The review process is intended to be highly confidential, objective, and thorough.
Manuscripts submitted to ASHA journals are privileged information. They are confidential and must not be discussed with anyone other than the journal editor-in-chief and the assigned editor, with the following exceptions:
- Occasionally, a reviewer must consult with colleagues on some aspect of a paper, such as the statistical analysis. Such consultations should occur only with the editor’s permission and without providing the author’s identity or details of the manuscript’s content.
- For the purpose of training PhD students in the peer review process, a manuscript reviewer/mentor may engage a PhD student in the review process under the mentor’s guidance. The mentor bears full responsibility for the review. The PhD student will be bound by the same principles of confidentiality that govern the review process as a whole. It is the responsibility of the mentor to inform the journal’s editorial administrator and the editor of the mentee’s identity. The editorial administrator will enter the information into the manuscript administrative record.
When communicating among themselves, editors, reviewers, and others involved in the review process should use manuscript numbers rather than authors’ names to attempt to ensure privacy in regard to author identification. Additionally, all communications should be conducted in a respectful, professional manner.
Information gained via the review process must not subsequently be used by editors or reviewers to produce a competitive advantage in future publications or grant applications.
Information contained in manuscripts is confidential until accepted for publication.
Conflicts of Interest
Editors-in-chief, editors, and reviewers should attempt to recognize and avoid all real or potential conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety.
- Editors and reviewers should recuse themselves from handling the peer review of any manuscript for which they have a conflict of interest or might be perceived as having a conflict of interest. This includes manuscripts from colleagues at their home institutions, close collaborators, recent mentors, and current and recent students.
- Editors and reviewers should avoid processing manuscripts in which they have a financial interest that could potentially influence their recommendations.
- Editors and reviewers should avoid processing manuscripts if they have had a previous connection to the research, such as having advised the authors or having read a draft of the manuscript.
- If editors or reviewers have a strong theoretical or personal bias in regard to a manuscript’s topic or author(s) that they perceive, upon honest reflection, could interfere with their objective evaluation of the manuscript, they should withdraw from the editorial review process.
- Even if prospective reviewers feel confident that the existence of one or more of these potential conflicts of interest would not intrude upon their objectivity, they should protect the credibility of the review process by avoiding even the appearance of a conflict of interest and decline to review the manuscript.
- If editors or reviewers are aware of previous work that is directly germane to the work being reported, they may recommend that the author consider inclusion of such material in the manuscript. However, editors-in-chief, editors, and reviewers should not take advantage of their positions in a self-serving fashion. In regard to their own publications, editors-in-chief, editors, and reviewers may suggest to an author that citation of their own work might be appropriate in the author’s manuscript, but insisting on or coercing the inclusion of such citations is inappropriate.
Reviewer Objectivity and Accountability
Regardless of whether a review is signed or anonymous, reviewers are accountable for their reviews and should be objective in their comments.
Reviewers who recognize that they are not qualified to review a particular manuscript due to lack of familiarity with the relevant research in the area, the methodology, or the statistical procedures should refrain from accepting the invitation to review or should provide a review that specifies the areas in which they claim expertise.
Respect for Intellectual Property
Throughout the editorial review of manuscripts submitted for publication in ASHA’s journals, care is taken to ensure respect for intellectual property:
- If the review process reveals the possibility of plagiarism, inappropriate use of materials protected by copyright, or other abridgment of intellectual property (including trademark and patent), these matters will be brought to the attention of the authors and, in appropriate cases, to the attention of ASHA’s Publications Board and Board of Ethics. (See Identification of Misconduct and Reporting Misconduct sections below.)
- Included under the rubric of plagiarism is the theft of the intellectual property of others. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ORI (2006) states that “the theft or misappropriation of intellectual property includes the unauthorized use of ideas or unique methods obtained by a privileged communication, such as a manuscript review.” (See The Office of Research Integrity Policy on Plagiarism for further information.)
The editor makes the final decision regarding the disposition of manuscripts after weighing comments from the reviewers. Ultimately, the outcome of the review process should not be based on a tally of positive and negative comments from reviewers, but rather on the editor’s informed, objective appraisal of the likelihood that the manuscript will contribute reliable and valid new information to the discipline. The new information must also merit archival inclusion in one of ASHA’s journals.
To arrive at a fair recommendation, the editor’s recommendations should be informed by comments provided by reviewers, which are integrated with the editor’s own consideration of all aspects of the manuscript.
- The editor should support his or her recommendations by providing comments to be conveyed to authors regarding specific strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript, including suggestions for improvement of the manuscript or for the authors’ future research endeavors.
- The editor should monitor the quality and tone of the reviews prepared by the reviewers. Where language is inflammatory, the editor should return the review with a request for a more civil commentary. Under no circumstances should the editor—or editor-in-chief—alter a reviewer’s words without the reviewer’s permission.
- In his or her decision, the editor should give less weight to a review that is weak or faulty in logic and uninformative in detail.
- If the quality or the content of the reviews obtained is inadequate to fully inform a publication decision, the editor may seek additional reviews.
Editors-in-chief, editors, and reviewers, in concert with the Journals Board, should protect the independence of the journals’ content from potential external influences from within ASHA or from individuals or agencies external to ASHA.
Identification and Reporting of Misconduct
Although editors and reviewers are not obligated to search for possibilities of scientific misconduct in manuscripts under review, it is their duty, during their review of a manuscript, to be mindful of any signs suggesting the possibility of a breach of ethical research practices. Editors-in-chief must also take seriously allegations of misconduct identified by editors or reviewers. Below are examples of some occurrences that could alert editors and reviewers to the possibility of misconduct.
- Reviewers familiar with the relevant literature may recognize plagiarism when it occurs as the “theft or misappropriation of intellectual property [or] the substantial unattributed textual copying of another’s work” (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ORI, 1995; http://ori.hhs.gov/documents/rio_handbook.pdf).
- Reviewers may suspect fabrication or falsification of data if they note, for example, anomalies in figures or graphs, differences between findings reported in the text and in figures/tables, or findings that defy logic (i.e., are “too good to be true”) but support the author’s hypotheses.
- Reviewers may notice the occurrence of duplicate publication if they recognize findings that have been published elsewhere by the author(s).
- Reviewers may occasionally query whether each author listed actually had a substantive role in the research.
- REMINDER: Federal regulations specify that, ultimately, for a finding of research misconduct to be made, “(a) there must be a significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community; and (b) the misconduct [must] be committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly; and (c) the allegation [must] be proved by a preponderance of the evidence” (Responsibility of PHS Awardee and Applicant Institutions, 2005, § 93.104). Honest error does not constitute scientific misconduct, but it is incumbent upon reviewers to identify and report errors (to the editor), as well as suspected scientific misconduct.
The duty to report scientific misconduct occurring anywhere in the publication process, including during the conduct of the research, applies to every member of the scientific community. This includes, but is not limited to, authors and coauthors, student research assistants, reviewers, editors, and journal readers.
- Allegations of misconduct must be supported by evidence. Capricious or vindictive allegations are in themselves misconduct and should not be entertained.
- Persons making allegations should be aware that ASHA does not assume liability for legal or other expenses of any parties involved. Potential complainants may wish to look into whether whistleblower protections would be afforded them by their own institutions or under federal or state law.
- Allegations of misconduct during the publication process shall be reported to the Journals Board for further evaluation, and when appropriate, to the author’s home institution for further investigation in compliance with the institution’s procedures. In the case of an ASHA member, the allegation shall also be reported to the Board of Ethics.