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Reviewer guide

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Unbiased independent critical assessment is of vital importance in scholarly publishing. BiO adheres to The Company of Biologists' editorial principles and to the guidelines on publishing objective and unbiased scientific information set by COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics). For more information on the principles that are of relevance to reviewers (including confidentiality and competing interests), please visit our journal policies page. Please also see our editorial process and details on different article types.

BiO expects reviewers to review papers in a respectful manner. Please take care to ensure that any statements are factually supported, and that opinions stated are genuinely held and well-justified. On rare occasions where the Editors of the journal are concerned that papers have not been reviewed according to these principles, we might contact the reviewer and reserve the right to make changes to the report before it is transmitted to the authors.

In general, we believe that all information pertinent to the decision on a manuscript should be included in the comments to the author. However, we recognise that there are occasions when reviewers need to communicate comments of a confidential nature to the Editor (particularly where there may be ethical issues); we therefore provide a box for such confidential comments.

Editorial decisions are not made according to a majority rule as an Editor will evaluate the recommendations of all the reviewers before reaching a final decision.

BiO operates single-anonymised peer review.

BiO encourages the involvement of postdocs and other early career scientists in the peer review process. We simply ask that: the name of the co-reviewer is reported to the Editor (a field is provided in the report form for this purpose); the same rules of confidentiality and conflict of interest be applied; there is a genuine mentoring process; and the senior invited reviewer takes final responsibility for the report delivered to the journal.

Reviewers wishing to identify themselves to the authors by signing their reviews are welcome to do so.

To make manuscript submission as easy as possible for authors, BiO has a format-free submission policy. As an author, we are sure you will appreciate this policy; however, as a reviewer, if you have trouble viewing a specific manuscript, please contact the Editorial Office and we will ask the authors to provide a more user-friendly version.

BiO values its reviewers and is a partner of the reviewer recognition service hosted by Web of Science (previously Publons), allowing reviewers to receive formal recognition for their peer review contribution.

We are always glad to receive comments and suggestions from reviewers. Thank you for generously contributing to the reviewing process, and for your time and effort in sustaining BiO as a high-quality research journal.

Guidelines for reviewing Research Articles and Methods & Techniques papers

BiO conducts peer review that is timely, thorough, constructive and fair. Reviewers are asked to confirm that the experimental work is properly conducted and that the conclusions are adequately supported by the data. Subjective criteria such as broad interest or impact will not be used by the Editor as a basis for rejecting a manuscript. Consistent with our disregard for impact, the title and the summary of the manuscript should reflect the conclusions. The paper should clearly address a non-trivial scientific question. There should be no 'eye-catching' titles or abstracts that mislead the reader; title and abstract should accurately reflect the contents of the manuscript without hyperbole.

We ask reviewers to address the following criteria, which are part of the BiO rubric for editorial decision making:

  1. Experimental quality
    a) Does each figure have the proper controls?
    b) Are experiments performed using appropriate methods that will answer the question (or test the hypothesis or support the observations) posed by the authors? Is the right tool used for the job?
    c) Were the data analyzed using appropriate statistical tests?
  2. Reproducibility
    a) Were experiments in each figure performed using adequate number of biological replicates?
    b) Is there sufficient raw data to assess the rigor of the analysis?
    c) Does the methods section provide sufficient detail to permit reproducibility?
  3. Completeness
    a) Are the author’s conclusions supported by the data?
    b) Are there any flaws in the experimental design that invalidate the approach taken by the authors?
    c) Are there experiments that have not been performed, but if true would disprove the conclusion? If yes, and if such experiments would be costly or time-consuming to perform, do the authors acknowledge this in a discussion of the limitations?
  4. Scholarship
    a) Do the authors cite and discuss the merits of relevant data that would argue against their conclusion?
    b) Do the authors cite and discuss the merits of relevant data that would support their conclusion?

Because preprints are not peer reviewed, reviewers should not reference preprints as examples of lack of novelty when evaluating manuscripts. Authors may be encouraged to discuss relevant preprints, but these should not be taken into consideration when making a recommendation on a paper.

Additional guidance for Methods & Techniques manuscripts

Do the authors cite and discuss the current state-of-the-field and clearly explain how the method will advance the field? Reviewers should assess whether the method is sound. Validation of the method must be included. All other standard reviewing guidelines that relate to Research articles, including statistical analysis, also apply to Methods & Techniques papers.

Focus on biodiversity: The Forest of Biologists

The Forest of Biologists logo

To acknowledge our reviewers, who help preserve the integrity of the scientific record, we are funding the restoration and preservation of ancient woodland within Great Knott Wood in the Lake District National Park, UK. Each time a peer reviewer completes the review process for one of our articles, we will dedicate a tree in the ancient woodland to them. Representations of these trees will be added to our virtual forest periodically. There will be no association with specific articles to ensure that peer reviewers retain their anonymity.

Read the Editorial to find out more about The Forest of Biologists.

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