Frequently asked questions

Why should I review?
Are there consequences for refusing to review a paper?

What if I feel there is a conflict of interest in my commenting on the research?

What if the language, grammar or structure of the paper is very bad?

What if the paper does not follow the journal’s layout, format and general style?

What if I don’t feel qualified to review the research?

Is the review process anonymous?

How long do I have to complete the review? Is there a deadline? What if I’m running late?

Who can I ask for help if I need it?

Can I request the input of my colleagues?

Can I refer the review to a post-graduate student?

What if I have issues with the research from an ethical perspective?

I feel I have seen this paper (or a large part of it) elsewhere before - what should I do?

Will I have to look at second and subsequent drafts of this paper?

Will I receive any incentives or acknowledgments for the reviewing I do?

Should my review be addressed to the author(s) or the editor(s)?

Will the author(s) see my comments?

What happens if my review conflicts with that of another reviewer?

Can I see other reviewers’ comments on the paper?

Who makes the ultimate decision about whether a paper is accepted or rejected?

Will I be notified whether the paper was accepted or rejected?

Can I distribute the paper to students or colleagues, or use its findings for training and research purposes?


On receiving a request to review

Why should I review?

Peer review is an essential component of formal scholarly communication and lies at the heart of the scientific method. Reviewing papers is part of belonging to the scientific community. Being sent a paper to review allows you a “sneak preview” into some research in your specific interest area or a closely allied field. It allows you to have some impact on what is being published in your discipline. For more experienced scientists, it is a way of mentoring other scientists. For younger researchers, it is a way to learn more about your discipline, and when you are asked to review a paper, it is an acknowledgment of your importance in the community of scientists. Elsevier shares the commonly held view that all scholars who wish to contribute to publications have an obligation to do a fair share of reviewing.

Are there consequences for refusing to review a paper?

No. However, please inform your editor by return e-mail if you are not able to complete the review.

What if I feel there is a conflict of interest in my commenting on the research?

Reviewers should not consider manuscripts in which they have conflicts of interest resulting from competitive, collaborative, or other relationships or connections with any of the authors, companies, or institutions connected to the papers. In such a case a reviewer should contact the editor and excuse him/herself from the review process for that particular paper.

What if the language, grammar or structure of the paper is very bad?

Elsevier encourages authors to polish their manuscript as much as possible before submission. We also work with our editors to try to ensure that papers with very poor English are not sent to reviewers. If, however, a paper with poor English has made it through the screening process, and if the errors make the article extremely difficult (or impossible) to understand, the paper should be returned to the editor with the request that the author have the material edited for content before re-submitting it for peer review.

What if the paper does not follow the journal’s layout, format and general style?

Authors are required to adhere to the journal’s Guide for Authors, which includes manuscript presentation. If the difference is extreme and the editor has not mentioned this issue in the request to review, you may wish to contact your editor to discuss it. Otherwise, you should note this in your review. If the paper is otherwise good, the editor may choose to overlook the formatting issues (for example, if the author comes from outside the discipline but has something valuable to convey to the readers of this journal). Other times, editors may ask the author to restructure the paper before publication.


What if I don’t feel qualified to review the research?

Any selected referee who feels unqualified to review the research reported in a manuscript should notify the editor and excuse him/herself from the review process. This should be done as soon as possible by return email.

Is the review process anonymous?

Different journals have different approaches: some journals use a single blind reviewing process, some use a double blindsystem, and still others have an open approach. Different approaches are appropriate for different subject areas, and also depend upon the culture of the discipline. You should contact your editor if you have any further questions about the process employed by the journal for which you are reviewing.


Completing the review

How long do I have to complete the review? Is there a deadline? What if I’m running late?

Deadlines for reviews vary per journal. The editors will provide information on deadline expectations with the review request.

Editors appreciate being informed that you have received their request within a day or two and are able to complete the review. If you feel the review will take you longer to complete than normal, please contact the editor to discuss the matter. The editor may ask you to recommend an alternate reviewer, or may be willing to wait a little longer (e.g., if the paper is highly specialized and reviewers are difficult to find). As a general guideline, if you know you will not be able to complete a review within the timeframe requested, you should decline to review the paper. It is important that you keep the editor informed if the review is taking longer than expected.

Who can I ask for help if I need it?

If you have queries relating to the content of the paper, please contact the journal editor or the editorial office. For technical issues relating to our submission and review system, EES, Elsevier has a reviewers' helpdesk that can be contacted by e-mail or by telephone: The Americas: +1 888 834 7287 (toll free for US & Canadian customers), Asia + Pacific: + 81 3 5561 5032, Europe & all other areas: +44 1865 84 3577

Can I request the input of my colleagues?

Papers sent to you for review are confidential; however, requesting the opinion of a single colleague may be appropriate in some circumstances. Please consult your editor about this.

Can I refer the review to a post-graduate student?

Check with your editor. In general, if you feel the student is suitably qualified, this will be acceptable. If the review is referred to the student, he or she should communicate directly with the editor.

What if I have issues with the research from an ethical perspective?

This is a vital part of the referee’s remit; you should contact the editor without delay to discuss any concerns.

I feel I have seen this paper (or a large part of it) elsewhere before - what should I do?

Any claim that an observation, derivation or argument has been previously published should be accompanied by a relevant citation. A reviewer should call the editor's attention to any substantial similarity or overlap between the manuscript under consideration and any other published paper of which they have personal knowledge.

Will I have to look at second and subsequent drafts of this paper?

Usually, no. In some cases, if you have called for substantial changes or additions, the editor may send a revised copy of the paper for you to check, to ensure that the changes made meet your expectations. In some cases you may be asked to also look at a third submission of a paper.

Will I receive any incentives or acknowledgments for the reviewing I do?

Process

Should my review be addressed to the author(s) or the editor(s)?

Precise instructions on how to format your review will be provided to you by your editor via Elsevier’s online submission system.

Will the author(s) see my comments?

The authors will only see the comments you have made that are specific to the author; sometimes the editor will edit them.


What happens if my review conflicts with that of another reviewer?

The final decision of whether to accept or reject a particular manuscript lies with the editor. The editor will weigh both views and may call for a third opinion or ask the author for a revised paper before making a decision.

Can I see other reviewers’ comments on the paper?

This is possible in principle via EES, although not all editors have opted to have this feature activated for their journal. If your journal has not activated this feature, you may contact the editor if you wish to have feedback on your review or on whether the paper was accepted or rejected.

Who makes the ultimate decision about whether a paper is accepted or rejected?

The journal’s editor. Elsevier plays no part in this decision.

Will I be notified whether the paper was accepted or rejected?

This depends on the editor. We acknowledge that feedback is valuable for reviewers. Elsevier’s submission system, EES, allows reviewers to be notified of the outcome of papers they have reviewed. It is left to the editor’s discretion of whether this function is activated for any given journal. If this functionality is not activated for your journal, you may contact the editor if you wish to know whether the paper was accepted or rejected.

Can I distribute the paper to students or colleagues, or use its findings for training and research purposes?

No. Any manuscripts received for review must be treated as confidential documents. They must not be shown to, or discussed with, others except as authorised by the editor. Unpublished materials disclosed in a submitted manuscript must not be used in a reviewer’s own research without the express written consent of the author. Privileged information or ideas obtained through peer review must be kept confidential and not used for personal advantage.