Who is peer review for?
When performed correctly peer review helps improve the clarity, robustness and reproducibility of research.
When peer reviewing, it is helpful to think from the point of view of three different groups of people:
- Authors. Try to review the manuscript as you would like others to review your work. When you point out problems in a manuscript, do so in a way that will help the authors to improve the manuscript. Assume that the authors are doing their best to produce an excellent manuscript but need objective outsiders to help identify problems in their methods, analysis, and presentation. Even if you recommend to the editor that the manuscript be rejected, your suggested revisions could help the authors prepare the manuscript for submission to a different journal. Ultimately peer review should be a positive process.
- Journal editors. Comment on the importance and novelty of the study. Editors will use your comments to assess whether the manuscript is of the right level of impact for the journal. In selecting papers for publication, editors need expert help to determine if a manuscript’s research and analysis are sound, and if it makes an important contribution to the field. As such your comments and opinions on the paper are much more important that a simple recommendation; editors need to know why you think a paper should be published or rejected as your reasoning will help inform their decision.
- Readers. Identify areas that need clarification to make sure other readers can easily understand the manuscript. As a reviewer, you can also save readers’ time and frustration by helping to keep unimportant or error filled research out of the published literature.
Writing a thorough, thoughtful review usually takes several hours or more. But by taking the time to be a good reviewer, you will be providing a service to the scientific community.