The EMBO Press journals use a fair and transparent process to rapidly publish important science.
- No confidential referee remarks
- Published anonymous referee reports and editorial correspondence
- Editors respect requests to exclude specific referees
- Editors justify editorial decisions in detail and specify what is required for a revision
- No journal-specific formatting required at submission; single file submission in any format possible; manuscripts are assessed for science, not for style
- Similar findings that are published by others during review or revision are not a criterion for rejection
- In exceptional circumstances, editors may consider manuscripts that have just been scooped
- Referees are invited to comment on each other's reports before the editor makes a decision, ensuring a balanced review process
- Papers rarely undergo more than one major round of revision
- Referees are asked to focus on essential revisions and to consider the feasibility of experiments they suggest
- Revisions are invited only if they are possible in a realistic time frame
- Editors ensure that referees do not raise new non-essential points upon revision
- More than 95% of invited revisions are published at The EMBO Journal
- Editorial decisions are returned within a week and referee comments in less than a month
- After acceptance, we can publish fully edited papers within 10 days
- Authors can discuss manuscripts with editors at any stage in the process, including during revision and following rejection. Editors may invite author feedback on referee reports before reaching a decision
- Scientific editors undertake a comprehensive evaluation of each manuscript. Editorial board members advise rapidly on manuscripts
- Authors are encouraged to publish the unprocessed source data underlying graphs, gels and micrographs alongside the figures to promote data transparency and reuse
- Supplementary information is restricted to essential data supporting key claims in the main paper. Structured datasets, models and detailed protocols are also permitted
- Authors can elect to transfer manuscripts with referee reports between the EMBO publications. Editors prioritize transfers and base decisions on the available information, ensuring exceptional manuscripts can be published without delay
Review Process Files
All EMBO Press journals invite authors to have a Peer Review Process File included alongside their published papers. Authors can decline to participate in this initiative. In The EMBO Journal, for example, more than 400 of primary research papers are now linked to a Peer Review Process File, representing a 95% take-up rate. At the same time, the willingness of referees to participate in peer review at all journals did not change.
A Peer Review Process File documents the timeline and all the correspondence relevant to the processing of the manuscript at the Journal. It contains the referee reports from each round of review, alongside the author responses and the editorial decision letters, and, where appropriate, additional correspondence between the editors and the authors. Importantly, referees remain anonymous.
The time line includes the actual dates of each submission, resubmission and decision.
De-emphasis of confidential comments
As part of our transparency initiative, all EMBO Press journals now forego 'confidential referee comments'. We actually rarely encounter comments that are at odds with the main referee report, although referees sometimes repeat their views in more straight language. Nevertheless, the existence of this additional layer of commenting begs the question 'What went on behind the scenes?'. Confidential comments are clearly appropriate in the rare cases where there are concerns about ethical standards, data integrity, biosecurity or conflicts of an academic or commercial nature, which should be communicated directly to the editor.
In order to optimize the peer review process, EMBO Press journals now actively encourage referees to comment on each other's reports. For the majority of manuscripts, we send the reports to all referees a day before the decision is made encouraging feedback. It is essential to emphasize that we do not expect every referee to comment on every other report—this will be exception, not the norm. The lack of a post-review comment will in no way lessen our appreciation of the primary report filed. We envisage two major scenarios where post-review feedback is important: if a referee wants to note that one of the other referees has raised erroneous or non-essential issues, or indeed if a bias is perceived, or if a referee has overlooked an essential point raised by another referee and wishes to reinforce that point. Importantly, we will not always go with the last word— the additional feedback will help us think in a more integrated way about the decision, and, if need be, engage in further consultation. Note that this additional step does not delay the editorial process.
We subscribe to referee confidentiality rules. On the other hand, we are aware of the relatively common practice of handing a review onto someone else in the laboratory. If carried out correctly, this can in fact be an important part of training, but it should be reserved for experienced postdoctoral researchers. Thus, all EMBO Press journals allow co-refereeing with one other senior member of a referee's laboratory as part of the mentoring process only if the primary referee has independently evaluated the manuscript and agrees with the report filed. For co-review, conflict of interest and confidentiality rules apply to both referees. In order to provide accountability and appropriate credit, we request that the name of the co-referee be documented to the editors. If an invited referee does not have the time to review, another member of the laboratory or institute can be recommended to the editors.