2 of 6 - Your Questions - Peer Review Toolbox
After an eventful Open Access Week, we’re back, with the next in our series answering your questions about peer review. This issue’s featured question is:
I’ve been invited to review a manuscript where the other reviewers are already done. Should I handle this differently from a normal review?
Got questions of your own about peer review? Email us or complete this form.
Late to the party / Joining a peer review process that’s already underway
Most of the time, all the reviewers start their assessment at about the same time. You’ll see everyone’s comments in the decision letter when it’s sent to the authors, but not before. There are exceptions, however.
When do editors call on an additional peer reviewer?
There are two common situations in which an editor might invite a reviewer after the peer review process is already underway.
Another reviewer has dropped out

Sometimes reviewers become unavailable between revisions and the editor needs someone with similar expertise to help assess the edits.

How to handle it:

Start with the manuscript. Our staff editors suggest reading the most recent version of the manuscript first to avoid coloring your impression Read as you normally would, taking notes as you go.
Turn to the authors’ responses. Next consider whether the authors have addressed the reviewer’s earlier comments.
Write your review. The result of this type of review often falls somewhere in between a typical first round review, and the shorter review you might write for a revision. It’s still a good idea to briefly summarize your overall impression of the work, then list any issues that remain outstanding.
The reviewers disagree

Peer reviews aren’t votes--the ultimate decision lies with the editor. When reviewers come to opposite conclusions the handling editor generally serves as the tie breaker, indicating in the decision letter which edits are needed in their revision.

But there are cases where the editor may not have the expertise to evaluate every aspect of the manuscript, or to determine which of the two reviewers is correct. For example, an editor might be an expert in the discipline, without necessarily having experience with a particular methodology. When that happens, the editor needs another expert to help inform the decision.

How to handle it:

Pay special attention to the invitation. In a case like this, the editor will usually customize the invitation to indicate which specific aspects of the manuscript they need your help with.
If the editor hasn’t provided guidance. Don’t panic. Either write your review focusing on what you believe is important, or if you’re not sure reach out to the editor for more guidance on what to look at.


Got questions about peer review, publishing, Open Science...or something else?

Ask us on email or twitter or send your question anonymously through our survey. We’d love to include it in a future issue of the Peer Review Toolbox.