The proposed review criteria and procedures in this task force report have unique yet interdependent implications for three communities, namely reviewers, author—researchers, and editors. All these communities share a common goal of maintaining high standards for the field. All aspire to submit, select, and publish only the best possible scientific articles for their peers and readers. Over time, as review criteria become more explicit, reviews should improve, better articles should be published, and the quality of scientific journals for the field should be maintained or increased. Foremost, the criteria provide for reviewers a tool that makes them more aware of the process and expectations of the peer review process.
While reviewers want to ensure top quality by promoting high standards, author—researchers may feel mistreated or unhappy about the decisions made about their manuscripts. The criteria represent a common reference point, a clear and explicit expression of the expectations of the journal and the reviewers that can be shared among reviewers and with author—researchers. The sharing should lead to greater uniformity among reviewers and hopefully greater fairness to author—researchers. Editors also benefit from the increased awareness and uniformity, and this should make their job easier when making publication decisions. The criteria themselves do not imply tougher or higher standards; the criteria simply make the standards more transparent. As time goes on, the criteria will be put to the test and can serve as a basis for building a consensus regarding minimum standards.
An added benefit of explicating the review criteria is that it provides a tool to train reviewers; the accompanying references and resources were included specifically for this purpose. Also, the criteria provide a common language for exchange within and among researchers from various disciplines, allowing, for example, psychologists, biologists, sociologists, historians, and educators to share a common set of review criteria to apply to their publications.
The proposed review criteria are not meant to be cast in stone as a set of rigid standards. Instead, they represent a first attempt at explicating the principles and procedures for reviewing research manuscripts in a practical and scholarly way. As with any first attempt, there is certainly room for debate and improvement. The spirit of this document is not only to provide a readily usable tool for peer review, but also to encourage debate and the periodic refinement of the criteria and procedures. When reviews are challenged or the review process is questioned, a definition of the criteria and standards provides a good starting point.
Review Criteria for Research Manuscripts
Joint Task Force of Academic Medicine and the GEA-RIME Committee