Our editorial board is comprised of licensed acupuncturists and supporters of acupuncture, dedicated to the preservation, advancement and integration of the art, science, and practice of all branches of acupuncture medicine into the modern healthcare model, in a caring and ethical manner, thereby enhancing the health and well-being of the general public.
To join the JAIM editorial board, please email your CV and a letter of interest to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASSOCIATE EDITOR PEER REVIEW GUIDELINES
Peer review is designed to assess the validity, quality and often the originality of articles for publication. Its ultimate purpose is to maintain the integrity of science by filtering out invalid or poor quality articles.
Open review process Generally, a minimum of 2 peer reviewers (up to 6) are chosen for the peer review. The peer review process is double-blinded.
Minimum Criteria for Acceptance for JAIM
- Does the manuscript fit the journal’s scope and aim and will it be of interest to the readership?
- Is the manuscript of minimum acceptable quality? Is the content and writing good enough to make it worth reviewing?
- Is the manuscript compliant with the journal’s instructions for authors?
- Is there application to the professional practice?
HOW TO PERFORM A PEER REVIEW
Initial steps Read the manuscript, supplementary data files and ancillary material thoroughly (e.g., reviewer instructions, required ethics and policy statements), getting back to the journal if anything is not clear and requesting any missing or incomplete items you need. It is important to understand the scope of the review before commencing (i.e., is a review of raw data expected?).
THE FIRST READ-THROUGH
The first read-through is a skim-read. It will help you form an initial impression of the paper and get a sense of whether your eventual recommendation will be to accept or reject the paper.
First Read Considerations Try to bear in mind the following questions – they’ll help you form your overall impression:
- What is the main question addressed by the research? Is it relevant and interesting?
- How original is the topic? What does it add to the subject area compared with other published material?
- Is the paper well written? Is the text clear and easy to read?
- Are the conclusions consistent with the evidence and arguments presented? Do they address the main question posed?
- If the author is disagreeing significantly with the current academic consensus, do they have a substantial case? If not, what would be required to make their case credible?
- If the paper includes tables or figures, what do they add to the paper? Do they aid understanding or are they superfluous?
As you’re reading through the manuscript for a second time, you’ll need to keep in mind the argument’s construction, the clarity of the language and content.
With regard to the argument’s construction, you should identify:
- Any places where the meaning is unclear or ambiguous
- Any factual errors
- Any invalid arguments
You may also wish to consider:
- Does the title properly reflect the subject of the paper?
- Does the abstract provide an accessible summary of the paper?
- Do the keywords accurately reflect the content?
- Is the paper an appropriate length?
- Are the key messages short, accurate and clear?
Check the Language Not every submission is well written. Part of your role is to make sure that the text’s meaning is clear.
Remember it is the authors’ paper, so do not attempt to rewrite it to your own preferred style if it is basically sound and clear; suggestions for changes that improve clarity are, however, important. In addition, be aware of the sensitivities surrounding language issues that are due to the authors writing in a language that is not their first or most proficient language, and phrase the feedback appropriately and with due respect.
On Grammar and Punctuation Make any grammar and punctuation edits, if there are glaring errors ask to the author to correct these.
THE SECOND READ-THROUGH BY SECTION
- Sets out the argument
- Summarizes recent research related to the topic
- Highlights gaps in current understanding or conflicts in current knowledge
- Establishes the originality of the research aims by demonstrating the need for investigations in the topic area
- Gives a clear idea of the target readership, why the research was carried out and the novelty and topicality of the manuscript
Originality and Topicality Originality and topicality can only be established in the light of recent authoritative research. For example, it’s impossible to argue that there is a conflict in current understanding by referencing articles that are 10 years old.
Authors may make the case that a topic hasn’t been investigated in several years and that new research is required. This point is only valid if researchers can point to recent developments in data gathering techniques or to research in indirectly related fields that suggest the topic needs revisiting. Clearly, authors can only do this by referencing recent literature. Obviously, where older research is seminal or where aspects of the methodology rely upon it, then it is perfectly appropriate for authors to cite some older papers.
Editors may suggest, “Is the report providing new information; is it novel or just confirmatory of well-known outcomes?”
Aims It’s common for the introduction to end by stating the research aims. By this point you should already have a good impression of them – if the explicit aims come as a surprise, then the introduction needs improvement.
- Materials and Methods
Academic research should be replicable, repeatable and robust – and follow best practice.
Replicable Research This makes sufficient use of:
- Control experiments
- Repeated analyses
- Repeated experiments
These are used to make sure observed trends are not due to chance and that the same experiment could be repeated by other researchers – and result in the same outcome. Statistical analyses will not be sound if methods are not replicable. Where research is not replicable, the paper should be recommended for rejection.
- Results and Discussion
This section should tell a coherent story – What happened? What was discovered or confirmed?
Certain patterns of good reporting need to be followed by the author:
- They should start by describing in simple terms what the data shows
- They should make reference to statistical analyses, such as significance or goodness of fit
- Once described, they should evaluate the trends observed and explain the significance of the results to wider understanding. This can only be done by referencing published research
- The outcome should be a critical analysis of the data collected
Discussion should always, at some point, gather all the information together into a single whole. Authors should describe and discuss the overall story formed. If there are gaps or inconsistencies in the story, they should address these and suggest ways future research might confirm the findings or take the research forward.
This section is usually no more than a few paragraphs and may be presented as part of the results and discussion, or in a separate section. The conclusions should reflect upon the aims – whether they were achieved or not – and, just like the aims, should not be surprising. If the conclusions are not evidence-based, it’s appropriate to ask for them to be re-written.
- Information Gathered: Images, Graphs and Data Tables
If you find yourself looking at a piece of information from which you cannot discern a story, then you should ask for improvements in presentation. This could be an issue with titles, labels, statistical notation or image quality.
Where information is clear, you should check that:
- The results seem plausible, in case there is an error in data gathering
- The trends you can see support the paper’s discussion and conclusions
- There are sufficient data. For example, in studies carried out over time are there sufficient data points to support the trends described by the author?
You should also check whether images have been edited or manipulated to emphasize the story they tell. This may be appropriate but only if authors report on how the image has been edited (e.g. by highlighting certain parts of an image). Where you feel that an image has been edited or manipulated without explanation, you should highlight this in a confidential comment to the editor in your report.
- List of References
You will need to check referencing for accuracy, adequacy and balance.
Accuracy Where a cited article is central to the author’s argument, you should check the accuracy and format of the reference – and bear in mind different subject areas may use citations differently. Otherwise, it’s the editor’s role to exhaustively check the reference section for accuracy and format.
Adequacy You should consider if the referencing is adequate:
- Are important parts of the argument poorly supported?
- Are there published studies that show similar or dissimilar trends that should be discussed?
- If a manuscript only uses half the citations typical in its field, this may be an indicator that referencing should be improved – but don’t be guided solely by quantity
- References should be relevant, recent and readily retrievable
Balance Check for a well-balanced list of references that is:
- Helpful to the reader
- Fair to competing authors
- Not over-reliant on self-citation
- Gives due recognition to the initial discoveries and related work that led to the work under assessment
You should be able to evaluate whether the article meets the criteria for balanced referencing without looking up every reference.
By now you will have a deep understanding of the paper’s content – and you may have some concerns about plagiarism.
Identified Concern If you find – or already knew of – a very similar paper, this may be because the author overlooked it in their own literature search. Or it may be because it is very recent or published in a journal slightly outside their usual field.
You may feel you can advise the author how to emphasize the novel aspects of their own study, so as to better differentiate it from similar research. If so, you may ask the author to discuss their aims and results, or modify their conclusions, in light of the similar article. Of course, the research similarities may be so great that they render the work unoriginal and you have no choice but to recommend rejection.
For detailed guidelines see COPE’s Ethical guidelines for reviewers and Wiley’s Best Practice Guidelines on Publishing Ethics.
TIPS FOR REVIEWERS
Your review should ultimately help the author improve their article. So be polite, honest and clear. You should also try to be objective and constructive, not subjective and destructive.
- Give constructive feedback describing ways that they could improve the research
- Keep the focus on the research and not the author. This is an extremely important part of your job as a reviewer
- Avoid making critical confidential comments to the editor while being polite and encouraging to the author – the latter may not understand why their manuscript has been rejected. Also, they won’t get feedback on how to improve their research and it could trigger an appeal
- Number your comments
- Are clear about which points are absolutely critical if the paper is given an opportunity for revision
- Suggest how authors can address any concerns raised
- Specific recommendations for correcting flaws are very welcome by editors and useful to authors.
GENERAL AND ETHICAL GUIDELINES
Professional responsibility: Authors who have benefited from the peer review process should consider becoming peer reviewers as a part of their professional responsibilities. Some journals require a formal process of appointment to the review panel, and some require specific expertise; anyone interested in becoming a reviewer should look for the journal guidelines on peer review and follow any requirements posted. In order to assign appropriate reviewers, editors must match reviewers with the scope of the content in a manuscript to get the best reviews possible. Potential reviewers should provide journals with personal and professional information that is accurate and a fair representation of their expertise, including verifiable and accurate contact information. It is important to recognize that impersonation of another individual during the review process is considered serious misconduct (e.g. see COPE Case 12-12: Compromised peer review in published papers). When approached to review, agree to review only if you have the necessary expertise to assess the manuscript and can be unbiased in your assessment. It is better to identify clearly any gaps in your expertise when asked to review.
Competing interests: Ensure you declare all potential competing, or conflicting, interests. If you are unsure about a potential competing interest that may prevent you from reviewing, do raise this. Competing interests may be personal, financial, intellectual, professional, political or religious in nature. If you are currently employed at the same institution as any of the authors or have been recent (e.g., within the past 3 years) mentors, mentees, close collaborators or joint grant holders, you should not agree to review. In addition, you should not agree to review a manuscript just to gain sight of it with no intention of submitting a review, or agree to review a manuscript that is very similar to one you have in preparation or under consideration at another journal.
Timeliness: It is courteous to respond to an invitation to peer review within a reasonable time-frame, even if you cannot undertake the review. If you feel qualified to judge a particular manuscript, you should agree to review only if you are able to return a review within the proposed or mutually agreed time-frame. Always inform the journal promptly if your circumstances change and you cannot fulfil your original agreement or if you require an extension. If you cannot review, it is helpful to make suggestions for alternative reviewers if relevant, based on their expertise and without any influence of personal considerations or any intention of the manuscript receiving a specific outcome (either positive or negative).
Confidentiality: Respect the confidentiality of the peer review process and refrain from using information obtained during the peer review process for your own or another’s advantage, or to disadvantage or discredit others (e.g. see COPE Case 14-06: Possible breach of reviewer confidentiality). Do not involve anyone else in the review of a manuscript (including early career researchers you are mentoring), without first obtaining permission from the journal (e.g. see COPE Case 11-29: Reviewer asks trainee to review manuscript). The names of any individuals who have helped with the review should be included so that they are associated with the manuscript in the journal’s records and can also receive due recognition for their efforts.
Bias and competing interests:It is important to remain unbiased by considerations related to the nationality, religious or political beliefs, gender or other characteristics of the authors, origins of a manuscript or by commercial considerations. If you discover a competing interest that might prevent you from providing a fair and unbiased review, notify the journal and seek advice (e.g. see COPE Case 15-05: Reviewer requests to be added as an author after publication). While waiting for a response, refrain from looking at the manuscript and associated material in case the request to review is rescinded. Similarly, notify the journal as soon as possible if you find you do not have the necessary expertise to assess the relevant aspects of a manuscript so as not to unduly delay the review process. In the case of doubleblind review, if you suspect the identity of the author(s) notify the journal if this knowledge raises any potential competing or conflict of interest.
Suspicion of ethics violations: If you come across any irregularities with respect to research and publication ethics do let the journal know (e.g. see COPE Case 02-11: Contacting research ethics committees with concerns over studies). For example, you may have concerns that misconduct occurred during either the research or the writing and submission of the manuscript, or you may notice substantial similarity between the manuscript and a concurrent submission to another journal or a published article. In the case of these or any other ethical concerns, contact the editor directly and do not attempt to investigate on your own. It is appropriate to cooperate, in confidence, with the journal, but not to personally investigate further unless the journal asks for additional information or advice.