While taking the plunge as a first-time or experienced author, when you submit your manuscript to a journal, you feel a sense of relief and anticipation. Although manuscripts are seldom accepted on the first submission, every author wonders whether their manuscript will be accepted and what revisions will be required along the way. Most of us still remember the first set of reviewer comments we received and strive to provide thoughtful feedback to improve each manuscript we review. To facilitate high-quality manuscript submissions and thoughtful reviews, Advances in Neonatal Care's editorial board plans to revise our guidelines for both authors and reviewers over the next 6 months. We welcome new authors and reviewers and are willing to provide mentorship for the novice. In this editorial, we outline our review process, a reviewer's responsibilities, and the author's responsibility to respond to reviewer concerns.
THE REVIEW PROCESS
The purpose of the review process is to expose the scholarly work to expert review. For our journal, the process begins with the submission of the manuscript to ANC Editorial Manger. The managing editor makes certain that the author has submitted all of the required components of the submission. If the submission is incomplete, the managing editor will return the submission to the author through ANC Editorial Manager to add the missing items. All manuscripts are reviewed by 2 to 3 blinded external reviewers, a section editor responsible for the specific ANC section (eg, Beyond the Basics, Research), and a coeditor. In general, review of manuscripts includes the following steps:
- Author submits a manuscript to Editorial Manger.
- Managing editor assigns the manuscript to one of the ANC coeditors.
- Responsible ANC coeditor assigns reviewers to the manuscript.
- Reviewers review the manuscript.
- Coeditor assigns a section editor to the manuscript.
- Section editor reviews the manuscript and reviewers comments.
- Section editor makes a recommendation (accept, accept pending revisions, revise, reject)
- Coeditor makes the final decision.
- Author is contacted with the decision.
Reviewers play an essential role in safeguarding the integrity of our clinical and research scholarship. The first responsibility of reviewers is to ensure that they have the relevant expertise to provide a thoughtful review.1 As coeditors, we attempt to assign reviewers to manuscripts based on the reviewers' self-declared areas of expertise within the Editorial Manager system, but only the reviewer can make a true assessment of the fit of their expertise with a particular manuscript. Therefore, before accepting the assignment, each reviewer has an opportunity to view the manuscript to determine if the content matches their knowledge base. Even if the content matches a reviewer's area of expertise, the reviewer may decline an assignment if they cannot complete the review in the required timeframe. Typically reviewers are given 2 to 3 weeks to complete a review assignment to facilitate a timely response to authors.2 However, if you are willing to accept a review assignment if given additional time, please check with the editor. Reviewers of articles for ANC report that they typically take 3 to 6 hours to complete a review. ANC offers continuing medical education credit to all reviewers when the review is completed to help compensate for the time they dedicate to the profession.
When accepting an invitation to review a manuscript, the reviewer should assess for any potential conflicts of interest. For example, you may recognize the article as one written by a colleague or you may have a financial connection to some aspect of the article content. Any potential conflicts should be shared with the editor when accepting the assignment so that the editor can assess whether a true conflict exists.1
Most editors value reviews that provide authors with constructive suggestions to improve the manuscript, outlining the strengths and weaknesses in a positive encouraging tone.3 We encourage reviewers to enumerate their suggestions so the authors can clearly address each reviewer's concern in the response to the editor. Reviewers will also make recommendations regarding whether manuscripts should be accepted or not, and if accepted, how quickly the manuscript should be published based on the urgency of the content. Once you complete your review and submit it via ANC Editorial Manager, you can go back into the system and see the comments of other reviewers. This is a great learning opportunity to see how your comments and recommendations compare to those of the other reviewers. In addition, you will receive blinded copies of the letters we send to the author about the review process so you will know how manuscripts you review progress through the publication process. We want the process to be as transparent as possible so both authors and reviewers know what to expect. One of our long-term goals is to improve the process so that we are able to shorten the time from submission to publication for all manuscripts coming to ANC; everyone (authors, reviewers, editorial board members, section editors, and coeditors) plays an important part in this process.
RESPONDING TO REVIEWER CONCERNS
Thinking back to that first set of reviewers' comments we each received, we also received good advice from our mentors. They provided several suggestions. First, all reviews are good reviews, you just may not be ready to hear them yet, and second with persistence almost any manuscript will be published. Last, if the review seems harsh, read it, close it, and leave it alone for a few days; not more than a week and then go back and read it again. Do not give up. Persistence is the key to writing and getting what you write disseminated so that others can share in your knowledge. If you respond to all of the author concerns in your first revision, a second revision should not be necessary or should include only minor edits that were missed during the first review.
To respond to reviewers' recommendations or concerns, we first recommend establishing a table or a numbered list of each individual concern. This table will help you organize your thoughts and will be included in your cover letter to the editor when you resubmit your manuscript. Second, you should review each comment and make note of your ability to address the concern. Next, make all necessary revisions to your manuscript. Last, go back to your table and specifically state how you addressed each reviewer concern or recommendation.
In your response, make sure to include where in the manuscript the changes (eg, discussion) were made. There may be some suggestions for manuscript improvement that are not feasible. For example, in a research manuscript the data requested by the reviewer may not have been collected and therefore cannot be included in your revision. Make sure you include the rationale for any reviewer recommendations that were not accepted. In your resubmission cover letter you want to thank the reviewers for their time and expertise and include your point-by-point response to their recommendations. The Editor will use this table to assess your response to the reviewer concerns.
If you are not a reviewer for ANC and would like to become one, please let us know. If you are a current author or reviewer with questions or concerns, please let us know. Scholarly writing is not easy; however, being a reviewer will help you improve your writing skills, so please consider this opportunity to give back to others. We welcome feedback and suggestions as we develop our new guidelines for both authors and reviewers.
Thank you for your support.