With Peer Review Week 2017 in full swing, researchers, reviewers, and publishers worldwide are currently engaged in critical conversations about the role of peer review in scholarly communications.
In the spirit of the week’s theme of “Transparency in Review,” ECS hopes to shed as much light as possible upon its own peer review process. After all, the way peer review is conducted affects all participants involved in scientific scholarship—authors, reviewers, publishers, and consumers.
ECS prides itself on its commitment to rigorous peer review, which has remained a focus for the Society since 1902.
“All the work that we publish goes through a very rigorous peer review,” says Robert Savinell, editor of the Journal of The Electrochemical Society, in a podcast on open science. “If you look at the editorial board that we have that makes the decisions, these are all experts in the field. We can give critical feedback to the authors that can make the papers much stronger and much better.”
Likewise, ECS takes pride in being forthright about its peer review practices. It believes all of its authors, reviewers, and readers have a right to know how peer review is performed at ECS. ECS’s goal has always been to disseminate science you can trust. Transparent peer review is the cornerstone of this trust.
To ECS, transparency is about being clear, direct, and accountable in regard to the peer review process.
ECS’s peer review process
Authors, reviewers, and consumers should always be cognizant of their publications’ peer review methods. 93% of respondents to Peer Review Evaluation’s 2016 survey believe journals should provide a description of their peer review process.
ECS has always been open about its peer review process. In keeping with the week’s theme of transparency, the steps in ECS’s peer review process are outlined below. (ECS also publishes papers in ECS Transactions (ECST), a proceedings publication. The papers in ECST are not peer-reviewed to the same degree as journal papers. What follows is a description of the process used for papers submitted to either the Journal of The Electrochemical Society or the ECS Journal of Solid State Science and Technology.)
- Submissions first run through iThenticate, a plagiarism detection program, and next a quality control check is performed. Files and submission information must be verified and deemed suitable for review in order to pass. Minor amends are made so that the paper can be published as soon as possible after acceptance. Authors are contacted if necessary.
- Once a paper passes the quality control check, it goes to the technical editor responsible for the topical interest area in which the paper falls for an initial review. If an editor feels the paper would be more appropriate for another topical interest area, it may be passed to a different one. If an editor feels the paper falls outside the scope of ECS journals entirely, it may be rejected outright. Provided the paper fits ECS criteria, it is assigned to an associate editor, who manages the rest of the peer review process for that paper.
- The associate editor reviews the paper, and then selects two or more reviewers based upon research interests and areas of expertise. Authors of previously published papers are the primary source for reviewers. The ECS journals utilize a single-blind peer review process wherein the identity of the reviewer is kept anonymous to the author, but the author’s name and affiliation is on the paper that the reviewer accesses.
- The associate editor asks the selected reviewers to provide their comments on the paper’s presentation and the research reported. Reviewers are asked to respond within about 2 weeks. Timely reviews allow ECS to have an average turnaround time to first decision of 24 days. Not all reviewers are quite as prompt. As a result, not all authors receive an initial decision in that time frame, but ECS strives to hit that target for as many papers as possible.
- Once the associate editor 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 associate editor 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 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 usually receive their page proofs in 2-3 days after acceptance.
- Reviewers are sent the final decision along with a copy of their own comments.
ECS thanks all of its reviewers for enabling this process to run as smoothly as it does. ECS’s 2016 reviewers are recognized online.