Refereeing at SciPost
A guide for referees and authors
The following is a general guide to refereeing at SciPost. Slightly informal in style, it is meant to introduce you to how our peer review system works.
It is not meant to replace our official rules and other helpful pages, which you will find in the Useful links box next to this menu.
You should already be somewhat familiar with our submission and refereeing procedure.
On this page:
- ... where you will find info on:
- Editorial Colleges
- Our Colleges and their Editorial Fellows
- Editorial College by-laws
- Official rules for all our editorial workflows
- Journals Terms and Conditions
- Expectations, Open Access policy, license and copyright, author obligations, referee code of conduct, corrections and retractions
- SciPost Terms and Conditions
- General terms and conditions pertaining to ownership, license to use, contributions, impermissible uses, etc.
- Author guidelines
- A simple guide on how to proceed as an author
- Submission and refereeing procedure
- More details about submission procedure and refereeing protocols
- Refereeing guidelines
- A simple guide on how (if you are a referee) to act professionally, and (if you are an author) react constructively
Have you been invited to write a Report?
Here are some basic things we trust you will do:
Please promptly accept or decline the invitation
To make your life as easy as possible, the email invitation you will have received contains simple one-click actions to accept/decline the task. As a basic but effective mark of respect to our authors, Fellows and editorial team (and to help us minimize delays in processing submissions), please respond promptly to any invitation you receive.
Comply with our conflict-of-interest rules
Conflict of interest is a serious matter, and you should ensure that you do not transgress our rules. You should not referee if you have:
- published joint work with one or more of the authors in the last 3 years
- an ongoing collaboration with one or more of the authors
- a personal relationship with one (or more!) of the authors
- a hierarchical connection with one or more of the authors
- doubts or feel conflicted due to a close link between the work refereed and your own work.
Note: in some fields, it is customary for extremely large numbers of authors to publish jointly. In such cases, the co-authorship disqualifier can be relaxed, and conflict of interest be assessed primarily on the basis of active collaboration.
If you feel that a conflict of interest exists, or if you have doubts, you should email our editorial administration, explaining the matter.
Please deliver your Report in time
Following acceptance, you should provide a report within the allocated refereeing period. It is preferable to deliver a shorter report within the expected time than no report at all.
You can start writing your Report at any time and, if other duties suddenly require your attention, conveniently save it as a draft for later completion.
If you had accepted to send a Report, but subsequently decide not to proceed, please send a communication to the Submission's Editor-in-charge (you can do this from your personal page, under the refereeing tab).
Do you wish to contribute a Report?
Perhaps you simply noticed an interesting manuscript currently under evaluation, or perhaps a colleague notified you of its existence via email or other means. You feel that your expertise could be useful to our editorial process.
Even if you have not been explicitly invited to referee by one of our Fellows, as a registered Contributor, you can still provide a Report.
You can simply follow the Contribute a Report on the manuscript's Submission page. Of course, you'll have to do this before the refereeeing deadline, and you'll have to comply with all our conflict-of-interest rules mentioned above.
What do we ask you in our Report form?
Our Report form is quite intuitive and straightforward, and can be easily filled if you have already read and thought about the paper.
To be clear, when filling in a Report form, you will be asked for:
- your assessment of your qualification for refereeing this submission (form: choice field, from expert to ... not qualified!)
- your evaluation of the strengths of the submission (form: text area)
- your evaluation of its weaknesses (form: text area)
- your actual report in textual free-style form (form: text area)
- the list of changes you request to the authors
- your assessment of the validity, significance, originality and clarity of the submission (form: choice field, from top to poor)
- your assessment of the formatting and grammatical level of the submission (form: choice field, from perfect to mediocre)
- your recommendation, which can be one of:
- Publish (top 10% of papers in this Journal)
- Publish (top 50%)
- Publish (meets criteria of this Journal)
- Ask for minor revision
- Ask for major revision
You can make use of $\LaTeX$ mathematical formulas in the text areas, thanks to MathJax. Note that only basic elements are available (\$...\$ for inline equations, \ [ ... \ ] for on-line equations).
Before you write your Report
read the paper!
This might sound obvious, but don't skim on this. Take the time, and give the paper a chance. You might actually learn something new and interesting.
Writing your Report
In everything you write, please display an irreproachable level of politeness. It will make all your points stronger, and much more likely to be addressed by the authors.
As a general rule, and in the interests of gender neutrality, the gender of the author(s) should never be assumed and gender-neutral terms such as "the author" or the singular "they" should preferably be employed.
identify the strong points of the paper
Start with the positive. What did the authors (try to) do? What did they achieve? Even if you end up being very critical of the work, your criticisms will have much more credibility and convincing power if you make it clear that you have given the authors a chance.
try to be constructive and put your fingers on points that could be improved
Nothing is perfect, and even for the better aspects of a paper, you might be able to suggest ways in which things could be improved. See "things to focus on while writing your report" for some ideas.
if any, note the weaknesses of the paper
Science thrives on constructive criticism. Your expertise is needed to ensure that the papers which are published at SciPost achieve the highest-quality end result achievable. If you have objections to the methods, results or conlusions in the paper, it is your task as an expert to underline them.
The characteristics of a good Report
There are no fixed rules or expectations, but a good report is typically:
- constructive and useful to the authors
- polite, fair to the authors and respectful of their work
- organized and systematic
- properly referenced (if further literature is mentioned).
Can you include me in your list of referees?
Any qualified academic is welcome to perform refereeing work for us. There are two ways to become a referee:
- by being explicitly invited by the Editor-in-charge of a Submission
- by writing a Contributed Report
If you are a known expert in your area, the first will inevitably happen at some point. If you are a Registered Contributor at SciPost, you can contribute a Report on any Submission currently undergoing refereeing.
Should you wish to be permanently removed from our list of referees, please email our editorial administration.
Why should I do it?
Simply because it's an essential aspect of your academic job, and because it's ultimately your duty as a scientist. As an author, you benefit from others' work as referees; academic collegiality should thus incite you to return the favour.
That said, there is a substantial benefit to perfoming refereeing work at SciPost. Your Report will be made citable (through giving it a DOI). You can then even quantify your refereeing activity in your CV if you so wish. View this as a mark of respect for the valuable work which you will put into it.
Will you protect my anonymity as a referee?
Yes. It is very important to avoid a simple confusion here: you can certainly elect to be (and forever remain) anonymous when you referee. Our peer-witnessed refereeing method only means that we insist on making the Report contents publicly available, not the name of the person who wrote them.
That said, we give you the possibility (and would like to explicitly encourage you) to sign your Reports. It is entirely possible to be very critical of a paper, while revealing your identity (after all, we academics do this all the time during conferences). You might also find that your critical comments enjoy an even better reception from the authors if you do let them know who is making them. If you are unsure, by all means do remain anonymous. You can always, at any point in the future, change the setting of any given Report to non-anonymous (from your personal page, under the refereeing tab).
Will you pay me to write a Report?
No. SciPost is not a profit-making enterprise (neither for us, nor for you).
How long should it take me?
Say reading the paper takes one unit of time. To do a proper job, you can then easily spend one more unit thinking about it, perhaps one or two more trying to rederive some results and consulting further literature, and then another writing your Report. So to be proud of your work, 4-5 time units is a good indication (but don't worry, nobody is clocking you).
What happens if I'm late?
We will unleash a plague of locusts onto your household. No seriously: we understand how busy the life of an academic can be, and how difficult it can be to schedule everything and meet all deadlines. Simply note that the Editor-in-charge of a Submission can proceed with formulating a recommendation once the refereeing deadline has passed. If your invited Report is delivered late, it will still be accepted and published, but might not weigh in on the publication decision by the College (depending on the circumstances), and might thus miss its chance of providing the authors with useful input.
How to react to a Report?
Be open to criticism, and read the report carefully
Remember that referees have a somewhat unrewarding task. They do this job for your benefit, not their own. You can rightfully expect them to treat your work with respect. In return, you should give proper consideration to their comments and criticisms, and do your best to address any of the points raised.
Submit an Author Reply
You can submit an Author Reply to a Report pertaining to a Submission for which you are a recognized author (you can claim any such authorship from your personal page). Writing an Author Reply is recommended if there are specific points of a Report which you want to respond to. You can mention changes you plan to implement in your manuscript which result from this Report (though your list of changes can also wait for your resubmission letter).
Upon resubmission, link back to the Reports
Hopefully the Reports will have helped you improve your manuscript. Before resubmitting, prepare a list of changes (which you can then paste in the appropriate field of the resubmission form) in order for referees and editors to clearly understand what has (or hasn't) changed in your paper.