Royal Society Open Science, launched in 2014, is the newest open access journal published by the Royal Society. The journal publishes high quality original research across the entire range of science on the basis of objective peer review.
Before reviewing for Royal Society Open Science, please familiarise yourself with the scope of the journal.
Royal Society Open Science accepts a number of article types for consideration. More details of these can be found here.
The criteria for selection for publication are:
- High quality research across the whole range of the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. Work that has a strong clinical focus, including but not limited to clinical psychology, will not be considered for publication, and any exceptions will be at the sole discretion of the Editor.
- Submissions should satisfy the Editor that they sufficiently advance scientific knowledge. Negative findings, meta-analyses and studies testing the reproducibility of significant work are encouraged. Experiments with little or no new content will only be considered if they provide a meaningful contribution to the literature, for instance by contributing to reproducibility studies.
- Results reported have not been published elsewhere.
- Conclusions are supported by the data.
- Datasets, code, and other digital materials should be deposited in an appropriate, recognised, publicly available repository. Where no data-specific repository exists, authors should deposit their datasets in a general repository such as Dryad or Figshare.
- Compliance with appropriate ethical standards, see our policy page.
- Experimental protocols/procedure and statistical analysis performed to a high technical standard which are both methodologically and scientifically sound. Work must be high quality in terms of exhaustively analysing all the relevant scientific/methodological issues.
- Manuscripts submitted must satisfy our TOP guideline standards. Please see here for more details.
Reviewers are asked to assess the paper and provide guidance to help Editors to make a decision on publication, and constructive feedback to authors on how to improve their article. The referees’ reports constitute recommendations to the Editors of the journal who are ultimately responsible for accepting or rejecting submissions.
Referees are asked to consider the criteria listed above when assessing a manuscript. Please also bear in mind that Royal Society Open Science operates objective peer review, more details of which are provided immediately below.
Most journals base their peer review on two separate processes. The first stage is objective and assesses the rigour of the methodology and statistics, and the validity of the conclusions. The second stage is subjective and attempts to estimate the likely impact or importance of the work. The validity and appropriateness of this second, subjective stage is being increasingly questioned and there is a growing view that impact and importance (which depend very much on the audience and field) are better judged by the community after publication.
Royal Society Open Science operates using the first stage only – objective peer review. As long as a submitted article fulfils the selection criteria listed above, the judgement as to its importance and impact will be left to the individual reader, the scientific community and, in the longer term, posterity.
Manuscripts that are not technically sound or that don’t meet the above criteria will generally not be suitable for publication. In these cases, your report should provide details of any revisions the authors can make to bring their manuscript up to the standard required to make the paper acceptable for publication, or recommend rejection if it is unlikely the authors will be able to improve the quality of the paper.
In particular, attention should be paid to:
• Scientific accuracy, including statistical analysis – a statement of good statistical practice is available. Referees may request that the article be sent to a specialist statistical reviewer, and we welcome recommendations from referees of appropriate experts.
• Whether the research methods are appropriate, and evidence is provided for the conclusions drawn.
• Writing style and accessibility for a wide audience.
• Use of suitable illustrations, tables and supplementary material to illustrate results.
• Appropriate length – whilst Royal Society Open Science operates without page limits, we encourage authors to be concise. Each article should be of the shortest length required to contain all useful and relevant information, and no longer.
• Ethics - any ethical concerns should be included in the referee's report. For example, concerns regarding animal experimentation, human studies or conservation issues. The referee should also directly contact the editorial office with their concerns – any concerns will be discussed with the Editor, but no disclosures of identity will be made to the authors unless the referee waives their right to anonymity.
• Data sharing - it is the policy of the journal that authors make publically available any data, code and digital research materials supporting the results in the article. The data, code or digital research materials should be accessible either in a publically available repository or as supplementary material, and appropriately cited in the manuscript reference list. A statement of best practice can be found here. Data should be available to referees and Editors at the point of submission. A ‘Data Accessibility’ section should appear at the end of the manuscript to make clear where these data etc. can be found – if no data deposition is applicable for the paper, this should be clearly stated. You will be asked to confirm that this statement is available and that suitable content has been provided. Please contact the editorial office if you feel that the information provided is insufficient for you to assess, and please include details of anything that you feel is missing in your comments to the authors.
Transparency of information:
Authors must include the following end sections on their paper, and should any statement be inapplicable, the authors are requested to nevertheless include the heading and explicitly state the heading to be inapplicable to their work:
- authors’ contributions
- competing interests
- data accessibility
- ethics statement
- permission to carry out fieldwork
Please note in your comments to the author(s) and/or Editor if you feel that anything is missing or if you have any concerns.
Electronic supplementary material:
Supplementary material should be reviewed in addition to the main text. Please note, however, that the main article should be able to stand on its own merit.
If you have any suspicion of misconduct please alert the editorial office as soon as possible. This can include fabrication of results, plagiarism, duplicate publication, incorrect authorship or any other area of concern.
Submission of referee reports:
The report form asks a series of multiple choice questions and has space for comments to the authors, as well as for additional confidential comments to the Editors. All reviews should include detailed comments for the authors, particularly when rejection or major revision is recommended. We require referees to submit the report via the online reviewer form – we are unfortunately unable to accept email submissions of your report.
If you wish to write your review with a student or colleague, this is usually permitted. However please tell the journal before starting your review, and make sure that you name all reviewers in the confidential comments section of your review. Please also note the confidentiality policy below.
Following an initial sense check by the editorial office, all articles submitted to Royal Society Open Science are sent to the appropriate Subject Editor, who in turn assigns the paper to an Associate Editor. The Associate Editor makes an assessment of the manuscript’s suitability for further consideration, which is sent to the Subject Editor - this assessment is made on the scientific quality of the paper. In the event that the Editors do not consider the paper to be sound science, the manuscript will be rejected from consideration by the journal.
Manuscripts that are recommended for peer review are usually sent to two or more independent referees, who will be asked to assess the quality of the paper on the basis of the criteria listed above. Authors are welcome to suggest suitable referees, which the Editor may consider approaching.
The peer reviewers are asked to make decision recommendations and supply reports to expand on the reasons for the recommendation. The full reports will be returned to the handling Associate Editor to assess. The Associate Editor will make a recommendation of how to proceed to the Subject Editor on the basis of the peer review reports and their own assessment of the paper.
The Subject Editor will then make a decision on the manuscript, taking into account the peer review reports, the Associate Editor’s recommendation, and their own assessment of the paper.
The Subject Editor may make one of the following decisions on peer-reviewed manuscripts:
--Accept as is – for papers that are scientifically ready for publication;
--Accept with minor revisions – for papers that contain a small number of correctable errors;
--Major revisions – for papers that appear to be largely sound, but require a large number of corrections before further consideration;
--Reject and invite resubmission – for papers that are unsuitable for publication in their current form, but can be reconsidered following additional work. Resubmissions will be considered on their own merits;
--Reject – for papers that are considered unsuitable for publication.
Your full review (including your name) will be seen by the handling Associate Editor and Subject Editor for the paper, as well as the editorial office staff. In cases of conflict or concern, reviews may also be shared with the journal’s Editor-in-Chief or another relevant member of the Editorial Board.
Royal Society Open Science strongly encourages referees to waive their right to anonymity and to opt for open peer review. In the event that you and the authors opt for open peer review, your name will be made available to both the authors and readers of the manuscript, for example see here.
Speed of refereeing:
The Society endeavours to keep time from submission to publication as short as possible. Therefore, we ask referees to report back within 14 days of receiving the manuscript. In certain instances, an extension to this time may be granted by the editorial office, but should be agreed in advance. If you require an extension, please contact the editorial office.
Notification of decision:
We provide notification of the Editor’s decision on a manuscript to all referees.
Revisions and resubmissions:
Please note that it is the editorial policy of Royal Society Open Science to offer authors one round of revision in which to address changes requested by referees. If the revisions are not considered satisfactory by the Editor, the paper may be rejected, and not considered further for publication by the journal. In the event that the author chooses not to address a referee’s comments, and no scientific justification is included in their cover letter for this omission, it is at the discretion of the Editor whether to continue considering the manuscript. For some rejected manuscripts, the authors will be permitted to resubmit a revised version – this will be at the Editor’s discretion.
For most revised or resubmitted articles, one or more of the original referees will be asked to review it and comment on the authors' replies to their criticisms of the original version.
In cases of a substantial disparity between referee reports, an adjudicator may be sought. Adjudicators are sent the referee reports anonymously as well as the full paper, and asked to advise the Editor on how to proceed. Editorial Board members are often invited to be Adjudicators.
Authors have the right to appeal a rejection decision. Appeals are mediated by the editorial office, and if an appeal is to be lodged, authors are asked to correspond directly with the editorial office. The author must provide a scientific rebuttal to the rejection decision, which will be supplied to the Editor for consideration. In this circumstance, referees may be asked by the Editor to comment on issues raised by the authors. Appeals will only be considered if there has been a fundamental and clear misunderstanding of the research presented in the manuscript.
The outcome of an appeal is final and at the Editor’s discretion. Appeals will have one of the three following outcomes:
- The appeal is unsuccessful, and the rejection decision is upheld;
- The appeal is a success, and a resubmission is invited;
- The appeal is a success, and the paper published ‘as is’.
In the event that the appeal is unsuccessful, the journal considers the matter closed, and will not conduct further correspondence regarding that appeal or rejected manuscript.
Papers rejected from the following Royal Society journals may be transferred to Royal Society Open Science:
Any associated peer review reports of papers transferred to Royal Society Open Science will be made available to the Editorial team and academic Editors of the journal, and used as part of their assessment of the paper. The transferred peer review reports may be made anonymously available to other referees, if requested by the Editor. No transferred peer review comments will be made publicly available in the event that authors opt for open peer review at Royal Society Open Science. More details of our open peer review option are provided below.
Royal Society Open Science operates an optional open peer review model. At all points in the peer review process we encourage referees to waive their traditional right to anonymity and sign their reports, thereby disclosing their name to the author. To increase the transparency of the peer review process, where authors agree, we publish referee reports, the substantive part of the decision letter after review, and the associated author responses alongside published articles.
More information and a list of the possible scenarios can be found here. Referee reports are made public under the CC-BY open access licence. You will be notified on the reviewer form after agreeing to review whether or not the author has opted for open peer review.
An example can be found here.
We encourage reviewers to sign up to Publons, which allows you to collate a list of verified reviews of papers you have peer reviewed. We would also recommend that you register for an ORCID. This unique ID number allows you to easily attribute all of your published papers, grants and referee reports to yourself. Please add your ORCID to your user account in our ScholarOne system when you complete your review, and link your review to your ORCID account via Publons.
Royal Society Open Science has partnered with Publons to give reviewers formal recognition for their work. Tens of thousands of experts already use Publons to effortlessly track, verify and showcase their peer review and editorial contributions across the world’s journals, without compromising reviewer anonymity. Publons makes it simple to include verified evidence of your peer review and editorial activity in funding, promotion and visa applications.
Our partnership with Publons allows reviewers to easily track and verify every review by electing to add the review to their Publons profile when completing the review submission form. You can also add reviews you have done for other journals by forwarding your review receipts (ie "thank you for reviewing" emails from journals) to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can learn more about Publons here.
Our Publishing Ethics policy describes the Royal Society's position on the major ethical principles of academic publishing. Authors, editors and referees are asked to comply with this policy. In addition, the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) have published ethical guidelines for peer reviewers that provide basic guidance on the principles and standards that peer reviewers are expected to adhere to.
Anonymity: It is the policy of the Society that the names of referees are kept confidential, unless otherwise requested by referees in their report. Royal Society Open Science encourages referees to waive this anonymity to support open and transparent decision-making.
Confidentiality: When agreeing to referee an article, all referees undertake to keep the article confidential, and not to redistribute it without permission from the Society and the authors. If referees wish to invite a colleague to help with the review, or if the advice of colleagues is sought, referees must obtain consent from the editorial office and ensure that confidentiality is maintained. The names of anyone involved with the review besides the invited reviewer should be included in the confidential comments to the Editor.
Your review (in whole or in part) will be seen by the paper’s author(s), members of the Editorial Board and editorial office staff, and the other referees. The journal also reserves the right to send your comments, in confidence, to other experts in the case of further advice being required. Unless opting for open peer review under the journal’s policy, the content of your review must remain confidential, even after publication of the paper. If you wish to share your review for any reason please contact the editorial office.
Conflicts of interest: Where referees have a conflict of interest (e.g. competing commercial interest or a personal association that could bias judgement) this should be declared upon invitation to referee.
Data protection: Referee details are entered on our editorial database to ensure that we can process articles efficiently. In accordance with the Data Protection Act, referees are informed that the data will be used for processing articles for publication as well as for general administrative purposes. We will not pass your information on to third parties other than our contractors, suppliers or agents who we use to provide services that you have requested or who help us provide those services. A copy of the Society's data protection policy, including data subjects' rights, is obtainable from the Society.