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Editorial Responsibility for Peer Review 

Editorial Responsibility for Peer Review
Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

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Editorial Responsibility for Peer Review

Decisions about manuscripts are made by editors, not peer reviewers. Reviewers offer valuable advice, serve as consultants to the editor, and may make recommendations about a paper’s suitability for publication, but all editorial decisions should be made by the editors. Editors are obliged to be courteous to peer reviewers, provide them with guidance and explicit instructions, assign only those papers that are appropriate to specific reviewers (in terms of reviewer expertise and interest), maintain confidentiality if using blind or anonymous review, provide reviewers with sufficient time to conduct their review, and avoid overworking them.2,4 Editors should ask reviewers in advance whether they are available for and interested in reviewing a specific manuscript, unless they have a prior agreement to assign manuscripts to reviewers without advanced consent.

Many journals publish lists of reviewers' names to acknowledge, credit, and thank them publicly for their work. Some journals offer qualifying reviewers continuing education credit, a letter of commendation that can be shared with supervisors or promotion committees, or subscriptions to the journal. Few journals offer financial compensation to peer reviewers, except perhaps those who may review a substantial number of papers or perform specialized reviews (eg, statistics). Editors should provide feedback to reviewers, such as notifying reviewers of the manuscript’s final disposition, sharing copies of other reviewer comments of the same manuscript, and providing regular assessments of the quality of the reviewer’s work.2,4

Editors should not share a specific review of a manuscript with anyone outside the editorial office, other than the authors and other reviewers, unless the journal operates an open peer-review system that includes publication of reviewer recommendations and comments and reviewers are informed of this in advance. Editors should develop a specific policy regarding who has access to copies of a review, and this policy should be clearly communicated to all persons involved in the review process (see 6.0, Editorial Assessment and Processing, and 5.7.1, Confidentiality, Confidentiality During Editorial Evaluation and Peer Review and After Publication).

Many journals develop databases of reviewers, including their addresses and affiliations, areas of expertise, turnaround times, and quality ratings for each manuscript review. Editors and publishers are obliged not to make secondary use of the information in the database without the prior consent of the reviewers and should never exploit it for personal use, benefit, or profit (eg, selling a list of peer reviewers' names and contact information for promotional purposes).

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