PEER REVIEW POLICY AND PROCESS


 Reviewer Roles and Responsibilities

Peer review is the principal mechanism by which the quality of research is judged. SHJ adopts a strict peer review process. Sudan Heart Journal peer-reviewed articles depend heavily on the scientific referees or reviewers who typically volunteer their time and expertise. In most circumstances, at least 2 reviewers are solicited to evaluate a manuscript. In cases of controversy or strong disagreement regarding the merits of the work, an additional review may also be solicited or one of the journal’s editors might give an evaluation. More than 3 reviewers are sometimes used if reviewers from several fields are needed to obtain a thorough evaluation of a paper.

In addition to fairness in judgment and expertise in the field, peer reviewers have significant responsibilities toward authors, editors, and readers.

Peer-reviewer responsibilities toward authors

  • Providing written, unbiased feedback in a timely manner on the scholarly merits and the scientific value of the work, together with the documented basis for the reviewer’s opinion
  • Indicating whether the writing is clear, concise, and relevant and rating the work’s composition, scientific accuracy, originality, and interest to the journal’s readers
  • Avoiding personal comments or criticism
  • Maintaining the confidentiality of the review process: not sharing, discussing with third parties, or disclosing information from the reviewed paper.

Peer-reviewer responsibilities toward editors

  • Notifying the editor immediately if unable to review in a timely manner and providing the names of potential other reviewers
  • Alerting the editor about any potential personal or financial conflict of interest and declining to review when a possibility of a conflict exists
  • Complying with the editor’s written instructions on the journal’s expectations for the scope, content, and quality of the review
  • Providing a thoughtful, fair, constructive, and informative critique of the submitted work, which may include supplementary material provided to the journal by the author
  • Determining scientific merit, originality, and scope of the work; indicating ways to improve it; and recommending acceptance or rejection using whatever rating scale the editor deems most useful
  • Noting any ethical concerns, such as any violation of accepted norms of ethical treatment of animal or human subjects or substantial similarity between the reviewed manuscript and any published paper or any manuscript concurrently submitted to another journal which may be known to the reviewer
  • Refraining from direct author contact.

Peer-reviewer responsibilities toward readers

  • Ensuring that the methods are adequately detailed to allow the reader to judge the scientific merit of the study design and be able to replicate the study, if desired
  • Ensuring that the article cites all relevant work by other scientists.

Peer review process and editorial decision making at journals

The peer review process for journal publication is essentially a quality control mechanism. It is a process by which experts evaluate scholarly works, and its objective is to ensure a high quality of published science. However, peer reviewers do not make the decision to accept or reject papers. At most, they recommend a decision. Decision-making authority rests solely with journal editors. Indeed, it is the journal editor who is considered to be central to the decision making process.

Journal decision-making process

Typically, after a paper is submitted to a journal, a journal editor screens the manuscript and decides whether or not to send it for full peer review. Only after clearing the initial screening is the manuscript sent to one or more peer reviewers. Finally, journal editors or the journal’s editorial board consider the peer reviewers’ reports and make the final decision to accept or reject the manuscript for publication.

Initial screening

We follow a policy of screening papers before sending them for full peer review. During the initial screening, journal editors mainly check the following:

One of the first items that editors will look at is the cover letter, and they may not get further than the cover letter if the study does not seem interesting enough. Therefore, it is imperative that authors craft a well-written cover letter that highlights the significance and strength of their research as well as provides a good reason why the manuscript is a good fit for the journal.

Editors will then go through the abstract and may even skim through the introduction, figures and tables, or other sections of the paper to determine whether the manuscript passes their quality threshold.

Rejection

If the manuscript clearly lies outside the scope of the journal, then a rapid rejection allows the author to quickly find and submit their manuscript to another journal.

Peer review

Once a manuscript clears the initial screening, it is sent for peer review.

Our policy is to adopt double blind process where names of reviewers and authors are not revealed to each other. We do not apply open peer review or single blind policy at the present time

Generally, a minimum of 2 peer reviewers are chosen for the peer review. Peer reviewers are ideally experts in their field. We have created a pool of peer reviewer for the different specialties.

The peer review is completed once all the reviewers send the journal a detailed report with their comments on the manuscript and their recommendation. Typically, we request reviewers to complete their reviews within 2-4 weeks. However, few journals have a mechanism to enforce the deadline, which is why it can be hard to predict how long the peer review process will take.

Final decision

The journal editors consider the feedback provided by the peer reviewers and arrive at a decision. The following are the most common decisions that are made:

  1. Accept without any changes (acceptance): SHJ will publish the paper in its original form
  2. Accept with minor revisions (acceptance): SHJ will publish the paper and asks the author to make small corrections
  3. Accept after major revisions (conditional acceptance): SHJ will publish the paper provided the authors make the changes suggested by the reviewers and/or editors
  4. Revise and resubmit (conditional rejection): SHJ is willing to reconsider the paper in another round of decision making after the authors make major changes
  5. Reject the paper (outright rejection): SHJ will not publish the paper or reconsider it even if the authors make major revisions

The first option (accept without any changes) is rare. The second decision (accept with minor revisions) is typically the best outcome authors should hope for. Once a journal rejects a paper outright, authors are well advised not to resubmit to the same journal. If the journal wanted to reconsider the paper, they would have issued a conditional rejection. An outright rejection means that the journal thinks the paper will not meet its publication standards or interests even after heavy revisions.

It is common for peer reviewers to give conflicting feedback on the same manuscript. In cases of conflicting feedback, the journal editor may choose to send the paper to a third reviewer before arriving at a decision and the author may have to wait longer for the peer review process to be completed.