Imagine you have run a series of experiments with intriguing results. You want to put it out there in the world, and you decide to publish your results in an academic journal.
First things first, you need to choose a journal to submit your manuscript to. There are 79 different journals within Frontiers, which all have different specialty sections. Breaking this down even further, we host Research Topics in all these specialty sections. These are interdisciplinary peer-reviewed article collections around cutting-edge research themes.
So, you register an account at Frontiers and submit your manuscript using the online “MyFrontiers” portal. There, you can upload your paper as well as any supporting material, and input any other information needed for the peer review. If everything goes smoothly, your paper is published after going through review and the required revisions. But what happens in-between?
Short answer is: peer review, but let’s break that down more.
At Frontiers, we have a pre-screening stage we call ‘Initial Validation’. When your paper is first submitted, it goes through routine quality control here. “My team ensures that studies meet our quality criteria”, says Gearóid Ó Faoleán, senior manager of Research Integrity. “We do a range of checks. These include confirming that the study had ethical approval, copyright permissions are included, as well as ensuring that papers are submitted to the appropriate journal. If the paper is good to go, it is sent out for review.”
So what happens during the peer review process?
First, a handling editor for your manuscript will need to be appointed. The handling editor is an (external) academic scholar who has the expertise to assess the scientific quality of the manuscript. If the editor has any concerns about the paper, they will contact the editorial office. We aim to resolve these issues as soon as possible. If the editor thinks the paper is ready for review, they invite reviewers. Editors often rely on their professional networks to invite reviewers who they know. Frontiers also has many expert review editors on our boards who can be invited. When reviewers are secured, the manuscript goes to the ‘Independent Review’ stage.
“During this stage, the reviewers are asked to read the paper and give feedback to the authors”, says Yasmin Dahesh, a member of the Review Operations team. “They use a standard review report, consisting of several questions. This allows the reviewers to give constructive and detailed feedback to the authors.” Authors are then given access to these reports. The only exception is if the reports recommend that the paper should be rejected; should this occur, the handling editor leaves detailed reasoning for the authors based on the review reports – as well as their own expertise. During the ‘Interactive Review’ stage, authors are encouraged to respond to the reviewers. They do this by using Frontiers’ online review forum. The review process is interactive so that authors, reviewers, and editors can collaboratively improve the manuscript.
Authors are then prompted to address any specific comments the reviewers have raised before the manuscript can be endorsed for publication. Once the reviewer and the handling editor approve the paper for publication, the editorial office does some final checks. During this ‘Final Validation’ stage, we check if the review process has been thorough and meets our rigorous standards. We also confirm there are no conflicts of interest. If all our quality criteria are met, you will receive the message: “Congratulations, your manuscript is accepted”. You are on the home stretch then. Our colleagues in the production team will start typesetting your manuscript and publish it online as soon as possible.
Assuming this all happens smoothly, the time from submission to publication depends entirely on the responsiveness of all parties. Marieke Heineke, Review Operations Specialist, notes, “The Editorial Office aims to expedite the review process. We look at all the manuscripts in our journals to see if we can proactively solve any potential delays. Additionally, we act as the link between authors, editors and reviewers, responding to all queries and managing the process so it is as efficient as possible.”
So, there you have it, all the steps of the review process, from submission to publication. Each step improves the quality of the manuscript, as well as the authors’ experience. If you have any questions, or would like to know more, please do get in touch.