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Peer reviewer guidance

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General 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  • Reviewers should respect the confidentiality of material supplied to them and not discuss unpublished manuscripts with colleagues or use the information in their own work.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.
  •  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.

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.

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Data Notes

A peer reviewer’s report should provide members of the Editorial Board with the information needed to reach a decision, and should instruct authors on how they can strengthen their paper to the point where it may be acceptable for publication.

Reviewers should feel free to request additional data sets or information when needed to support the data. Reviewers, however, should avoid asking for extensive follow-up experimentation, or confirmation of specific hypotheses or interpretations, which would fall outside the scope of a data note manuscript. Indeed, reviewers should ask authors to remove in-depth analyses or new scientific conclusions from submitted data notes

Evaluation of a data note should not be based on the perceived impact or novelty of the findings associated with the datasets. The peer-review process should remain focused on data quality and reusability, not specific interpretations.

When preparing a report, we ask reviewers to consider and comment on the following questions:

Experimental rigour and technical data quality

  • Were the data produced in a rigorous and methodologically sound manner?
  • Was the technical quality of the data supported convincingly with technical validation experiments and statistical analyses of data quality or error, as needed?
  • Are the depth, coverage, size and/or completeness of these data sufficient for the types of applications or research questions outlined by the authors?

Completeness of the description

  • Are the methods and any data-processing steps described in sufficient detail to allow others to reproduce these steps?
  • Did the authors provide all the information needed for others to reuse this dataset or integrate it with other data?
  • Is this Data Note, in combination with any repository metadata, consistent with relevant minimum information or reporting standards?
  • Are the reasons for collecting the data clear from the Objectives section?
  • Are the limitations of the data clear from the Limitations section?

Integrity of the data files and repository record

  • To the degree that you have viewed the actual data files, did they appear complete and do they match the descriptions in the data note?
  • Have these data files been deposited in the most appropriate available data repository?

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Registered Reports

This guide for reviewers contains information on the peer-review process for Registered Reports. If you have been invited to review for a Discover journal and have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact the journal’s Editorial Team.

The review process for Registered Reports is divided into two stages. At stage 1, reviewers are asked to assess study proposals before data are collected. At stage 2, reviewers consider the full study, including results and interpretation.

Stage 1: Initial manuscript submission and review

Stage 1 manuscripts will include only an Introduction, Methods (including proposed analyses), and Pilot Data (where applicable). In considering papers at stage 1, we ask reviewers to assess:

  1. The importance of the research question(s).
  2. The logic, rationale, and plausibility of the proposed hypotheses.
  3. The soundness and feasibility of the methodology and analysis pipeline (including statistical power analysis where appropriate).
  4. Whether the clarity and degree of methodological detail is sufficient to exactly replicate the proposed experimental procedures and analysis pipeline.
  5. Whether the authors have pre-specified sufficient outcome-neutral tests for ensuring that the results obtained are able to test the stated hypotheses, including positive controls and quality check.

Following stage 1 peer review, manuscripts will be accepted, offered the opportunity to revise, or rejected outright. Manuscripts that pass peer review will be issued an in principle acceptance (IPA), indicating that the article will be published pending successful completion of the study according to the pre-registered methods and analytic procedures, as well as a defensible and evidence-based interpretation of the results. Authors will be asked to complete their study within 12 months of IPA.

Stage 2: Full manuscript submission and review

Following completion of the study, authors will complete the manuscript, including Results and discussion sections. These stage 2 manuscripts will more closely resemble a regular article format. The manuscript will then be returned to the reviewers, who will be asked to appraise:

  1. Whether the data are able to test the authors’ proposed hypotheses by satisfying the approved outcome-neutral conditions (such as quality checks, positive controls).
  2. Whether the Introduction, rationale and stated hypotheses are the same as the approved stage 1 submission (required).
  3. Whether the authors adhered precisely to the registered experimental procedures.
  4. Whether any unregistered post hoc analyses added by the authors are justified, methodologically sound, and informative.
  5. Whether the authors’ conclusions are justified given the data.

Reviewers at stage 2 may suggest that authors report additional post hoc tests on their data; however authors are not obliged to do so unless such tests are necessary to satisfy one or more of the stage 2 review criteria. Please note that editorial decisions will not be based on the perceived importance, novelty, or conclusiveness of the results.

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Reviewer Discount

If you review for a journal in the Discover Series then you are entitled to a 15% discount on the article processing charge for your next submission to a Discover Journal. This discount must be claimed within 1 year of completing your review and discounts cannot be combined.

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