The Review Process
The author(s) submit the manuscript via the journal editorial website. Initial submissions can be in any format or style, but authors may wish to use the journal’s supplied templates for published articles which are mandatory once articles have been accepted. The journal encourages the use of reproducible formats (e.g., TeX, Rmd/Jupyter). All articles must be written in English: American or British English may be used, but authors are encouraged to strive for consistency throughout the manuscript. Authors are strongly encouraged to suggest both proposed and opposed reviewers. The journal does not guarantee to invite proposed reviews, but guarantees not to invite opposed reviewers.
The Editor screens each submission for
- relevance to the scope of the journal,
- compliance with the policies and procedures set out here (e.g., adherence to data-sharing policy),
- possible plagiarism,
- quality of the written English and
- scientific quality of the work.
Manuscripts that do not pass this screening check are returned to authors with feedback and do not proceed to peer review. Manuscripts are not screened for perceived novelty, potential impact or importance of the findings; nor may Action Editors use such criteria when taking editorial decisions. Neither are manuscripts, at this stage, screened for formatting (since no particular format is required until an article has been accepted). However, because the journal employs no staff, it is crucial that for accepted articles, authors undertake their own spell checks, bibliography checking, grammar checking and typesetting (see “Accepted Papers” section below).
Conflict of Interest
A conflict of interest arises when the Editor, an Action Editor, or a reviewer is an author on the submitted manuscript, or shares any of the following relationships with an author on the submitted manuscript: (a) works at the same institution, (b) has been a mentor/mentee (e.g., PhD or postdoctoral supervisor/mentor), (c) has published together within the past three years, (d) joint investigators on a grant or grant proposal or (e) personal relationship (e.g., spouse, parent, sibling etc.). Selection of Action Editors and invitation of reviewers, as described in the following two sections, must avoid such a conflict of interest. This constraint may be relaxed for papers published by large consortia with tens or hundreds of authors if this is unavoidable in the interests of securing sufficiently qualified reviewers. A conflict of interest also arises when the Editor, an Action Editor, reviewer or author has any commercial interest in any of the work described in the submitted manuscript (e.g., the study uses a questionnaire instrument published by a company in which the individual has shares, or from which they receive royalty payments). Selection of Action Editors and invitation of reviewers, as described in the following two sections, must avoid such a conflict of interest. If an author has any commercial interest in any of the work described in the submitted manuscript, they must include a declaration of conflict of interests statement in the manuscript. Such a statement is not required if no conflict of interests exists. Any conflict of interest identified after publication of the manuscript should be raised using the allegations of misconduct procedure set out above.
Selection of Action Editor
If the manuscript passes the screening check, the Editor assigns the paper to an Action Editor, taking care to avoid a conflict of interest (see previous section for definition). In cases where the Editor has a conflict of interests, the Editor will not assign the manuscript to an Action Editor. Instead, the Editor will notify all Action Editors, who will agree amongst themselves who should (a) conduct the initial screening check and (b) serve as Action Editor (either a single AE performing both tasks, or one conducting the initial screening check and another serving as AE).
Invitation of reviewers
The Action Editor sequentially invites reviewers, taking care to avoid a conflict of interest, until two have agreed to review the manuscript. In special circumstances (e.g., the two reviewers are diametrically opposed, or indicate that the opinion of a reviewer with particular statistical or methodological expertise is required), the Action Editor may invite additional reviewers as required. Note: On 5th March, 2020, the Editorial Board took a vote on the number of reviews required in normal circumstances. The vote was in favour of two reviews (65.4%) rather than three (34.6%), with 26 members of the board voting, and four abstentions.
Criteria for reviewers
The Action Editor may not invite individuals designated by the authors as opposed reviewers. The Action Editor is not obliged to invite individuals designated by the authors as proposed reviewers, though in practice will usually invite at least one. The Action Editor may not invite as a reviewer any individual who has a conflict of interests with an author (see the Conflict of Interest section for definition). In order to qualify as a potential reviewer, an individual must have recently published at least one first-author article in a relevant journal.No requirement with regard to seniority or employment status is imposed (e.g., a graduate student who meets the first-author publication requirement may serve as a reviewer).
Action Editor decisions
When an Action Editor has received the required reviews (in normal circumstances, two reviews), they will make an editorial decision from the following four options (a) accept, (b) revise and resubmit: minor revisions, (c) revise and resubmit: major revisions, (d) reject outright. The Action Editor will (via the editorial system) email this decision to the corresponding author along with the reviews and an Action Editor’s decision letter which summarizes the reviews and any suggested/required changes. Note that editorial decisions are taken by the Action Editor responsible for the manuscript, not the Editor, though the Action Editor may seek advice from the Editor, particularly in cases where a concern exists over the extent to which an article complies with the policies and procedures set out here.
Authors whose manuscripts have been rejected outright may appeal to the Editor, who will ask a new Action Editor to look at the manuscript and the reviews. If the new Action Editor agrees with the first, the decision stands. If the new Action Editor disagrees with the first, the Editor will take the publication decision. Authors who feel that the Editor has acted improperly or unfairly when dealing with their appeal should contact the Editorial Board via the published complaints procedures.
Authors receiving a revise-and-resubmit decision should – if they choose to do so – resubmit their paper via the editorial website, including a detailed cover letter in which they respond to the points raised, and flag any changes made to the manuscript as a result. The journal does not impose any deadline for submitting a resubmission (since months or even years may be required if additional experimental work is suggested and undertaken). However, authors who decide to withdraw their paper should do so (via the editorial website) as soon as possible.
Resubmitted revise-and-resubmit papers will be re-reviewed by the original reviewers wherever possible, though the Action Editor may invite an alternative if both original reviewers decline. The Action Editor will determine the number of re-reviews required to make a decision: zero (e.g., if the changes requested are very minor), one (e.g., if the paper is re-reviewed by the more critical of two reviewers, who now recommends acceptance), two (e.g., if the changes requested are major) or – exceptionally – three or more (e.g., in cases of continuing disagreement between reviewers).
There is no formal limit to the number of revise-and-resubmit rounds that a paper many undergo, but – in the interests of not unduly taking up reviewers’ time – the Action Editor has discretion to reject outright a paper that appears to be making little progress in addressing any problems raised by the reviewers.
The Editorial Board is responsible for overseeing the efficient running of an editorially independent journal, in particular approving and updating its policies and procedures, approving the appointment of the first Editor and Editorial Board, appointing subsequent Editors, and overseeing complaints, appeals, disputes and allegations of misconduct. The COPE guidelines state that journals should provide training for reviewers and board members. Since we have no budget, we are able to provide this training only in the form of these policies and procedures - see in particular the section on Peer review training.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Editorial Board has overall collective responsibility for the journal. The Head of the Editorial Board organizes votes of the Editorial Board members and liaises with the Editor to ensure that quorate decisions taken by the Editorial Board are implemented. The Editor appoints Action Editors and the Statistics Consultant, screens papers for suitability for the journal, and assigns papers to Action Editors. The Editor is responsible for the day-to-day running of the journal, though ultimate responsibility for the journal lies collectively with the Editorial board. Action Editors invite peer reviewers and take publication decisions. The Statistics Consultant maintains guidelines for best practices in statistical analyses (accessed via the journal’s website) and is available to consult with Action Editors and reviewers who have statistics-related questions with regard to papers they have been assigned. The responsibilities set out in the present section are intended merely as a guideline, other duties are outlined elsewhere, and are as implied by normal running of an academic journal.
Appointment of the Editor
The Editor is appointed by the Editorial Board, by means of a vote in which more than 50% of Editorial Board members participate (in order to reach quorum) and more than 50% of voting Editorial Board members vote in favour of the proposed Editor. The normal term of an Editor is five years (i.e., 60 months exactly), though (a) an Editor can resign at any time and (b) the Editorial Board can at any time vote to remove an Editor via the above voting procedure. No individual can serve more than one term as Editor.
Appointment of Action Editors
Action Editors are appointed by the Editor. The normal term of an Action Editor is four years (i.e., 48 months exactly), though (a) an Action Editor can resign at any time and (b) the Editorial Board can at any time vote to remove an Action Editor via the above voting procedure. No individual can serve two or more consecutive terms as an Action Editor. An individual may serve as both the Editor and an Action Editor (though not concurrently).
The journal has three distinct procedures as detailed on the Research Integrity page.
Establishment of the journal and its Policies and Procedures
Before the launch of the journal, the Editorial Board formally approved:
- The journal's policies and procedures (PDF file).
- The appointment of the proposed first Editor, Ben Ambridge (University of Liverpool),
- The appointment of the proposed Editorial Board.
- The appointment of the proposed Head of the Editorial Board, Patricia Brooks (City University of New York).
In each case, approval is granted by means of a vote in which more than 50% of Editorial Board members participate (in order to reach quorum) and more than 50% of voting Editorial Board members vote in favour of approval; the vote to be organized by the head of the Editorial Board.
Changes to policies and procedures
Any of the journal's policies and procedures can be changed at any time by means of a vote in which more than 50% of Editorial Board members participate (in order to reach quorum) and more than 50% of voting Editorial Board members vote in favour of the proposed change; the vote to be organized by the head of Editorial Board.