Guidelines for Reviewers

The South African Journal of Science is committed to publishing high-quality content in a timeous fashion. We value the contributions made by Reviewers in the peer-review process that assist us in achieving this goal.

Reviewers perform a valuable service to the academic community. If you have accepted an invitation to review, we thank you in advance for agreeing to review a manuscript. By agreeing to review a manuscript, you also accept certain responsibilities and we trust that you will find the information below helpful in this regard.

Purpose and approach of peer review

A Reviewer’s approach should be collegial, both in purpose and tone. Reviewers should focus their comments, whether positive or negative, on the content of a manuscript and not on the authors.

Reviewers should have expertise in the topic addressed in the manuscript. We ask Reviewers to provide the Associate Editor with an expert opinion on the quality and suitability of the manuscript AND provide feedback to the authors that will help them improve their work, which is the ultimate goal of the peer-review process.

Reviewers should not shy away from identifying weaknesses, but should not be unduly critical. Criticism must be constructive and given with the intent of improving the manuscript for publication.

Reviewers should not restrict comments to negative or weak aspects of the manuscript – strong and positive features should also be indicated.

Peer-review process and selection of Reviewers

Research Letters, Research Articles and Review Articles are subject to peer review. Although the Editor-in-Chief may solicit an external review at his discretion, items published in the front section of the journal are not subject to peer review (and therefore do not qualify for the Department of Higher Education and Training subsidy).

Manuscripts first undergo an assessment for compliance and suitability. If a manuscript is deemed suitable for peer review, the Associate Editor assigned to that manuscript invites potential Reviewers. It is at the discretion of the Associate Editor whether or not Reviewers recommended by authors are selected; the selection will, however, include Reviewers who are not on the recommended list. Due consideration also is given to the authors’ non-preferred Reviewers, but, ultimately, the decision on who to invite to review rests with the Associate Editor.

Potential Reviewers are first sent an invitation to review which includes the abstract of the manuscript and the Guidelines to Reviewers. Only once an invitation to review is accepted, is access to the manuscript provided, via a link in the confirmation email.

The peer-review process is double blind, that is, both the authors and the Reviewers remain anonymous. Please see Peer-review Process for more information on the peer-review process and Reviewers for more information on the database of Reviewers.

Online report

Reviewers must complete their reports online, using the form provided on the ScholarOne Manuscripts site which is accessible via the link in the confirmation email received after accepting an invitation to review.

Please contact the Online Publishing Administrator or ScholarOne Manuscripts for guidance and technical assistance with the online form.

Questions relating to a specific manuscript should be directed to the Associate Editor handling that manuscript.

Deadlines

Reports must be submitted within 30 days of receipt of the manuscript for review.

Reviewers are given 7 days to respond to an invitation to review before an alternative Reviewer is approached.

Automated reminders are sent to assist Reviewers in responding timeously.

A Reviewer will be notified if the required number of reviews for a manuscript is received before their report is submitted, so as not to utilise their time unnecessarily. In the event that a Reviewer has already initiated the review, the report will still be welcomed and accepted.

Conflicts of interest

Reviewers must report any potential or real conflict of interest to the Associate Editor before a review is accepted.

Reviewers are asked to declare any potential conflicts of interest arising during the review on the online review form.

Examples of potential conflicts of interest include submissions by family members or students and discerning the identity of the authors.

A conflict of interest does not necessarily invalidate the review report.

Conflicts of interest policy

Confidentiality

Reviewers must respect the confidentiality of the review process as well as the proprietary rights of the authors.

Confidentiality applies to invitations to review as well as to manuscripts under review.

It is not appropriate to use, copy, share or discuss any part of the manuscript, during or after the review process.

Permission must be obtained from the Associate Editor for any form of collaboration or consultation on the review; the person with whom a Reviewer collaborates or consults must also maintain confidentiality.

All correspondence between Reviewers and the Editorial Office must be considered confidential.

The review process is double blind; Reviewers are requested to keep their identity confidential.

Confidentiality policy

Evaluation according to criteria for publication

Manuscripts should be evaluated according to:

  • Scope
  • Scientific conduct
  • Content
  • Presentation

Scope

  • Determine whether the topic and language are appropriate for the scope and readership of the Journal.

Scientific conduct

  • Assess the proper citation and referencing of previously published studies, including the critical issue of the originality of the work.
  • Explain any judgements and offer support for any claim that work has been previously reported.
  • Identify any obvious conflicts of interest.
  • Confirm that there is an explicit statement of approval by an institutional ethics committee for studies involving human subjects and non-human animals.

Content

  • Assess whether the manuscript is novel and adds significant information.
  • Advise whether the title, points of significance and abstract are appropriate and representative of the content.
  • Assess if the literature review is up to date and if all relevant work has been included and acknowledged.

□ Scrutinise the methods and results in terms of consistency, interpretability and reproducibility.
□ Identify gaps that could or should be filled to enhance the interpretability and strength of the findings and/or insights.
□ Contest conclusions not justified by the results or arguments presented.
□ Advise whether the number of references is appropriate and their selection is judicious.

Presentation

Assess, and if applicable suggest improvements, regarding:

  • style and clarity of language
  • focus
  • length
  • number, format and relevance of figures and tables
  • structure, including relevance and division of supplementary material
  • referencing style

Some criteria will be addressed through the Questionnaire section of the online review form, and other criteria should be addressed in the Comments section.

Final recommendation and comments

Reviewers are requested to provide a clear, consistent and useful recommendation to the Associate Editor. Providing only one or two comments is not sufficient for such a purpose – whether the recommendation is accept or reject.

The final decision, however, is that of the Associate Editor assigned to the manuscript. The Associate Editor will evaluate at least two reports before making the decision. In cases in which the two reports are substantially different, the Associate Editor can elect to send the manuscript to an arbitrator for a final verdict.

The recommendation (and final decision) can be:

  • Accept as is (apart from minor editorial changes)
  • Accept but request minor revisions (to be reviewed by the Associate Editor)
  • Request major revisions (to be re-reviewed)
  • Reject

Reasons to reject a manuscript include major methodological or interpretational problems, failure to add anything novel and inappropriateness for the Journal scope or readership.

Recommending revisions is appropriate for many manuscripts, but Reviewers should not use this recommendation to try to soften or delay what will inevitably be a final rejection.

It is not realistic to ask authors to revise what has already occurred – major weaknesses are unlikely to be fixed and warrant a rejection. Revisions are generally restricted to rewriting, clarifying, performing further analyses and providing more detail.

Reviewers have the option to provide confidential comments to the Associate Editor, but should not avoid providing a constructive reply directly to the authors which will enable them to improve the manuscript.

Reviewers will have access to the outcome of the review via ScholarOne Manuscripts and may be asked to reassess a revised manuscript.

Enquiries and feedback

For general enquiries on the review process please contact the Online Publishing Administrator. Please contact the Associate Editor assigned to the manuscript for specific enquiries on the manuscript.

Feedback also is welcome.