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Editorial Board Members - Frequently Asked Questions

1) What criteria should I use to decide whether or not a manuscript should be sent for review?

The main criteria that should be used is whether or not the manuscript reaches the threshold for further consideration in the journal. It may be that the subject is topical, novel, and/or there is a great need for research on this particular question. We ask that EBMs refrain from ‘reviewing’ the manuscript in depth: rather, they should just comment on any very obvious issues regarding soundness, and if appropriate, suggest sending to reviewers if the manuscript is sufficiently interesting. We suggest looking at recent articles BMC Biology has published to get an idea of the types of articles we normally publish. 

2) What are the expectations in terms of timelines?

Preliminary assessment

We expect EBMs to assess an average of two to three new manuscripts per month and accept/decline invitations promptly, ideally within 2 working days. Assess manuscripts in your area of expertise, and occasionally in areas close to your field of research and decide whether a paper is in principle suitable for publication in the journal. Return a recommendation to the in-house editor within 5 working days of manuscript assignment. In case the recommendation is to reject the paper, formulate a suitable message for the authors explaining the Editorial decision. 

Sending papers out for review

You invite peer reviewers within 2 working days if an out-to-review decision is made. Identify suitable experts to review the work, ensuring that no known conflicts of interest exist. Reviewers should be chosen so that, collectively, they can evaluate all necessary technical aspects of the manuscript. Ensure that the reviews received are timely and informative. Communicate with authors and reviewers during the review process as needed. 

Decisions after review

Make Editorial decisions with reasonable speed and communicate them in a clear and constructive manner to the internal editor. Recommendations for decisions post-review should be circulated to the relevant in-house editor within 5 working days of at least two reports being returned. Communicate the decision to the authors in a way that explains the editorial decision and makes clear the next steps, if any.

Further details on benefits and responsibilities can be found here.

3) What criteria should I look for in reviewers that I invite? Are there any tools that can help me? 

We do indeed have criteria with regards to the reviewers we invite, which are aimed at ensuring a fair review process. In addition, we have various tools that can help you with reviewer finding. Information on these criteria and the tools you can use can be found here:

4) How many reviewers should I invite in the first instance?

We suggest you invite between 6-8 reviewers in the first instance to maximise the chance that at least two reviewers will agree and return their reports within a reasonable period of time.

5) How often should I be inviting reviewers?

In the event that only one or none of the reviewers in your initial round of invitation agrees to review, we suggest you invite 2-3 reviewers every couple of days. If this isn’t possible, or if you try this and still do not have reviewers agree, please get in touch with the in-house editor for help as soon as possible.

6) Can I make a decision with two reviews when I have more reviews agreed?

Technically, yes. We suggest you briefly read the two reviews to ensure you can make a decision based on these. If both reviews are comprehensive and cover all aspects of the topics and methods within the paper, then please go ahead and make a recommendation. The in-house editor will be able to action this and also close off the agreed reviewers that are no longer required.

7) Should I provide a comment when making a recommendation post-review?

Yes, please do. It is extremely useful for the in-house editors and the authors to have some brief comments regarding the rationale behind the editorial recommendation, especially in cases of reject/transfer recommendations.

8) Reviewers aren’t returning their reports. What should I do?

If reviewers haven’t returned their reports after 5-7 days of their initial deadline, and you haven’t heard from them in the meantime, it is unlikely that they will return a report. In this case, please flag to the in-house editor and start inviting new reviewers to replace them. You can also try to re-invite reviewers you had previously invited, who may have declined previously due to other commitments that may now no longer be an issue.

9) The reviewers recommend different things. What should I do?

Have a look at the reviewers’ reports in detail and evaluate if the headline recommendation is a reflection of the content of the report. An example: we could have two reports, one of which has a headline recommendation of rejection, while the other has a recommendation of major revisions. However, the content of the report suggesting rejection could contain comments that are addressable, in which case, we could consider a major revision decision.

In the event that there is a true difference in recommendations between the reports, you may be able to use your expert opinion to adjudicate. In this case, please explain your rationale for your decision.

In some instances, you may feel unqualified to make an adjudication decision on such manuscripts. In these cases, please contact the in-house editor, who will be able to assist in making a decision.

10) How long after I get two reports should I make an editorial recommendation?

Recommendations for decisions post-review should be circulated to the relevant in-house editor within 5 working days of at least two reports being returned. Communicate the decision to the authors in a way that explains the editorial decision and makes clear the next steps, if any.