3. Editors of Scientific Journals
All SfN members who serve as editors on any journal and all editors of SfN publications are expected to maintain the highest ethical standards and to comply with these Guidelines. The review process needs a director, such as an editor (or editors) charged with ensuring the high quality of all manuscripts accepted for publication, and with maintaining the objectivity and confidentiality of the process used to make that determination.
3.1. The sole responsibility for acceptance or rejection of a manuscript rests with the editor. The primary task of the editors of any journal is to ensure that all manuscripts are evaluated primarily with regard to the importance and quality of the work reported, and its relevance to the journal’s mission.
3.1.1. An editor may reject a manuscript without additional opinions if it is deemed to be (a) inappropriate as to subject matter or format; (b) of poor quality; or (c) of inadequate significance. This decision, based primarily on the manuscript as submitted, should take into account the editor’s assessment of the possible impact of revisions by the author.
3.1.2. In the case where authors have a conflict of interest, an editor may request that the authors include a statement to this effect in the manuscript before it can be reviewed or accepted for publication.
3.1.3. For manuscripts that pass this initial screening, responsible and prudent exercise of editorial responsibilities normally requires that the editor seek advice from reviewers as to the appropriateness of the manuscript for publication in the journal for which it is being considered.
3.1.4. Editors should endeavor to select reviewers who possess appropriate expertise and exercise sound judgment. Editors then should ensure that the reviewers understand their responsibilities, including those regarding confidentiality and the timely preparation of an unbiased review.
3.1.5. Editors are under no obligation to reconsider a manuscript they have rejected. However, an editor may offer the authors an opportunity to respond to criticisms and/or to prepare a revised version. In this case, the editor should permit the authors a reasonable but limited period of time in which to do so.
3.1.6. Editors should hold authors to a high standard with regard to the citation of appropriate literature, emphasizing the use of initial, peer-reviewed references whenever possible. However, editors should not encourage authors to cite the editors’ journal merely to enhance that journal’s reputation.
3.2. Editors should generally grant the request of an author who asks that an individual be excluded from the review of a particular manuscript. There are legitimate reasons for authors to request that particular individuals not review their manuscripts. For example, the individual may be a competitor in a rapidly moving field or may have previously demonstrated an inappropriate bias against the author.
3.2.1. Authors may request that the editor not involve certain individuals in the review of their manuscript. The editor should generally grant this request. However, the editor may decide to use one or more of these reviewers if the editor believes that their expertise is critical to the fair consideration of the manuscript. If an editor does use a reviewer despite an author's objection, the editor should seek the opinions of additional reviewers.
3.2.2. Authors may indicate in their cover letter that the manuscript should be returned to them rather than be reviewed by a particular individual. An editor should respect this request.
3.3. Editors should establish a review process that minimizes bias. Science flourishes best when publication in peer reviewed journals is based solely on the quality and scientific importance of manuscripts and their relevance to the mission of those journals. This applies to all journals, regardless of whether they are published by a nonprofit scientific organization, academic institution, or commercial firm.
3.3.1. Editors should avoid conflict of interest by recusal when appropriate.
3.3.2. An editor should give unbiased consideration to all manuscripts offered for publication, judging each on its merits without regard to any personal characteristic of the authors. Such irrelevant characteristics include, but are not limited to, age, ethnicity, gender identity, institutional affiliation, nationality, race, religion, seniority, and sexual orientation.
3.3.3. Editors should urge reviewers to be objective in their evaluation of a manuscript.
3.3.4. Except in the case of signed editorials, editorial responsibility for any manuscript with which the editor has a potential conflict of interest should be delegated to another qualified person, such as another member of the editorial board or senior editorial staff of that journal. This may be necessary, for example, when a manuscript under review is authored by the editor or someone at the editor’s institution or a present student or collaborator; closely overlaps with ongoing work in the editor’s laboratory; or may be related to an editor’s financial interests.
3.3.5. Editors should ensure that throughout the review process the intellectual independence of authors is respected and room is left for well-reasoned differences in opinion.
3.4. Editors should subject all manuscripts of a given form to the same type of review. If readers are to assume that publication indicates a manuscript has achieved the standards set by a given journal, then all articles within that journal (or a particular section of the journal) must receive an equivalent review. Moreover, because special credit is provided to the individual who publishes a finding first, editors should endeavor to have all manuscripts reviewed and published with the same degree of promptness.
3.4.1. Editors should consider manuscripts submitted for publication with all reasonable speed. Likewise, editors should strive to publish manuscripts in chronological order of acceptance.
3.4.2. Authors should never be given any assurance of a positive outcome of the review process until that process has been completed. This requires complete and thorough evaluation of the submitted manuscript and usually involves input from two or more reviewers other than the editor.
3.5. Editors should provide to the authors a written rationale for editorial decisions regarding a manuscript submitted for publication. It is essential that the scientific community, including each individual author, have as much confidence in the editorial process as possible. Thus, a written explanation of an editorial decision—usually including the comments of reviewers—is essential. Moreover, such feedback can play an important role in encouraging good science and manuscripts of high quality in the future.
3.5.1. Editors should provide all contributing authors with a copy of the reviewers’ comments regarding a manuscript.
3.5.2. Before forwarding a reviewer’s comments to an author, the editor may delete any inappropriately harsh language or personal attacks included in the review. The need for these deletions should be brought to the attention of the reviewer. Such language or attacks should not influence the editor's decision regarding the manuscript, although it may require the editor to seek input from an additional reviewer.
3.6. Everyone involved in the editorial process must treat unpublished manuscripts as confidential documents. Until a manuscript is published, editors and members of their editorial staffs are expected to treat it as a privileged document.
3.6.1. Unpublished research ideas, information, arguments, or interpretations disclosed in a submitted manuscript should not be used in an editor’s own research or for the personal financial gain of an editor or anyone associated with a journal. However, if information obtained during the review of a manuscript indicates that some of the editor’s own research is unlikely to be successful, it would be ethical for the editor to discontinue the research.
3.6.2. The editor, the editor’s staff, and the journal’s staff should not disclose information about a manuscript under consideration to anyone other than those from whom professional advice is sought or as part of the normal editorial process.
3.6.3. However, an editor who solicits or otherwise arranges beforehand for the submission of manuscripts may need to disclose to prospective authors the fact that a relevant manuscript by another author has been received or is in preparation. This may occur, for example, during development or production of a special issue.
3.7. A limited amount of information regarding a manuscript accepted for publication may be disclosed by an editor to the public prior to publication. In certain cases, it may be of value to hasten the dissemination of some or all of the contents of the article. This might occur, for example, if the article contains information important to public health.
3.7.1. After a manuscript has been accepted for publication, it is reasonable for the editor and members of the editor’s staff to release to the press, under embargo, information about or from the manuscript before publication.
3.7.2. With the exception of the title and authors’ names, the contents of a manuscript should not normally be disclosed prior to publication without the authors’ permission unless such disclosure is part of the published policy of the journal.
3.8. Editors should correct errors in a manuscript if they are detected before publication or publish corrections if they are detected afterward. Honest errors can escape detection until after a manuscript has been submitted or even published, as when a reagent subsequently proves to be less specific than originally believed or a measuring device is later shown to have been inaccurate. Occasionally, calculations are incorrect or a critical paper is discovered late. An author, a reviewer, an editor, or any other individual may raise the possibility of error. In each case, it is imperative that the editor carefully investigates the possible error once it has been pointed out. When errors significantly alter some aspect of an article, the editor and publisher should provide a means by which a correction or retraction can be made.
3.8.1. If someone other than an author brings an error or apparent error to an editor's attention the editor should notify all authors as soon as possible and request correction.
3.8.2. If an error may significantly affect a manuscript or published article, then corrective action should be taken. If a manuscript has not yet been published, the errors should be corrected before publication or else publication should be delayed or revoked. If the article has been published, then a report about the error should be published in the journal in which the original article appeared.
3.8.3. In the case of errors in reports that have already been published, the authors should always be given the opportunity to respond to and report the error. If the authors do not do so in a timely manner, then the editor of the journal should publish a notice of correction, or in more serious cases retract the article.
3.8.4. All notices of correction or retraction must be published prominently in the journal in which the original report appeared and contain the full bibliographic reference to the original article or abstract. It should also be listed in the contents page and be prominently labeled.