GUIDELINES FOR REVIEWERS

Adapted from the American Society for Microbiology


An unpublished manuscript is a privileged document. Protect it from any form of exploitation. Do not cite a manuscript or refer to the work it describes before it has been published, and do not use the information that it contains for the advancement of your own research or in discussions with colleagues.

Adopt a positive, impartial attitude towards the manuscript under review, with the aim of promoting effective and accurate scientific communication. If you believe that you cannot judge a given article impartially, please return it immediately to the editor with an explanation.

Reviews must be completed by the date stipulated on the review form. If you know that you cannot finish the review within that time, call the editor or immediately return the manuscript to the editor with a note of explanation. If possible, provide the names and addresses of two reviewers who are competent to handle the subject matter.

In your review, consider the following aspects of the manuscript:

You are not expected to correct deficiencies of style or mistakes in grammar, but any help you can give in clarifying meaning is useful. If you wish to mark the text of the manuscript, use a pencil or make a photocopy, mark it, and return it together with the original. When a manuscript is rejected, the editor will usually not want to return a copy of a heavily marked up manuscript to the author.

Each accepted manuscript will be edited by the copy editors employed by ASM. It is their function to polish and correct the grammar, syntax, and spelling and to enforce the editorial style of the journal. However, the copy editors are not scientists so you should look for errors which they might miss, such as misspellings of chemical names, use of improper terminology, misspelled or misidentified scientific names of organisms, inappropriate scientific jargon, and incorrect genetic nomenclature.

Note any unnecessary illustrations and results that are presented in both a figure or table and in detail in the text. Such redundancies are a waste of space and reader's time.

A significant number of authors have not learned how to organize data and will benefit from guidance in this area. Editors often reject such manuscripts but encourage the author to rewrite the paper then ask colleagues in the field for criticism, and after appropriate revision, to resubmit it. Such simple, basic advice can be very valuable to inexperienced authors.

Do not discuss the paper with its authors. Although it may seem natural and reasonable to discuss points of difficulty or disagreement directly with the author, especially if you are generally in favor of publication and do not mind revealing your identity, this practice is prohibited because the other reviewer and the editor may have different opinions, and the author may be misled by having "cleared things up" with the reviewer who contacted him directly.

In your comments directed to the author, do not make any specific statement about the acceptability of a paper, but advise the editor of your recommendation. The responsibility for acceptance or rejection lies with the editor. Reviewers' recommendations are gratefully received by the editor; however, since editorial decisions are usually based on evaluations derived from several sources, reviewers should not expect the editor to honor every recommendation. Suggested revisions should be stated as such and not expressed as conditions of acceptance.

Organize your review so that an introductory paragraph summarizes the major findings of the article, gives your overall impression of the paper, and highlights the major shortcomings. This paragraph should be followed by specific, numbered comments, which, if appropriate, may be subdivided into major and minor points. (The numbering facilitates the editorıs evaluation of the authorıs rebuttal.)

Confidential remarks directed to the editor should be typed (or handwritten) on a separate sheet. You might want to distinguish between revisions considered essential and those judged merely desirable. Although you may advise the editor that you consider some revisions essential for acceptability, you should not so state to the author because the editor may not agree, and/or the author may mistakenly conclude that adoption of the revision named will guarantee acceptance of the revised manuscript.

Any criticisms, arguments, and suggestions concerning the paper should carefully documented. Do not make dogmatic, dismissive statements, particularly about the novelty of the work. Substantiate your statements.

Express criticism dispassionately and avoid offensive remarks.

Categories of recommendations: accept, reject, modify, convert to Note. Very few papers qualify for acceptance upon the initial submission. To be acceptable, a paper should be ready for publication except for minor style changes and perhaps corrections of grammar, spelling, etc., that can be taken care of by the copy editors.

A paper that requires more than a trivial amount of additional experimentation (e.g., a simple enzyme assay or growth rate determination) to complete the argument should be reject.

When data and experiments appear sound and complete or nearly so but there are deficiencies in organization, presentation, and interpretation of data, the choice of "modify" or "reject" depends on the extent of the problem. If the reviewer can follow the argument and feels that the author should be able, with reviewersı suggestions, to turn out a coherent revision within a month, the choice should be "modify." If the treatment is so muddled that the meaning of the data comes into question, or the material is incomprehensible to anyone but a specialist, the choice should be "reject."

Papers that present brief observations and much extraneous information should be converted to Note form. This does not mean, however, that figure legends and/or table footnotes should contain lengthy discussions of materials and methods. If these items cannot be handled in a short, concise manner (i.e., a few sentences), then a short, full-length paper would be the appropriate form.

Keep a copy of the review in your files. The manuscript may be returned to you for a second review, particularly when the requested modification was extensive or if the manuscript is resubmitted after rejection: you will need to evaluate the authorıs responses to your criticisms.


Please send any comments, suggestions, or questions to:
Stanley Maloy

Last modified, March 13, 1998.