Review Process

Time to completion

Six to eight weeks after positive review decision.


Managing editor with the assistance of the Academic editors

Action required

  1. Ask for nomination of Academic editorial team member to oversee article’s review
  2. Ask for a list of 4 potential reviewers (to be supplemented as required) from this nominee
  3. Prepare article for review (e.g. by anonymising if required)
  4. Contact proposed referees until 2 have agreed to review
  5. Distribute paper, set deadlines, and send reminders and followups
  6. Summarise reviewers comments and recommendations, emailing them to editors
  7. Alert Academic editors when review process is completed.

Background and further details

This is the core of the editorial process and the distinguishing feature of academic publication. It is also the place at which many journals have the greatest trouble staying on schedule. For this reason a managing editor who stays on top of things at this point can make a major difference in a journal’s success.

Nomination of Academic editor and reviewers

As soon as a positive review decision is made by the academic editors, the managing editor should ask for a nominee to over see the submission’s progress through the workflow. It is often useful if the managing editor is able to help determine this person, either by pointing to disciplinary affinities or discussing the relative workload of the editorial team members. The academic editor will be the person responsible for proposing potential referees and reviewing referees’ comments and making a recommendation for or against publication at the end of the review process.

Once an academic editor as been assigned, the managing editor should ask them for names of potential reviewers. Generally you should begin with 2x as many names as required opinions (so for a journal that requires the opinions of 2 referees, ask for 4).

Although it is always nice to have names and¬†email addresses, insisting that the academic editor supply you with both often results in delay, as it usually requires the editor to look the person up. Since this is something you can do as well, it is enough to ask for the name and, if known, institutional affiliation: usually this is enough to find the person; if you can’t, you can always choose the next name on the list or go back to the academic editor for more details.

Preparing the article for review

Sometimes, some minor changes will need to happen before an article can go out for review. Depending on the journal’s policy, this may mean ensuring that the article is anonymous (i.e. that there are no identifying self-references) or converting to a standard format (e.g. Word 2003, Open Office, PDF, etc.)

Because the article has not been reviewed yet and this is not a publication format, you should spend no more time on this than is absolutely necessary to ensure that your work hasn’t harmed the article in some way–e.g. that your anonymisation hasn’t broken sense or that your file conversion hasn’t resulting in formatting problems, lost images, or the like.

 Contact the referees

Once the article is ready to go to referee, you should contact the people on the list provided to you by the academic editor responsible for the article.

Take the referees in turn starting at the top of the list (i.e. begin with the first two names and only move on to the third if you get no response to repeated attempts at contact or the proposed referee says they can’t or won’t do it.

In your email indicate the journal you work for, your position, the editor who recommended the person as a reviewer, and the title of the article (with an abstract if available or a very brief summary). Indicate the turnaround time for a review (usually 4 weeks after they agree to review it). As for a response. {{sample email}}

If the proposed referee agrees to review the article, send them the file with an email thanking them, establishing the actual deadline, and inviting them to contact you as soon as possible if they discover a conflict of interest or other problem or if they find themselves unable to complete the review on time for any other reason.

One week before the deadline, send a reminder attaching a copy of the article once again and inviting them to contact you if they anticipate any problems meeting this deadline. On the deadline, do the same again. And once again, a week later, if not review has been submitted. After two weeks, ask the editor or the incubator management what to do next.

If the proposed referee refuses to review the article, thank them, email the academic editor to let them know, and move on to the next name on the list.

If the proposed referee does not respond to your invitation within a week, forward the original message again after 7 days, asking them if they had received your initial request {{sample email}}; if there is still no answer after two weeks, treat the lack of response as a refusal, alerting the academic editor and moving to the next name on the list.

If you cannot get the required number of referees from the initial list, write to the editor assigned to oversee this article through the review process for an additional set of names. In general, you should always have 2x as many names as vacancies for reviewers.

Summarise and pass on referees comments as they come in

As soon as a referee’s comments come in, read them through, characterise the nature of the comments, and summarise the referee’s recommendation (usually reject, revise and resubmit, accept pending successful revision, accepts with (minor or no) revision.

Your characterisation should be very broad: e.g. “The referee seemed quite positive and recommended accepting with revision”; “The referee recommended rejection but said there was lots of promise”; “the referee recommended acceptance and had a lot of quite detailed suggestions for improvement.” The goal is to give the academic editor a “heads up” rather than do his or her job. {{sample email}}

Do this with each referee. After the last required referee has responded, inform the editor of this fact, summarising the readers’ recommendations (e.g. “the second referee has responded. She seemed quite positive and recommended acceptance. This means that both referees recommended acceptance”). {{sample email}}

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