Peer Review Guidelines

The referees’ reports constitute recommendations to the Section Editors of the journal who, along with the (Deputy) Editor-in-Chief, are ultimately responsible for accepting or rejecting submissions.

Criteria for publication

The criteria for selection acceptance are:

  • Originality and high scientific quality.

  • Potential interest to a wide spectrum of biologists and international importance.

  • Conforming to recognized standards of scientific procedure in terms of methodology and ethics.

Reviewing instructions

Reviewers are asked to assess the paper and provide guidance to help Editors make a decision on publication, as well as constructive feedback to authors on how to improve their article. Referees are asked to consider the criteria listed above and answer a list of additional questions regarding the technical quality of the manuscripts. In either case 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.

  • 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 including sufficient presentation for a more general auditorium. Suggestions for cover illustration and illustrations for press releases are welcome.

  • Ethics — any ethical concerns should be included in the referee's report. For example, concerns regarding animal experimentation, human studies or conservation issues, fabrication of results, plagiarism, duplicate publication, incorrect authorship or other type of scientific misconduct or any other area of concern.

  • Transparency of information. Papers must include appropriate end sections: 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.
    Attention should be paid to ensure that:
    — Important information needed to understand the study is not included in supplementary files but is included in the main manuscript itself. The manuscript should remain as a stand-alone piece with the supplementary files providing clear supporting information.
    — All relevant database accession numbers are included.
    — Color is used where it is needed for genuine clarification. Please, note that color illustrations we publish without any charges and restrictions as to the number and size if it is necessary for proper illustrations of the results.

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.

Reviewing procedures

Journal procedure: All submitted manuscript 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 Biological Communications that are selected for peer review are usually sent to three or more independent referees. Authors are welcome to suggest suitable referees in the letter to the Editor attached with the submission. The Section Editor will make an overall decision on a manuscript using peer reviewer comments.

Your review (in whole or in part) will be seen by the paper’s author(s), Section Editor, and (Deputy) Editor-in-Chief. The journal also reserves the right to send your comments, in confidence, to other experts in the case of further advice being required. If you wish to share your review with Publons you can do this.

Decision options: Reviewers are asked to recommend either acceptance, revision (minor/major) or rejection. Acceptance should be selected for a paper that is basically ready for publication but may need some minor changes. 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 journal endeavors 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 Section Editor, but should be agreed in advance.

Revisions and resubmissions: Please note that it is the editorial policy of Biological Communications to offer authors just one round of revision in which to address changes requested by referees. If the revisions are not considered satisfactory by the Section 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 Section Editor whether to continue considering the manuscript. For some rejected manuscripts, the authors will be permitted to resubmit a revised version and enough time to perform additional experiments will be provided.

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, other Editorial Board members and (Deputy) Editor-in-Chief 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 Section 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 and are preceded not in the first priority.

The outcome of an appeal is final and at the Section 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.

Reviewer recognition

Biological Communications encourage reviewers to report their reviews (openly or confidentially) to Publons to give reviewers formal recognition for their work. Over tens of thousands of experts already use Publons to effortlessly track, verify and showcase their peer review and editorial contributions across the world’s journals, without compromising reviewer anonymity. Publons makes it simple to include verified evidence of your peer review and editorial activity in funding and promotion. You can add reviews you have done for other journals by forwarding your review receipts (i.e. "thank you for reviewing" emails from journals) to reviews@publons.com. You can learn more about Publons at https://publons.com/home/.

Each reviewer also receives a printed copy of the journal, where the manuscript he/she reviewed is finally published or any other recent issue, if the manuscript was rejected.

Reviewing policy

Anonymity: It is the policy of the journal 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 journal and the authors.

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 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.