September 28-October 2, 2015 is the first Peer Review Week, and it’s a good a time to put a spotlight on good practice in peer review and celebrate all it brings to the scholarly communication process. At ECS, we are marking Peer Review Week with a look at how peer review works here, and what happens to your manuscript after you submit it.
Our authors already know that the preparation and submission of a scientific manuscript for peer review can be a lengthy process, involving not just the research work and writing of the paper, but also the collection of supporting pieces of information required to enable publication.
But what happens after you hit the “Submit” button?
The first stage of the peer review process is a quality control (QC) stage, where we simply check that all the files are suitable for review and all the information provided during submission is ready to use. We get back to the author or make minor amends ourselves to resolve any issues so that as soon as the paper is accepted it can be published immediately.
Once a paper passes QC, it goes to the Technical Editor responsible for the Technical Interest Area (TIA) in which the paper falls for an initial review. At this stage it might be passed to a different TIA if the editor feels the paper fits better elsewhere, or it might be rejected outright if it falls outside the scope of the ECS journals altogether. If the paper fits ECS criteria, it is assigned to an Associate Editor (AE) who manages the full peer review process for that paper.
The AE reviews the paper, and then selects two or more reviewers, matching their research interests and areas of expertise to the paper topic. Authors of previously published papers are the primary pool for reviewers, which is why the author profile is so important. With thousands of people to choose from, it helps to have the author’s own description of the areas in which they are best-suited to review papers.
The AE asks the reviewers to provide their comments on the presentation and on the research reported. We ask that reviewers respond within about 2 weeks. It is the willingness of other researchers to provide their feedback in such a timely manner that allows ECS to have an average turnaround time to first decision of 24 days. Not all reviewers are quite that prompt, and, as a result, not all authors receive an initial decision in that time frame, but we strive to hit that target on every paper we can.
Once the AE has received sufficient reviews to make a first decision, the paper is accepted, rejected, or returned to the author for revision based on the reviewers’ comments. Authors are asked to submit their revised paper within 2-4 weeks, along with a list of the changes made or replies to comments not requiring revision, depending on the extent of revision necessary. Revised manuscripts are then reviewed again by the Associate Editor, and sent back out for review if necessary.
Once the AE has made a decision to accept or reject the paper, that recommendation is passed to the Technical Editor for final approval, and the decision is sent to the author. The average time frame for submission of a revised manuscript to a final decision is just 7-10 days, but many authors receive word in only 2-3 days. Accepted papers are scheduled for publication as soon as possible, and authors receive their page proofs usually in 2-3 days.
At the end of the review process we send reviewers the final decision along with a copy of their comments—and a hearty thank you from us! Without the support of our reviewers, ECS—and scholarly publishing in general—would not be able to function as it does now.
The expertise and willingness of reviewers to undertake the review process makes it possible to publish work that has been thoughtfully assessed by subject experts before it is added to the scientific record. Viva peer review!
PS: Get more information about Peer Review Week and find out why the peer review process is at the heart of scholarly communication.