In general, peer-reviewers should focus on both the significance and conclusiveness of the manuscript. Despite the importance of presented data for their specific field of expertise, the aspect of whether the presented findings actually support the drawn conclusions must be considered. Referees are asked to provide a direct recommendation regarding publication (rejection, acceptance, minor or major revision) based on an impartial but critical assessment of the manuscript. Importantly, there should be no dialogue of any kind between a reviewer and the author(s), except through the handling editor. The editor(s) will take the reviewers’ recommendations into account and reach a final decision. Criticisms are expected to be constructive with no hint of prejudice or use of offensive language. Importantly, the reviewer should include a justified explanation of the manuscript’s strengths, minor and major weaknesses as well as suggestions to eliminate them, so that the authors can understand why their manuscript has been rejected or why there is a need of revision.
Ideally, a peer-reviewer should provide the handling editor with a report that includes the following three parts (we have developed the “Reviewer’s Sheet”, which the reviewer can – but doesn’t need to – use at her/his discretion):
– Confidential comments to the handling editor with any opinion that will not be seen by the authors (e.g. suspicion of plagiarism, falsification, or redundant publication).
– A summary of the major findings and the reviewer’s overall impressions, including the main deficits of the manuscript (if any)
– Specific comments (preferably numbered), which may be divided into major and minor points; for manuscripts recommended for a revision round, it is helpful if the reviewer can additionally provide advice/suggestions to address the stated criticisms (this may include specific experiments, language issues, methodological aspects, proper referencing, etc.)
Altogether, the reviewer should concentrate on the following points:
– General: Does the manuscript contain novel and significant information? Is the addressed issue significant and clearly stated? Is the language acceptable?
– Specific: Does the abstract describe the content clearly and accurately? Are the methods described comprehensively? Do the results justify the drawn conclusions and interpretations? Is other work in the field adequately referenced?
– Advisory: Which other experiments would strengthen the paper?
Reviewers may not use the unpublished information described in manuscripts they are reviewing as resources for their own research interests and should protect this information from any form of exploitation. In addition, reviewers must preserve the confidentiality of unpublished work, prevent their unauthorized access by storing it in a secure manner, and not share it with other colleagues. Reviewers must be aware that any manuscript or abstract sent for peer-review is a confidential document and remains so until it is formally published. However, their anonymity as a reviewer of a given manuscript should be maintained indefinitely. The reviewers (and editors) must recognize that they are being entrusted with a contribution considered of great value by the author(s) and implicit in this trust is the authors’ right to expect that the manuscript will be treated in a confidential manner and protected from any kind of misappropriation during the peer-review (and editorial) process. Thus, Microbial Cell asks all reviewers for their explicit adherence to these confidentiality terms before they receive a manuscript for review.
Peer-review is a critical part in the quality control process of a journal’s decision on the publication of a given manuscript and ultimately in the functioning of the scientific community. Accordingly, the success of any scientific journal strictly depends on the rigor, effectiveness, and commitment of peer-reviewers. Microbial Cell could not function without their contribution and this fact cannot be stressed enough. We thank each peer-reviewer for providing the thoughtful and helpful critiques that make a determining contribution to promote the scientific quality and relevance of articles published in Microbial Cell.