Assess a paper and make an editorial decision
A primary role of an editor at a scientific journal is to evaluate incoming manuscripts to determine whether the study is appropriate for the journal, based on the journal´s scope, and the conclusions are generally supported by the data presented. Editors are involved in decisions for both (1) assessing whether the manuscripts they receive should be sent out for peer-review, and (2) evaluating reviewers’ comments and authors’ responses in order to make a final decision on whether the manuscript is to be published. If the decision is positive, the editor will find reviewers for the paper. The editor will also manage the peer review process, and write a response to the authors.
Note: While traditional scientific journals play an important role in science publishing, more platforms are opening up for immediate publication (without scope and/or novelty suitability pre-screening) such is the case of PLOS ONE, F1000, or bioRxiv. Transparent peer-review is also on the rise, such as or F1000, eLife, or EMBO Journal. In these types of open access platforms, the editor often doesn’t need to address the novelty or suitability of the article for the journal, instead the editor focuses on the soundness of the science – which, some argue, makes the publishing process less subjective.
Basic Stages of the Editorial Process
More on the editorial processes and timelines for different PLoS journals:
Determine whether a paper is suitable for consideration in PLoS by carefully considering the manuscript, and the journal scope and criteria. Write a recommendation that includes and broad assessment of the paper, and a recommendation of whether the manuscript should reviewed or rejected, and suggest reviewers if applicable. Write a final decision letter to the authors.
For this exercise, you are an editor at PLoS and part of a team evaluating papers for publication. You are also responsible for managing and responding to reviewers and authors throughout the revision and publication process.
|Task 1: Editorial decision
Triage this article from F1000 research. Read the manuscript and assess whether it would be considered for full review. Take into account both the journal’s scope and triage guidelines (provided below). These guidelines are meant to facilitate the final editorial decision on the publication.
If you wish, you can select a different article from F1000 or bioRxiv as your test manuscript.
If your decision is to reject, skip to Task 3.
NOTE: This task is routinely included as part of job interviews for editorial positions, where candidates will be given two manuscripts, one within the field of expertise, and one outside the field of expertise. Ideally this task should take you no longer than one hour, spend a maximum of two hours.
|Task 2: Peer review decision
Part 1: Identify 2-4 reviewers and/or an academic editor.
Part 2: Make a decision after reading reviewers’ comments
DECISIONS: Accept, minor revisions, major revisions, reject
|Task 3: Final editorial decision and letter to the authors
Following from the decisions made in Tasks 1 and 2, and regardless of your decision from Task 2, write a letter to the authors
For Task 1 – provide a list that addresses each point. Length: no more than 2-3 sentences per point listed in the task above.
For Task 2 – provide reviewer and academic editor suggestions and your reasons for selecting them.
For Task 3 – write the final decision letter to the authors based on reviewers’ comments. Length: 3-4 paragraphs. It may be useful to read other editorial decision letters from eLife papers. The letter should include:
- Summary of the manuscript
- Essential revisions needed per reviewers’ requests
- State whether the paper needs to go back to reviewers (if they have requested so because of major revisions) or if it will be accepted once revisions are addressed.
General resources to get you started:
Skills used to perform this task:
- Ability to evaluate significance and relevance of scientific findings
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Knowledge of specific fields within science
- Clear and concise written communication
- Efficient time management
Skills used in the scientific journal editing field:
- Interpersonal skills in written communication with the authors and reviewers
- Team work – collaboration with authors and reviewers
A scientific journal editor may also perform these tasks:
- Triage and critique papers
- Edit review pieces
- Write layman’s terms abstracts or pieces for the journal’s blog or magazine
- Attend conferences and disseminate the journal’s scope and policies
- Social media outreach
- Science outreach and communication
You are viewing a job simulation. To get started, set up SMART Goals to perform this simulation in a reasonable timeline. If you have completed the task, fill out the Self-Reflection Sheet.
Simulation authors: Elena Minones, PhD and Liz Silva, PhD
Simulation vetted by professionals from science journals and academic journals