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Year : 2013  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 75-76

On being a reviewer…

Department of Ophthalmology, P. D. Hinduja National Hospital, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mumbai - 400016, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission03-May-2013
Date of Acceptance03-May-2013
Date of Web Publication20-May-2013

Correspondence Address:
Barun Kumar Nayak
Department of Ophthalmology, P. D. Hinduja National Hospital, Veer Savarkar Marg, Mumbai - 400016, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2320-3897.112173

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How to cite this article:
Nayak BK. On being a reviewer…. J Clin Ophthalmol Res 2013;1:75-6

How to cite this URL:
Nayak BK. On being a reviewer…. J Clin Ophthalmol Res [serial online] 2013 [cited 2022 Dec 5];1:75-6. Available from: https://www.jcor.in/text.asp?2013/1/2/75/112173

Peer reviewed biomedical journals are considered to be at a higher academic pedestal than the non peer-reviewed ones. Delay in publication in these journals due to the extensive review process maybe considered as a drawback by many, but it is this very process that adds value to the manuscripts, making these journals acceptable to the majority. The process also helps to filter out invalid, and unscientific research. The role of the reviewer is to judge the validity and significance in addition to the quality of presentation. They also look into the ethical concerns of research and publication. This is beneficial to the readers, as their limited available time is not wasted in reading unvetted articles. It has been noticed that the editors and editorial board always struggle to find a sufficient number of good peer-reviewers, who serve for altruistic reasons and for self-satisfaction. The tragedy is that peer-reviewers are neither paid nor given due prominence by the majority. Some of the journals do publish their list at the year end, whereas, others reward them by sending gifts or organizing gala dinners. However, serving as a reviewer is a prestige and it does help in academic appointments or promotions. There is no formal training to become a reviewer. The purpose of this editorial is to give some insight for becoming a reviewer, so that the potential and desirous reader understands the importance of this service and gets motivated to become a reviewer. Subsequently, they can go to the references provided in the editorial to sharpen this skill. [1],[2],[3],[4],[5],[6]

The meaning of 'peer' is someone who is equal, but in reality a 'peer' is perceived as a person with exceptional knowledge or experience. Editors believe that anyone who has published two to five articles in peer-reviewed journals is competent enough to become a reviewer. Subsequently, these reviewers learn 'on the job' and get better by reviewing more articles as well as analyzing the comments made by other reviewers on the same articles. Keeping this fact in mind, the Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology and Research (JCOR) allows access to the comments made by the other reviewers on the same article after the final decision of that article. Although regularly attending various journal club discussions is always helpful, this skill can be further sharpened by attending research methodology workshops. One such workshop is conducted by me regularly at the P. D. Hinduja National Hospital and Medical Research Center, Mumbai.

What do editors expect from reviewers? The editor's only aim is to publish genuine and valid science as quickly as possible, wherein the reviewer's role in facilitating the editor's decision-making process is of paramount importance. The key requirements are timely and critical comments on the appropriateness of the study, the importance and relevance of the findings, and their proper presentation. They should also look into the fact that the subjects or animals were treated in a fair manner, without exposing them to undue risks. Reviewers must answer the following key questions without any ambiguity.

  1. Is the research question properly formulated and stated?
  2. Is the research question significant?
  3. Is the study design appropriate?
  4. Has the research been conducted properly and correctly?
  5. Have the results been reproduced in their entirety and with full sincerity?
  6. Are the conclusions appropriate on the basis of the study and results?
  7. Are there any ethical concerns?
  8. Is the manuscript presentation satisfactory?
  9. Is it appropriate for the journal readership?
  10. Finally, will the readers learn something?

Having done that, they are also expected to provide their final recommendation out of the following options, which serves as a guideline and is not binding to the editors.

  1. Accept
  2. Accept with minor revision
  3. Accept with major revision
  4. Reassess after revision
  5. Reject

What is a good peer-review report? The review should summarize the aim, methods, results, and conclusion in a couple of sentences at the beginning. This gives a chance to the authors and editors to realize that the reviewer has understood the manuscript properly. Subsequently, they should point out the areas of 'major concerns' followed by 'minor concerns'. In this section, they should critically comment on the scientific content, with respect to the background of the research, aim of the study, materials and methods, and results and discussion, with a conclusion. When writing these comments they can also point out the exact location of the errors, if they are limited in number, although if the manuscript is full of mistakes it is very difficult to indicate all of them. In that case, a generalized comment will suffice. They should also comment if the language needs to be improved or the grammar needs correction. They are not expected to spend time in pointing out and correcting the manuscript, sentence by sentence. Sometimes reviewers tend to spend their full time correcting the language, but fail to comment critically about the research and presentation. This kind of review or just one sentence remark suggesting accept / reject, does not help editors at all. The reports should be divided into two groups: The first one could be directed to 'the authors', and the second one should be meant for 'the editors'.

Some of the general aspects that the reviewers must keep in mind when writing the review is to use polite language. Adverse comments should be backed by reasoning or references. This will help authors improve their article. Favorable comments should be downplayed, as sometimes in spite of positive comments by the reviewers, editors may reject the article. This makes the authors hostile toward the editors. If there is any ethical issue or suspected fraud by the authors, the reviewers should indicate it to the editor in the section of comments, which is meant for 'editors only'.

Ethical behavior is mandatory from reviewers. If there is any conflict of interest or the authors are from the same institution and a fair review is not possible, the reviewer should decline to review the manuscript. There should not be any bias in the review. If the reviewer is also conducting similar studies, they should not delay the review so as to publish their own article prior to the article under review. Timely review is expected from the reviewers. Reviewers should not use an idea from the manuscript before publication, as access to that idea is privileged information that cannot be utilized. Even sharing the information with colleagues or taking help in the review from colleagues or subordinates, without the permission of the editor is considered unethical. If the reviewers feel that they are not competent in the subject of the manuscript, they should decline the review. If certain aspects such as statistics or some laboratory procedure is not understood by the reviewer they should point this out in the 'editor's comment'.

It has been noticed that some authors publish articles frequently, however, they fail to reciprocate with the same agility when called upon to serve as reviewers. [7] Keeping in mind the importance of the review process, I urge all scientists and researchers to come forward and give their valuable time and commitment to the advancement of science, by serving as a reviewer.

  References Top

1.Nayak BK, Maniar R, Moreker S. The agony and the ecstasy of the peer-Review process. Indian J Ophthalmol 2005;53:153-5.  Back to cited text no. 1
[PUBMED]  Medknow Journal  
2.Sellke FW. The peer-review process in medical publishing: A reviewer's perspective. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2003;126:1683-5.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Benos DJ, Kirk KL, Hall JE. How to review a paper. Adv Physiol Educ 2003;27:47-52.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Lemann J Jr. Serving as a reviewer. Kidney Int 2002;62:1081-7.   Back to cited text no. 4
5.Ludbrook J. Peer review of manuscripts. J Clin Neurosci 2002;9:105-8.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Smith AJ. The task of the referee. Available from: http://www.cis.nctu.edu.tw/~tzeng/taskoftheferee.pdf. [Last accessed on 2013 April 27].   Back to cited text no. 6
7.Wechsler AS, Fried PW. Peer review. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2003;126:1681-2.  Back to cited text no. 7


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