Contributions submitted to Royal Society journals that are selected for peer review are usually sent to two or more, independent referees. Authors are welcome to suggest suitable referees, which the Society may consider.
The referees’ reports constitute recommendations to the Editor of the journal who is ultimately responsible for accepting or rejecting submissions.
Before reviewing for Open Biology, please familiarise yourself with the scope of the journal:
Open Biology publishes high impact research in cell biology, developmental and structural biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, immunology, microbiology and genetics.Top
Criteria for publication
The criteria for selection for publication are:
- Outstanding scientific excellence and importance that furthers the field, and improves or changes our understanding of it.
- Originality: research articles should report novel work that has not been published elsewhere. Manuscripts that lack novelty or only present an incremental advance over previous work are not acceptable. Review articles should cover the latest developments in a specific area of research, place it in a wider context and provide original insights into the topic.
- Potential interest for a wide spectrum of readers; findings should be put into a wide context and be understandable by readers who may not be familiar with the subject area.
- Conforming to recognised standards of scientific procedure in terms of methodology and ethical standards.
Reviewers are asked to assess the paper and provide guidance to help Editors to make a decision on publication, and constructive feedback to authors on how to improve their article. The referees’ reports constitute recommendations to the Editor of the journal who is ultimately responsible for accepting or rejecting submissions.
Referees are asked to consider the criteria listed above. Manuscripts that are technically sound but that don’t meet the above criteria will generally not be suitable for publication. In these cases your report should provide details of any revisions the authors can make to bring their manuscript up to the required standard or recommend rejection.
Attention should be paid to:
• Scientific accuracy, including statistical analysis. Referees may suggest that the article be sent to a specialist statistical reviewer. We provide some guidance on good statistical practice.
• Whether the research methods are appropriate, and evidence is provided for the conclusions drawn.
• Writing style and appropriateness for a wide audience.
• Use of suitable illustrations, tables and supplementary material to illustrate results.
• Appropriate length - each article should be of the shortest length required to contain all useful and relevant information, and no longer.
• Ethics - any ethical concerns should be included in the referee's report. For example, concerns regarding animal experimentation, human studies or conservation issues.
• Data sharing - it is the policy of the journal that authors make any data, code and digital research materials supporting the results in the article publically available on publication, either in a publically available repository or as supplementary material. A ‘Data Accessibility’ section should appear at the end of the manuscript where applicable to make clear where these data etc can be found. You will be asked to confirm that this statement is available and that suitable content has been provided. Please contact the Editorial Office if you feel that the information provided is insufficient for you to assess, and please include details of anything that you feel is missing in your comments to the authors.
• Transparency of information. Papers must include appropriate end sections: authors’ contributions, competing interests, ethics statement (where relevant), data accessibility and funding. Please note in your comments if you feel that anything is missing or concerns you.
• Electronic supplementary material. Supplementary material should be reviewed in addition to the main text. Please note that the main article as published should stand on its own merit.
If you have any suspicion of misconduct please alert the Editorial Office as soon as possible. This can include fabrication of results, plagiarism, duplicate publication, incorrect authorship or any other area of concern.
Submission of referee reports: The report form asks a series of multiple choice questions and has space for comments to the Authors as well as for additional confidential comments to the Editors. All reviews should include detailed comments for the authors, particularly when rejection or major revision is recommended. We require referees to submit the report via the online reviewer form – we are unfortunately unable to accept email submissions of your report.
Collaborative reviewing: If you wish to write your review with a student or colleague, this is usually permitted. However please tell the journal before starting your review, and make sure that you name all reviewers in the confidential comments section of your review. Please also note the confidentiality policy below.Top
Journal procedure: All articles are sent to an Editorial Board member for an initial assessment of their suitability, and may be returned to authors without in-depth peer review if this assessment makes it seem unlikely that the paper will be accepted. Contributions submitted to Royal Society journals that are selected for peer review are usually sent to two or more, independent referees. Authors are welcome to suggest suitable referees, which the Society may consider.
Your full review (including your name) will be seen by the handling Editor for the paper and the Editorial Office staff. In cases of conflict or concern, reviews may also be shared with the journal’s Editor-in-Chief or another relevant member of the Editorial Board.
Decision options: Reviewers are asked to recommend either acceptance, revision or rejection. Acceptance should be selected for a paper that is basically ready for publication but may need some minor changes. Major revision indicates that a paper does not have major problems, and should be acceptable with some further work. Rejection should be reserved for papers that have major problems with experimental design, interpretation or novelty, or if you have identified misconduct or ethical issues. The comments to authors section of your review should be as thorough and constructive as possible.
Speed of refereeing: The Society endeavours to keep time from submission to publication as short as possible. Therefore, we ask referees to report back within 14 days of receiving the manuscript. In certain instances, an extension to this time may be granted by the Editorial Office, but should be agreed in advance.
Notification of decision: We provide notification of the Editor’s decision on a manuscript to all referees.
Revisions and resubmissions: Please note that it is the editorial policy of Open Biology to offer authors one round of revision in which to address changes requested by referees. If the revisions are not considered satisfactory by the Editor, then the paper will be rejected, and not considered further for publication by the journal. In the event that the author chooses not to address a referee’s comments, and no scientific justification is included in their cover letter for this omission, it is at the discretion of the Editor whether to continue considering the manuscript. For some rejected manuscripts, the authors will be permitted to submit a revised version.
For most revised or resubmitted articles, one or more of the original referees will be asked to review it and comment on authors' replies to their criticisms of the original version.
Adjudication: In cases of a substantial disparity between referee reports, an adjudicator may be sought. Adjudicators are sent the referee reports and the full paper and asked to advise the Editor. Editorial Board members are often invited to be Adjudicators.
Appeals: Authors have the right to appeal a rejection decision. In this circumstance, referees may be asked by the Editor to comment on issues raised by the authors. Appeals will only be considered if there has been a fundamental and clear misunderstanding of the research presented in the manuscript.
The outcome of an appeal is final and at the Editor’s discretion. Appeals will have one of three outcomes:
- The appeal is unsuccessful, and the rejection decision is not overturned
- The appeal is a success, and a resubmission is invited
- The appeal is a success, and the paper published ‘as is’.
In the event that the appeal is unsuccessful, the journal considers the matter closed, and will not conduct further correspondence regarding that appeal or rejected manuscript.
Transfers: Papers rejected from Open Biology may be transferred to another Royal Society journal. In this circumstance your review will also be made available to the Editorial team on the other journal and used as part of their assessment of the paper – this may include your anonymous report being made available to other referees, if sought by the Editor. If you would not be happy for this to happen automatically, please let the Editorial Office know when you submit your review. This will not prohibit you from reviewing for the journal.Top
The Publishing Ethics policy describes the Royal Society's position on the major ethical principles of academic publishing. Authors, editors and referees are asked to comply with this policy. In addition, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) have published ethical guidelines for peer reviewers that provide basic guidance on the principles and standards that peer reviewers are expected to adhere to.
Anonymity: It is the policy of the Society that the names of referees are kept confidential, unless otherwise requested by referees in their report.
Confidentiality: When agreeing to referee an article, all referees undertake to keep the article confidential, and not to redistribute it without permission from the Society and the authors. If referees wish to invite a colleague to help with the review, or if the advice of colleagues is sought, referees must obtain consent from the Editorial Office and ensure that confidentiality is maintained. The names of anyone involved with the review besides the invited reviewer should be included in the confidential comments to the Editor.
Conflicts of interest: Where referees have a conflict of interest (e.g. competing commercial interest or a personal association that could bias judgement) this should be declared upon invitation to referee.
Data protection: Referee details are entered on our editorial database to ensure that we can process articles efficiently. In accordance with the Data Protection Act, referees are informed that the data will be used for processing articles for publication as well as for general administrative purposes. We will not pass your information on to third parties other than our contractors, suppliers or agents who we use to provide services that you have requested or who help us provide those services. A copy of the Society's data protection policy, including data subjects' rights, is obtainable from the Society.