Reviewer Guidelines

AOS is an online, open review, open access, multidisciplinary research publishing platform that follows a rapid and transparent post-publication peer-review process. Articles are published immediately after a quick review by our in-house editors, followed by open peer review by author-invited referees.

We believe every finding from a carefully designed research study is important to be published, including, null findings and scientifically-justified replications that contribute to a cumulative knowledge base. Therefore, we do not have an editorial bias and we do not assess the manuscripts based on their perceived significance, impact or novelty. However, in order to be published in AOS , papers must be scientifically valid, conclusions made are in-line with experimental data, and proper technical and statistical approaches (where appropriate) must be used.

The Peer Review Process

AOS operates a transparent, post-publication peer review model. Articles are published immediately after a quick review by in-house editors, followed by transparent peer review by author-invited referees. Referee reports are made publicly available along with referees’ details. Authors may submit revised version of their article based on referees’ recommendations. When applicable, each version of an article is assigned a unique digital object identifier (CrossRef DOI) allowing each version to be independently citable. Members of the scientific community who are registered on AOS are allowed to leave public comments on the published article.

Peer-review at AOS is an author-led process and is by invitation only. Authors are given a choice to either suggest up to 5 suitable referees from their field or select from our pool of expert referees. Author-suggested referees are then invited by email. Researchers who are interested to act as referees on AOS may register as a “Reviewer”, and will be notified when their request is approved. Registered referees will appear in our list of suggested referees to the authors during article submission step. Only the referees selected by the authors will be invited to take part in the open review process.

Referees are required to accept a review request in order to access the manuscript and supporting material to review. If you have received an invitation to review, and if you are already a registered referee on AOS , then you can simply login to accept or decline the request under the menu “Reviewership>My Review History” and then by selecting the appropriate article and the option “Accept Request” or “Decline Request” from the drop down menu. Invited referees who are not already a registered user on AOS will need to click the invitation link in their email and go through the registration process before they can login and access the manuscript.

Once accepted to review, referees can access manuscript and supporting material from the “Reviewership>My Review History” menu. Author-submitted manuscript will be initially available to download as a MS-word format. A typeset PDF copy will also be provided immediately after it is generated (which can be accessed under the same menu as above). Referees will be notified when a typeset copy of the manuscript is also available.

In order to provide a sound review, referees are expected to have sufficient understanding of the research topic and technical content of the manuscript being reviewed. We ask referees to assess the manuscript based on scientific quality, technical soundness and validity of the conclusions (based on evidence presented), but not based on significance, impact or novelty.

  1. Referees must ask the following questions to adequately evaluate a manuscript:
    • Is the work scientifically valid and technically sound?
    • Is the abstract well written and accurately reflects the content?
    • Is the manuscript clearly written in standard english? Is the grammar and syntax acceptable?
    • Is the background information sufficiently covered that could be comprehended by readers from diverse backgrounds?
    • Are the experimental and theoretical methods explained comprehensively?
    • Is the source-data and/or links to the source-data provided?
    • Are the statistical analysis used (if any) appropriate for the data type/s?
    • Are there any apparent manipulations in the images? Are there any obvious signs of scientific misconduct?
    • Are the interpretations and claims valid based on evidence presented?
    • Is previous work in the field appropriately cited in the references?
    • Are there any ethical concerns arising from the use of humans, animals or plants (where applicable)?

  2. Referees are also required to acknowledge in the online “Referee Report” form the following:
    • Declaration of potential competing interests
    • Declaration of subject expertise required to carry out the review
    • Declaration that they have read the manuscript being reviewed

  3. We ask referees to follow constructive criticism that will help authors to improve the manuscript, and avoid using offensive language and making derogatory comments or personal attacks. We also ask referees to avoid making unfair criticism towards their competitors’ work if and when mentioned in the manuscript.

  4. In case referees suggest any additional investigations to the authors, we ask referees to make it clear whether the additional investigations are necessary to support authors’ claims or optional to strengthen the manuscript.

Referees must use our online interface to submit their referee report. To be able to submit referee report and assign an ‘Article Approval Status’, the manuscript needs to be downloaded first (refer to “Section 6: Accessing Review Material” for instructions on how to download). Without, prior download, the system will not let the referees submit their report and assign an approval status. Online Referee Report form can be accessed under “Reviewership>My Review History” menu, and then by clicking Comments/Review icon () on the right hand side (under “Action” Tab) of a given article.

Referees could assign one of the three approval statuses to an article:

  1. Approved: This status could be given if all of the criteria in section 7a of these guidelines are met, with or without any minor changes.
  2. Approved with Reservations: If the manuscript is of acceptable scientific standard but could be improved further with a revision. Authors may submit a revision in response to the referees’ comments/recommendation.
  3. Not Approved: If the article lacks basic scientific and technical standard and does not conform to the criteria listed in section 7a of these guidelines.

Referees who approve an article with “Approved with Reservations” may change their decision to “Approved” based on the revision(s) submitted by the authors. Referees who assign an article a “Not Approved” status may change their decision to either “Approved with Reservations” or “Approved” status based on the revision(s) submitted by the authors. Referees who approve an article with “Not Approved” may change their decision to either “Approved with Reservations” or “Approved” status based on the revision(s) submitted by the authors. Once assigned, the “Approved” status cannot be changed to “Approved with Reservation” or “Not Approved” status by the referees.

Author may respond to a referee’s comment by either leaving a direct reply to the respective referee’s comment or by submitting a revised manuscript, depending on the referee’s recommendation. Referee will be notified when there is a revised manuscript and/or a comment submitted by the authors. Referees are expected to review the changes made by the authors in response to their comments in the original report and make appropriate changes to the article approval status (if applicable).

Where possible, we ask referees to avoid requesting additional changes to the revised manuscript (that were not mentioned in the original report), which may result in endless rounds of revisions.

AOS is committed to providing a rapid publication platform to make sure new findings are available promptly to the scientific community. Therefore, we ask referees to submit their report within two weeks of accepting the review request. However, referees can contact us to discuss a possibility to extend their deadline if they anticipate significant delays.

In case of any conflicting referee reports, we may ask one of our Advisory board members to act as an adjudicator. Referees involved will be notified when a final decision is made by the adjudicator.

Members of the scientific community who are registered on AOS may leave public comments on the published articles. We assess manuscripts based on scientific validity and technical soundness and believe scientific community can do a better judgement in determining the significance or novelty of an article. Members can leave a comment either as a reply to a referee report or as an independent comment. Referees will be notified when there are any public comments directed towards their referee report.

Referees may set their availability to indicate whether or not they are accepting new review requests during a given period of time. You may either block off specific days that you are not going to be available, or you may select a date range (multiple date ranges allowed) to mark your unavailability. Availability calendar can be accessed when logged in, under the menu “Reviewership>Set Availability” and then selecting the option “Reviewer Availability Calendar”.

We believe in transparency of the review process. Therefore, we follow an open peer review model where the details of the referees (including their name, designation and affiliation) and their referee reports will be made publicly available to the community.

We expect referees to provide a fair and unbiased review and we ask referees to decline a review request if they feel unable to do so because of any competing interests. Following are some situations that are considered competing interests:

  1. Referee works at the same institution as any of the authors or have worked recently in the past 3 years.
  2. Referee has recent (within the past 3 years) or ongoing collaboration with any of the authors.
  3. Referee co-authored a paper with any of the authors within the past 3 years.
  4. Referee works on the same research topic and is looking to publish same findings.
  5. Referee has been a mentor or mentee to any of the authors in the past 3 years.
  6. Referee has other competing interests such as financial, personal, professional, intellectual, religious or political, that might influence the review outcome.

Referees are required to disclose any competing interests in the online review report form. Your disclosures will be shown on the review report that goes with the published article. Above situations are just some examples and we ask you to contact us if you are unsure of anything that you feel may constitute a potential competing interest.

We highly appreciate the contributions of our referees to the scientific community and believe they need to be rewarded appropriately for their time and effort. Following are the ways we reward our referees:

  1. Referee Credit System: We have developed a credit system to reward our referees for participating in the open peer review process. Referees will be awarded 200 points for every review report they submit on AOS (excludes referee reports that are submitted towards revised versions of the same article).Referees may use up to 2400 points per any given calendar year (roughly equivalent to 3 ‘Research Article’ submissions). Any unused points in a given calendar year will expire and can not be rolled over. Points cannot be redeemed for a cash value. Please contact us if you have any questions about our referee credit program.
  2. Referee Report Citation: We assign a DOI (CrossRef digital object identifier) to every review submitted on AOS . This allows the research community to directly cite your referee report. You can also list these DOIs in your CV and personal blog to have people land straight onto your referee report.
  3. Increased Visibility: Referees’ review history and links to the individual review reports are displayed on their profile page that are visible to the research community. People can click these links and land straight onto your reveiw report.

Following are some of the external resources that cover guidelines for peer reviewers and may be are useful to both novice and expert referees: