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Requirements for Peer Reviewers 

Requirements for Peer Reviewers
Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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Requirements for Peer Reviewers

Following the recommendations of the ICMJE, CSE, and WAME, reviewers should disclose conflicts of interest in reviewing specific manuscripts and disqualify themselves from a specific review if necessary.2,17,18 Reviewers should never use information obtained from an unpublished manuscript to further their own interests. Following the same rationale applied to authors, the ICMJE also recommends that reviewers state explicitly if they have no relevant conflicts of interest to disclose.2

JAMA includes the following instructions regarding conflicts of interest in the letter sent requesting an individual to review a manuscript:

While most conflicts of interest are not disqualifying, if you perceive that you have a disqualifying interest, either financial or otherwise, please contact the reviewing editor immediately (if possible, with the names of alternative reviewers). This will not affect your reviewer status.

Not all conflicts of interest are necessarily disqualifying, and in some cases the reviewer with the most expertise may also have conflicts of interest. For example, if a potential conflict of interest exists (financial or otherwise), but the editor and reviewer agree that the reviewer can provide an objective assessment, JAMA may request the reviewer to disclose the specific conflict and provide the review. Other journals may choose to exclude any reviewer with a conflict of interest from participating in the review process. A journal’s policy on conflicts of interest for peer reviewers should be communicated to the reviewer when the review is requested.

The online review system used by JAMA and the Archives Journals also contains a field in the reviewer recommendation form that requires reviewers to disclose conflicts of interest or state that they have no relevant conflicts of interest before submitting their reviews. This information is kept confidential and is not revealed to authors or other reviewers.

Many journals, including JAMA and the Archives Journals, will consider authors' requests not to send papers to specific reviewers. The ICMJE recommends that authors who wish to exclude specific reviewers explain the reasons for such requests at the time of manuscript submission.2 (See also 6.1.4, Editorial Assessment and Processing, Editorial Assessment, Selection of Reviewers, and 5.11, Editorial Responsibilities, Roles, Procedures, and Policies.)

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