Peer Review Terms and Conditions
Peer reviewers play a central and critical part in the peer-review process. BMJ requests that all reviewers adhere to a set of basic principles and standards during the peer-review process in research publication; these are set out below. Please read them carefully before you submit a review, as, by agreeing to be a reviewer for journals from BMJ, you are acknowledging that you agree to and accept these conditions. These conditions are based on the Committee on Publication Ethics Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers which also provides further information on how to be objective and constructive in your review.
Conflicts of interest
During the review process we ask you to declare any potentially conflicting or competing interests (which could be personal, financial, intellectual, professional, political or religious in nature) so that editors can assess these and factor them into their decisions. Please refer any major concerns over potentially competing interests to the editorial office before beginning your review. In addition, you should not agree to review a manuscript just to gain sight of it with no intention of submitting a review.
Manuscripts submitted to journals are authors’ private, confidential property; reviewers should keep manuscripts and the information they contain strictly confidential. If you do choose to discuss the manuscript and/or your review with a professional colleague whose input you request as part of your review process, you are responsible for ensuring that they are made fully aware of the confidential nature of the discussion and that they must not disclose any information about the manuscript until the article is published. The identity of any co-reviewer and any potential conflicting or competing interests they may have must be disclosed when submitting your review. Reviewers should not retain the manuscript for personal use and should destroy copies after submitting their review.
If you feel qualified to judge a particular manuscript, you should agree to review only if you are able to return a review within the proposed or mutually agreed time-frame. If you cannot review, it is helpful to make suggestions for alternative reviewers if relevant, based on their expertise and without any influence of personal considerations or any intention of the manuscript receiving a specific outcome
If you have concerns that misconduct occurred during either the research or the writing and submission of the manuscript, or you may notice substantial similarity between the manuscript and a concurrent submission to another journal or a published article; please do let the journal Editor know.
As a reviewer you must provide a fair, honest, and unbiased assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript. For example, be specific in your critique, and provide supporting evidence with appropriate references to substantiate general statements. Be professional and refrain from being hostile or inflammatory and from making libelous or derogatory personal comments. If the work is not clear because of missing analyses, the reviewer should comment and explain what additional analyses would clarify the work submitted. It is not the job of the reviewer to extend the work beyond its current scope.
Ownership of your review
You will remain the owner of the review you submit to us. It is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain the consent of any co-reviewer or other third party who may have contributed to your review.
In submitting your review to BMJ you are agreeing to licence your work to us so that we may use it for the purposes outlined below.
Open peer review
Some BMJ journals use open peer review, meaning that:
- Reviewers are required to sign reviews with their name, position and institution
- any competing interests should be declared
- reviews will be published online alongside the authors’ original versions and replies to the reviewers’ comments if the article is published.
We ask that authors and reviewers continue to respect confidentiality during the peer review process. Open peer review does not mean that reviewers should contact authors directly, or that authors should contact reviewers. All queries should be directed through the editorial office of the relevant journal. Reviewers should contact the editorial office confidentially should the need arise in the case of, for example, a concern over a matter of publication ethics.
In rare instances we may determine after careful consideration that we should not make certain portions of the prepublication record publicly available. For example, in cases of stigmatised illnesses we seek to protect the confidentiality of reviewers who have these illnesses. In other instances there may be legal or regulatory considerations that make it inadvisable or impermissible to make available certain parts of the prepublication record.
In all instances in which we have determined that elements of the prepublication record should not be made publicly available, we expect that authors will respect these decisions and also will not share this information.
Our use of your review
With the exception of BMJ Open (see below) and BMJ Open Science, journals from BMJ do not publish peer reviews. Depending on a journal’s editorial policy, you may be offered the opportunity to make additional confidential comments to the editor. Unless the reviewer has been offered confidentiality, reviews will usually be passed on in full to authors and other reviewers when an editorial decision is made. Reviews should be civil and constructive and editors reserve the right to edit or remove any comments felt to be inappropriate
Authors are given the option of nominating other journals from BMJ to which they would like their manuscript passed if it is rejected for publication by their first choice. This may result in the paper being resubmitted to other journals from BMJ in succession. If the author of the manuscript you reviewed has taken up this option, your review will be passed on to the editor(s) of the nominated journal(s) along with the manuscript and you might be invited to review a revised version. If the article is selected for publication in another journal from BMJ, your review may also be published (depending on the editorial policy of the journal in question). You will be contacted for your permission before this happens.
For more information on reviewing for BMJ Open, please read their reviewer guidelines.
Restrictions on your use of your review
We do not restrict the use you make of your review once the manuscript has been published. However, an author’s manuscript remains confidential until it is published, and you must not disclose any information about an unpublished manuscript, including your review of it.
Please note that if the article is NOT published you may refer to the journal which requested your review and the fact that you have reviewed an article for it. However, you may not post any details of the article which was reviewed, or any part of the review that would breach the confidentiality under which the article was provided to you for review.
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