The Ethics of Peer Review

Journals normally state clear peer review processes on their websites. They will also usually give the average times required for review.

Such time requirements might include:

  • the time from manuscript submission to the initial review (desk review)
  • the time for first decision after peer review, and
  • the time between acceptance and publication
  • the time from online-first stage until print

Sometimes, review and production dates will appear on the first or last page of an online journal article. You can use these dates to estimate total processing times for that journal.

Here are some common ethical checks that journals will do:

  • Check for overlapping or prior publication and plagiarism with text-matching software
  • Check for image manipulation with special software
  • Review author declarations on authorship, patient/guardian consent, ethics review board approval
  • Review copyright permission letters for reuse of material
  • Check for clinical trial registration for human clinical studies
  • Check for funding and conflicts of interest declarations

Peer review is usually done by independent external experts in your field. Reviewers must meet very high standards. They must:

  • declare any conflicts of interest that might bias their review. If needed, they must decline the invitation.
  • turn down a manuscript if it is not in their area of expertise or if they do not have time
  • review a manuscript in a certain time
  • not use the information to their advantage or plagiarize from the manuscript
  • not slow down the review process on purpose
  • not share the information with others
  • ask permission from the journal before passing the job to someone else
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