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Information for Peer Reviewers

General Information

The high standards associated with the PERC Proceedings can only be achieved with the active and conscientious involvement of our reviewers. To be of value, reviewer recommendations must be accompanied by a detailed and reasoned evaluation. To be publishable, papers must contain significant new physics or understanding, must be of high quality and scientific interest, and must be written in good, scientific English. Mere correctness is not sufficient justification for publication in the PERC Proceedings. Be aware when you submit your review that any recommendations you make will contribute to the final decision made by the Editor.

The following has been adapted and borrowed from the journal of Nature as it eloquently details the importance and complexities of the peer review process.1

The peer-review process is an essential part of the publication process, which improves the papers published in the annual PERC Proceedings. Not only does peer review provide an independent assessment of the importance and technical accuracy of the results described, but the feedback from reviewers conveyed to authors frequently results in papers being refined so that their structure and logic is more readily apparent to readers.

The PERC Proceedings Editors are very appreciative of its peer-reviewers. It is only by collaboration with our reviewers that editors can ensure that the papers we publish are among the most important and of the very highest quality.

Peer review is designed to select technically valid research of significant interest. Reviewers are expected to identify flaws, suggest improvements and assess novelty. If the paper is deemed important enough to be published in a high visibility journal, reviewers ensure that it is internally consistent, thereby ferreting out spurious conclusions or clumsy frauds.

One problem with paper selection is the inherent tension between reviewers and authors. Reviewers wish for only the most solid science to be published, yet when they 'switch hats' to that of author, they desire quick publication of their novel ideas and approaches. Authors of papers that blow against the prevailing winds bear a far greater burden of proof than normally expected in publishing their challenge to the current paradigm. Veering too far in one direction or the other leads to complaints either that peer review isn't stringent enough, or that it is stifling the freshest research. It is the job of the editors to try to avoid both extremes.

Peer reviews positively impact almost every paper we publish. Mistakes are made, but peer review, through conscientious effort on the part of reviewers, helps to protect the literature, promote good science and select the best. Until a truly viable alternative is provided, we wouldn't have it any other way.

The pool of peer reviewers is made up of all authors listed on papers submitted to be peer reviewed. Additional reviewers from the PER community who have not submitted a paper may be asked to review as the need arises. Papers submitted are typically assigned to three peer reviewers; while an effort is made to connect papers to reviewers with similar areas of expertise, the nature of the reviewer pool means that this may not always be the case. No paper will be reviewed by more than one novice reviewer, including undergraduate students.

Reviewers are expected to recommend a particular course of action, but they should bear in mind that the other reviewers of a particular paper may have different technical expertise and/or views, and the editors may have to make a decision based on conflicting advice. The most useful reports, therefore, provide the editors with the information on which a decision should be based. Setting out the arguments for and against publication is often more helpful to the editors than a direct recommendation one way or the other.

Editorial decisions are NOT simply be a matter of counting votes or numerical ratings and following the majority recommendation. The strength of the arguments raised by each reviewer and by the authors should be carefully evaluated. Our primary responsibilities are to our readers and to the scientific community at large, and in deciding how best to serve them, we must weigh the claims of each paper against the many others also under consideration.

The primary purpose of the review is to provide the editors with the information needed to reach a decision. The review should also instruct the authors on how they can strengthen their paper to the point where it may be acceptable. As far as possible, a negative review should explain to the authors the weaknesses of their paper, so that rejected authors can understand the basis for the decision and see in broad terms what needs to be done to improve the paper for publication elsewhere. If the reviewer believes that a paper would not be suitable for publication, his/her report to the author should be as brief as is consistent with enabling the author to understand the reason for the decision.

Reviewers should keep in mind that, because of the short time between the PERC conference and the publication of the PERC Proceedings, papers requiring substantial or content-based revisions that would necessitate a re-review cannot be accepted and therefore, should be assigned a "Do Not Publish" recommendation.

1 Adapted from https://www.nature.com/authors/policies/peer_review.html which was downloaded on June 20, 2013.