Editorial Responsibility for Manuscript Assessment
5.11.3 Editorial Responsibility for Manuscript Assessment
The editor should establish and maintain procedures and policies for appropriate editorial assessment and decisions to accept, request revision of, and reject mansucripts (see also 6.0, Editorial Assessment and Processing).4 The editor also establishes whether such decisions will be made unilaterally or by other editors (eg, deputy, associate, assistant, contributing, section, or guest editor) or in collaboration. Factors used to determine decisions should be made available to authors and reviewers. For example, JAMA editors use the following general criteria to evaluate manuscripts: material is original, writing is clear, study methods are appropriate, data are valid, conclusions are reasonable and supported by the data, information is important, and topic has general medical interest.22 Through instructions for authors and reviewer forms, JAMA authors and reviewers are informed that these basic criteria are used to assess a paper’s eligibility for publication.
Depending on the nature of a journal’s editorial resources and the number of manuscripts received, the editor may rely on a triage system to evaluate all manuscripts before peer review. Not all manuscripts will be appropriate for the journal, and after an initial assessment the editor may decide to reject some papers without sending them for external peer review. For example, JAMA editors reject more than 50% of the approximately 6000 major manuscripts received annually without obtaining external peer review.20 In such cases, the editor’s duty to provide a detailed review to the author of each paper is outweighed by the duty to reviewers (by not requesting their time to review a manuscript that has no chance of publication), to owners (by not consuming resources needlessly), and to other authors who have submitted papers to the journal (by maintaining efficient processes) (see also 6.0, Editorial Assessment and Processing). In addition, the author may be best served by a prompt notification of a decision indicating rejection if the manuscript is unlikely to make it through the journal’s review process and be considered for acceptance, thereby allowing the author to submit the manuscript to another journal without additional delay.
For manuscripts determined to be eligible for external review and additional consideration, all components of the submission should receive proper review and editorial assessment; this includes the manuscript text, tables, figures, and references, as well as relevant supplementary materials, documents, and video and audio files.