor who will decide whether they are suitable for peer review. Where an Editor is on the author list or has any other competing interest regarding a specific manuscript, another member of the Editorial Board will be assigned to oversee peer review. Editors will consider the peer-reviewed reports when making a decision, but are not bound by the opinions or recommendations therein. A concern raised by a single peer reviewer or the Editor themself may result in the manuscript being rejected. Authors receive peer review reports with the editorial decision on their manuscript.
Proceedings papers are reviewed by the Programme Chairs and Programme Committee members of the respective conference, with help from external reviewers selected by them.
Peer reviewer selection
Peer reviewer selection is critical to the publication process. It is based on many factors, including expertise, reputation, specific recommendations, conflict of interest and previous performance. Speed, thoroughness, sound reasoning and collegiality are highly desirable.
Editor Responsibilities (from the Springer Nature Code of Conduct for Editors):
● Editor(s) are expected to obtain a minimum of two peer reviewers for manuscripts reporting primary research or secondary analysis of primary research. It is recognized that in some exceptional circumstances, particularly in niche and emerging fields, it may not be possible to obtain two independent peer reviewers. In such cases, Editor(s) may wish to make a decision to publish based on one peer review report. When making a decision based on one report, Editor(s) are expected to only do so if the peer review report meets the standards set out below.
● Peer review reports should be in English and provide constructive critical evaluations of the authors’ work, particularly in relation to the appropriateness of methods used, whether the results are accurate, and whether the conclusions are supported by the results. Editorial decisions should be based on peer reviewer comments that meet these criteria rather than on recommendations made by short, superficial peer reviewer reports which do not provide a rationale for the recommendations.
● Editor(s) are expected to independently verify the contact details of reviewers suggested by authors or other third parties. Institutional email addresses should be used to invite peer reviewers wherever possible. Each manuscript should be reviewed by at least one reviewer who was not suggested by the author.
● Manuscripts that do not report primary research or secondary analysis of primary research, such as Editorials, Book Reviews, Commentaries or Opinion articles, may be accepted without peer review. Such manuscripts should be assessed by the Editor(s) if the topic is in the area of expertise of the Editor(s); if the topic is not in area of expertise of the Editor(s), such manuscripts should be assessed by at least one independent expert reviewer or Editorial Board Member.
In the rare, exceptional, occasions when two independent peer reviewers cannot be secured, the Editor may act as a second reviewer or make a decision using only one report.
● Editor must have a sufficient amount of knowledge in the area if acting as a second reviewer
● Editor should sign the review to ensure transparency in the peer review process
● Any single reports should be detailed and thorough
● The first reviewer should be senior, on topic and have published recently on the subject
Potential peer reviewers should inform the Editor of any possible conflicts of interest before accepting an invitation to review a manuscript. Communications between Editors and peer reviewers contain confidential information that should not be shared with third parties.
Some journals allow authors to suggest potential reviewers, and to request that some be excluded from consideration (usually a maximum of two people/research groups). Editors will consider these requests, but are not obliged to fulfill them. The Editor's decision on the choice of peer reviewers is final.
Authors should not recommend recent collaborators or colleagues who work in the same institution as themselves. Authors can suggest peer reviewers in the cover letter. Information which will help the Editor verify the identity and expertise of the reviewer will be required. This includes the suggested reviewer’s institutional email address and ORCID or Scopus ID.
Peer reviewer diversity
Springer Nature is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and we strive for diverse demographic representation of peer reviewers. Editors are strongly encouraged to consider geographical regions, gender identities, racial/ethnic groups, and other groups when inviting peer reviewers.
Peer reviewer misconduct
Providing false or misleading information—for example, identity theft and suggesting fake peer-reviewers—will result in rejection of the manuscript, further investigation in line with Springer Nature’s misconduct policy, and notification to the authors’ institutions/employers. Springer journals are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). More information about peer reviewer fraud/falsification can be found here.
Peer review models
● Open peer review: Peer reviewers' names are included on the peer review reports. If the manuscript is published, reports with peer reviewer names are published online alongside the article(on rare occasions, information from the pre-publication history may not be available for a specific article). Authors are aware of the peer reviewers’ names during the peer-review process and vice versa. There should not be direct correspondence between authors and peer reviewers; communication is mediated by the Editor.
● Transparent peer review: If the manuscript is published, the peer review reports appear online alongside the article. Names of peer reviewers are not published. On rare occasions, information from the pre-publication history may not be available for a specific article.
● Anonymized peer review: Most journals use a single-anonymized peer review process; that is, author identities are known to peer reviewers, but peer reviewers identities are not revealed to the authors. In double-anonymized peer review, identities of neither authors nor peer reviewers are disclosed; peer review mediated by Research Square is double-anonymized. The pre-publication history of articles is not made available online.
Peer reviewer guidance
The primary purpose of peer review is providing the Editor with the information needed to reach a fair, evidence-based decision that adheres to the journal’s editorial criteria. Review reports should also help authors revise their paper such that it may be accepted for publication. Reports accompanied by a recommendation to reject the paper should explain the major weaknesses of the research; this will help the authors prepare their manuscript for submission to a different journal.
Peer reviewers should adhere to the principles of COPE's Ethical Guidelines for Peer-reviewers.
Confidential comments to the Editor are welcome, but they must not contradict the main points in the report for the authors.
Peer reviewers should assess papers exclusively against the journal’s criteria for publication.
The following conventions should be respected:
- Reviewers should review the peer review policy of the Journal before revealing their reviewer role.
- Reviews should be conducted objectively.
- Personal criticism of the author is inappropriate, as are defamatory/libelous remarks.
- Reviewers should express their views clearly with supporting arguments and references.
- Reviewers should declare any potential competing interests.
- Reviewers should decline to review manuscripts with which they believe they have a competing interest resulting from competitive, collaborative, or other relationships or connections with any of the authors, companies, or institutions connected to the papers.
- Reviewers should respect the confidentiality of material supplied to them and not discuss unpublished manuscripts with colleagues or use the information in their own work.
- Any reviewer who wants to pass a peer review invitation onto a colleague must contact the journal in the first instance.
Concerns relating to these points, or any aspect of the review process, should be raised with the editorial team.
We ask reviewers the following types of questions, to provide an assessment of the various aspects of a manuscript:
- Key results: Please summarize what you consider to be the outstanding features of the work.
- Validity: Does the manuscript have flaws which should prohibit its publication? If so, please provide details.
- Originality and significance: If the conclusions are not original, please provide relevant references.
- Data & methodology: Please comment on the validity of the approach, quality of the data and quality of presentation. Please note that we expect our reviewers to review all data, including any extended data and supplementary information. Is the reporting of data and methodology sufficiently detailed and transparent to enable reproducing the results?
- Appropriate use of statistics and treatment of uncertainties: All error bars should be defined in the corresponding figure legends; please comment if that’s not the case. Please include in your report a specific comment on the appropriateness of any statistical tests, and the accuracy of the description of any error bars and probability values. Evaluation checklists can be found here.
- Conclusions: Do you find that the conclusions and data interpretation are robust, valid and reliable?
- Inflammatory material: Does the manuscript contain any language that is inappropriate or potentially libelous?
- Suggested improvements: Please list suggestions that could help strengthen the work in a revision.
- References: Does this manuscript reference previous literature appropriately? If not, what references should be included or excluded? Attempts at reviewer-coerced citation will be noted against your record in our database.
- Clarity and context: Is the abstract clear, accessible? Are abstract, introduction and conclusions appropriate?
- Please indicate any particular part of the manuscript, data, or analyses that you feel is outside the scope of your expertise, or that you were unable to assess fully.
- Please address any other specific questions asked by the editor.
- Please make sure to check if author(s) have followed our Sex and Gender in Research (SAGER Guidelines).
- Reviewers should alert the Editor-in-Chief/Springer Nature (contact person from respective journal) if they wish to make an allegation of publication or research misconduct, e.g. plagiarism or image manipulation, about an article they are reviewing.
Before you submit your report, please take a moment to read it through and put yourself in the place of the authors. How would you feel if you received this report? Would the tone offend you? Is it courteous and professional? Are there unnecessary personal remarks or antagonistic comments about the authors or their competitors? Please note that the Editor reserves the right to remove any inappropriate language from your report.
Reports do not necessarily need to follow this specific order but should document the peer reviewer’s thought process. Some journals have a set of questions that reviewers will need to specifically address. All statements should be justified and argued in detail, naming facts and citing supporting references, commenting on all aspects that are relevant to the manuscript and that the reviewers feel qualified commenting on. Not all of the above aspects will necessarily apply to every paper, due to discipline-specific standards. When in doubt about discipline-specific peer-reviewing standards, reviewers can contact the Editor for guidance.
Springer Nature is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. The peer reviewer should flag any concerns that may affect this commitment.
It is our policy to remain neutral with respect to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations, and the naming conventions used in maps and affiliation are left to the discretion of authors. Peer reviewers should not, therefore, request authors to make any changes to such unless it is critical to the clarity of the academic content of a manuscript.
Springer journals are committed to rapid editorial decisions and publication, and we believe that an efficient editorial process is a valuable service both to our authors and to the research community as a whole. We therefore ask reviewers to respond promptly within the number of days agreed. If reviewers anticipate a delay, we ask them to let us know so that we can keep the authors informed and, where necessary, find alternatives.
Peer reviewer recognition
Springer Nature is committed to recognizing the invaluable service performed by our dedicated peer reviewers. As part of our appreciation program, we offer our peer reviewers the opportunity to credit their ORCID and Publons (where available) profiles with verified peer review data transmitted directly from the submission system at the time of report submission.