Guidelines for Reviewers

The primary aim of this guidelines is to ensure that reviewers know their responsibilities and can prepare constructive critiques that will assist authors in their scientific research regardless of the outcome (Acceptance/Rejection/Revision) of the peer-review process. The guidelines are organized in 10 essential points, followed by a more detailed description of each of the points raised; we hope you find them useful.

Essential points

  1. Critically evaluate each manuscript regarding:

                -its suitability for Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE)

                -its novelty and general interest for readers of the Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment.

                -the validity of the experiments described

                -the statistical analysis: is it included, complete and have appropriate tests been used?

                -the conclusions drawn: are they warranted?

                -whether the literature has been adequately cited and discussed

  1. Provide specific, constructive criticism that gives clear guidance to the authors, especially if recommending revision i.e. it should be clear to the authors precisely what experiments/revisions need to be undertaken to satisfy the reviewer’s concerns
  2. Do not be overly demanding, remember the revision timeframe is only 1 months. (3 months if especially time-consuming experiments have been requested)
  3. Make a clear recommendation: is the manuscript worth revising?
  4. Comment on whether the presentation/language hinders/confuses an otherwise potentially good paper.
  5. Treat all information as confidential.
  6. Declare all conflicts of interest.
  7. Provide the names of all involved in reviewing the manuscript.
  8. Detail any scientific misconduct detected.
  9. For revised manuscripts, do not raise any new issues that could have been commented on in the original review.


Issues to be considered prior to/during the review process

Before Reviewing, please consider the following main questions

Does the article you are being asked to review match your expertise?

If you receive a manuscript that covers a topic that does not sufficiently match your area of expertise, please notify the editor as soon as possible. Please feel free to recommend an alternate reviewer.

Do you have time to review the paper?

Finished reviews of an article should be completed within two weeks. If you do not think you can complete the review within this time frame, please let the editor know and if possible, suggest an alternate reviewer. If you have agreed to review a paper but will no longer be able to finish the work before the deadline, please contact the editor as soon as possible.

Are there any potential conflicts of interests?

While conflicts of interest will not disqualify you from reviewing the manuscript, it is important to disclose all conflicts of interest to the editors before reviewing. If you have any questions about potential conflicts of interests, please do not hesitate to contact the receiving editorial office.

Note: Confidentiality

All information contained within a manuscript must be treated as confidential. Reviewers may not use data from the manuscripts for their own personal research/financial gain. Once a reviewer has submitted his/her report, any electronic/print copies of the manuscript in the reviewer’s possession must be destroyed. The reviwers will be able to cite the reviewed papers after the publication of the mentioned paper in the journal.


Assessing manuscripts for publication in the

Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE)

Many aspects need to be critically evaluated by the reviewer (relevance of the manuscript toJournal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE) readership, the novelty of the study, technical aspects, discussion of the field under investigation and appropriate reference citation, language and presentation etc). These are discussed in the following sections.

  1. a)  Suitability

Reviewers should comment on the scope of a manuscript with regard to its interest for the readers of the Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE). Reviewers should detail the reasons for such a recommendation.

  1. b)  Novelty

Reviewers should comment on the importance and originality of the study. The strengths and weaknesses should be specified and presented in comparison with current published knowledge. Importantly, the review should note whether or not the study moves the field forward in a significant manner.

  1. c)  Validity of experiments

Reviewers should comment on the validity of the experiments performed and the statistical methods used; any flaws (in logic, methods used etc.) should be noted. Reviewers should also detail whether the flaws preclude publication in Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE) or suggest ways to overcome the issues, thereby improving the manuscript to an acceptable standard.

All experiments reported should contain the following information:

    • the number of samples used in each experiment, noting the number of replicates
    • reproducibility (i.e. the number of times the experiment has been reproduced with similar results)
    • what the error bars refer to (e.g. SD or SEM of replicates/samples)
    • statistical analysis (the tests used, the comparisons made and the significance i.e. values should be provided); wherever feasible, statistical analysis should be performed across all data sets obtained from independent experiments rather than replicates of a single representative experiment because the former gives an indication of experimental reproducibility whereas the latter indicates technical reproducibility (e.g. pipetting accuracy).
  1. d)  Validity of the Conclusions

Reviewers should comment on whether the data presented support the conclusions drawn. In addition, reviewers should note when alternative hypotheses/conclusions have been overlooked.

  1. e)  Discussion of current literature

Reviewers should comment on whether the references cited are relevant, appropriate and up-to-date. Suggestions for revising the reference list can be made, noting when significant papers have been overlooked and why they should be included.

  1. f)  Language and presentation

Reviewers should comment on the presentation/ease of comprehension of the manuscript, including the quality and clarity of the figures. Reviewers are not expected to edit manuscripts but should state when the experiments/results/concepts/conclusions cannot be understood or may be misinterpreted due to poor writing. Reviewers should note and distinguish between (i) good scientific studies that suffer from rectifiable language/presentation problems and (ii) weak studies whose problems go beyond language/presentation issues.

 Reviewers should also comment on

    • the title of the manuscript: does it accurately reflects the contents of the manuscript?
    • the length of a manuscript: should the manuscript be shortened or expanded?
    • whether additional Figures (including explanatory schematic diagrams) or supplementary information should be included?
  1. g)  Scientific misconduct

Reviewers should note when they suspect scientific misconduct has taken place, including but not limited to plagiarism, duplicate publication, and image manipulation beyond standard accepted practices. Suspicion of ‘salami’ publishing i.e. publishing several very ‘thin’ studies containing only minimal data/ subsets of data rather than one very comprehensive and significant study should also be noted.


Writing a Good Report

  1. a) Identify the key findings of the study

The overall goal(s) and key finding(s) of the study, together with its strengths and weaknesses, should be briefly summarised in a few sentences.

The overall goal(s) and key finding(s) of the study, together with its strengths and weaknesses, should be briefly summarised in a few sentences.

  1. b)  Be comprehensive

All the issues raised in points 2a-g of the detailed instructions should be covered in the report.

  1. c)  Be objective

The report should be objective. In addition, reviewers should respect the intellectual independence of the authors, and not insist on a hypothesis-driven approach.

  1. c)  Provide a clear recommendation

The report should clearly indicate whether or not revising the manuscript in accordance with their reviewer’s comments will result in a manuscript of a standard acceptable for publication in the Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE).

  1. d)  Provide specific, constructive criticism

Reviewers’ comments should enable the authors to improve their work. When weaknesses are identified, reviewers should offer concrete suggestions to overcome the flaws.

  1. e) Do not be unnecessarily demanding

While it is important and helpful to point out minor technical/presentation issues in the report, reviewers should remember to focus on the ‘bigger picture’ i.e. is the study interesting and worthy of publication in EJI? Reviewers should not request unnecessary experiments. For example, experiments that would have been nice to have been included but that do not actually advance the study beyond the conclusions drawn should not be requested. Reviewers should also bear in mind that the usual timeframe for a revision is three months (six months if time-consuming experiments have been requested) and be realistic in the level of additional experimentation that can be requested if recommending a manuscript for revision.

  1. f) Do not be offensive

It may be necessary to provide a very negative report if a study is particularly weak but, in such cases, reviewers should avoid being offensive or unnecessarily critical. Reviewers should stick to the facts and not launch very personal attacks. If a reviewer wishes to “let off steam” about a very poor study, these comments should be included in the ‘Confidential comments to the Editor’ section of the report form.

  1. g) Disclose any conflicts of interest

h ) State who reviewed the paper

This information should be included in the “Confidential comments to editors”


Reviewing revised manuscripts

We often ask the original reviewers to evaluate revised manuscripts and the authors’ response to reviewer comments. We hope that you’ll make yourself available for re-review and questions from the editors. The following additional points need to be considered when reviewing revised manuscripts

  1. a)  Do not raise new issues

Reviewers should not raise issues that could have been noted in the original assessment of the manuscript; however, new concerns arising following the assessment of new data added during the revision are permitted.

  1. b)  Is the manuscript still up-to-date?

Several months can elapse during the process of the revision. Reviewers should comment on whether any relevant work has been published during this time has been overlooked, and whether the manuscript, including the reference list, is as up-to-date as possible.


Next Steps

Please complete the “Reviewer’s Comments” form by the due date to the receiving editorial office. Your recommendation regarding an article will be strongly considered when the editors make the final decision, and your thorough, honest feedback will be much appreciated.

When writing comments, please indicate the section of comments intended for only the editors and the section of comments that can be returned to the author(s). Please never hesitate to contact the receiving editorial office with any questions or concerns you may have.


The editorial process

Decision process

The editors make the final decision on whether to publish each submission based on the reviewers.

Conflicting reviews

If reviewers appear to disagree fundamentally, the editors may choose to share all the reviews with each of the reviewers and request additional comments that may help the editors to reach a decision. Decisions are not necessarily made according to majority rule. Experts may disagree, and it is the job of the Academic Editor to make a decision. Editors evaluate reviewer recommendations and comments alongside comments by the authors and material that may not have been made available to reviewers.

 If you have questions or concerns about the manuscript you are reviewing, or if you need assistance submitting the review, please email us .


Reviewer recognition

Reviewers invest a huge amount of time and expertise in the peer-review process. It’s crucial that they feel supported and recognized in their role. There are many things in place at the Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE) to ensure this, including:

Reviewer certificate. We’ve created a certificate of recognition to serve as a formal acknowledgement of a reviewer’s role in the peer-review process of a journal. Reviewers can request the certificate from the editorial office of the Journal of Soil, Plant and Environment (JSPAE). They can present it to employers, their institution. A reviewer confirmation letter is also available upon request.