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Guidelines for Reviewers of Microbiology Spectrum

Reviewing a manuscript written by a fellow scientist is a privilege as well as an exciting and enjoyable educational experience. However, it is also a time-consuming responsibility. ASM and its editors, authors, and readers therefore appreciate your willingness to accept this responsibility and your dedication. We hope that these Guidelines will help make your job easier. In addition, as a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), ASM encourages you to review and follow the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers.

General Policies and Procedures

Authors submit their Microbiology Spectrum manuscripts electronically via eJP to ASM. The manuscript is assigned to an Associate Editor within the topical area, who reviews it and, who then assigns one or more additional Associate Editors or ad hoc reviewers to review it.

If you have been assigned a review, click the link in the email or directly log on to eJP and either accept or decline the invitation to review. If you must decline to review, please indicate why you are declining and suggest a colleague who may be able to review the manuscript.

If you accept the invitation to review, you will have access to the complete PDF of the manuscript and should immediately determine whether there is any conflict of interest for you (with the authors, their institution, or their funding sources) and whether you can judge the article impartially.

You will also need to click the appropriate button in each category in the Confidential Assessment for the Editor in Chief section (these are required fields; if none of the selections is appropriate, indicate in the Confidential Comments to the Editor in Chief section that the editor should ignore them).

Do not discuss the paper with its authors either during or after the review process. Although it may seem natural and reasonable to discuss points of difficulty or disagreement directly with an author, especially if you are generally in favor of publication and do not mind revealing your identity, this practice is prohibited because the other reviewers and the Editor in Chief may have different opinions, and the author may be misled by having "cleared things up" with the reviewer who contacted him/her directly.

The manuscript provided to you for review is a privileged document. Please protect it from any form of exploitation. Do not cite a manuscript or refer to the work it describes before it has been published and do not use the information that it contains for the advancement of your own research or in discussions with colleagues.

In your comments intended for the author, do not make statements about the acceptability of a paper (see the next paragraph); suggested revisions should be stated as such and not expressed as conditions of acceptance. Organize your review so that an introductory paragraph summarizes the major findings of the article, gives your overall impression of the paper, and highlights the major shortcomings. This paragraph should be followed by specific, numbered comments, which, if appropriate, may be subdivided into major and minor points. (The numbering facilitates both the Editor in Chief's letter to the author and evaluation of the author's rebuttal.) Criticism should be presented dispassionately; offensive remarks are not acceptable.

Confidential remarks directed to the Editor in Chief should be entered in the box so labeled. Advise the Editor in Chief of your recommendation for acceptance, modification, or rejection by clicking the appropriate button. The final decision regarding modification, acceptance, or rejection of a manuscript rests solely with the Editor in Chief, so do not state your recommendation in the portion of the review that will be sent to the author.

After completing your review, click the “Submit Recommendation” button. You may want to save a copy of your review offline for your records. After successful completion of your review, it will be saved in your Past Reviews folder in eJP.

The Review

Adopt a positive, impartial, but critical attitude toward the manuscript under review, with the aim of promoting effective, accurate, and relevant scientific communication.

Please consider the following aspects when reviewing a manuscript:
     --Significance to the target scientific community
     --Originality
     --Adherence to correct scientific nomenclature
     --Appropriate literature citations
     --Organization
     --Adherence to the Instructions to Authors
     --Adequacy of title and abstract
     --Appropriateness of figures and tables
     --Length
     --Whether it describes misuse of microbial systems or the information derived therefrom

You are not required to correct deficiencies of style, syntax, or grammar, but any help you can give in clarifying meaning will be appreciated. In particular, point out the use of scientific jargon, misspellings of chemical names, use of outmoded terminology or incorrect genetic nomenclature, and use of misspelled, incorrect, or outdated scientific names of organisms.

Your criticisms, arguments, and suggestions concerning the paper will be most useful to the editor and to the author if they are carefully documented. Substantiate your statements. Reviewer's recommendations are gratefully received by the editor; however, since editorial decisions are usually based on evaluations derived from several sources, reviewers should not expect the editor to honor every recommendation. You will be asked to suggest acceptance, acceptance with revision, or rejection.

Ethics

Please review and follow the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers. Although the staff at ASM Press and the Microbiology Spectrum Editors may be able to note a breach of publication policy or ethical conduct after publication, we rely heavily on the reviewers to detect such problems before publication. Editorial policies are described here.

Some of the items for which you should be alert include:
Plagiarism – Plagiarism can involve any part of the manuscript, including figures and tables, in which material is copied from another publication without attestation, reference, or permission. Note that wording does not have to be exact to be copyright infringement; use of very similar words in almost the same sequence can also be infringement. Data themselves are not copyrightable, but their presentation is.
Missing or incomplete attestation – Authors must give appropriate credit to ideas, concepts, and data that have been published previously. This is accomplished by the inclusion of references. Missing, incomplete, or incorrect references must be brought to the editor's attention.
Dual submission and/or publication – Be wary of attempts to submit/publish similar material more than once. This is often difficult to detect "before the fact," but checking literature citations, as well as having a critical eye, is helpful.
Conflicts of interest – If you are aware of any commercial affiliations, consultancies, stock or equity interests, or patent-licensing arrangements on the part of the authors, bring them to the attention of the editor.

Note that similar conflicts of interest on your part must also be brought to the attention of the editor, who may, at his discretion, subsequently cancel your invitation to review the manuscript. If one of the manuscript authors is at your institution, there could be a perceived conflict of interest, and you should immediately contact the editor so that another individual can be invited to review the manuscript in your place.

In summary, you must communicate suspicions of policy or ethics problems directly to the assigning editor, who in turn will contact the editor in chief. Under no circumstance should you contact the author directly. ASM has policies for investigation and resolution of such problems, and these must be followed.

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