Learn About Peer Review
Peer review is an essential component of scientific research and a crucial step in the publishing process. Browse the sections below to learn how you can become a reviewer for ACS journals, along with essential information for both authors and reviewers.
Becoming a Peer Reviewer
While there is no defined path to becoming a reviewer, there are several things you can do to increase your chances of being invited to review future manuscripts:
- Enroll in ACS Reviewer Lab, a free online course that teaches the basics and expectations of the peer review process. Designed by ACS editors, leading scientific researchers, and ACS Publications staff, this course provides real-life guidance on how to navigate tricky ethical situations, identify core criteria for evaluating manuscripts, and write a first-rate review. Upon completion of the course, you will be added to our database of qualified reviewers for your area of scientific expertise.*
- Build your network by connecting with subject matter experts at professional conferences.
- Ask a colleague who is an experienced reviewer to recommend you to the journal editors.
- Become an active ACS Member and join your local chapter to further expand your scientific network.
- Use the ACS Reviewer Toolkit a step-by-step guide that will take you through key points to consider before accepting, assessing, and writing a review.
*Completion of ACS Reviewer Lab is NOT required to review for an ACS journal.
What Reviewers Need to Know
- Identifying conflicts of interest: If you think the subject, conclusions, or authorship of a manuscript may prevent you from giving an objective review, it must be disclosed to the journal editors.
- Being prepared: Get to know the journal you are reviewing for and the current state of the field, and give the manuscript an initial read before you dive into the review. Certain ACS journals provide additional guidance for reviewers. Be sure to read the journal-specific “Information for Reviewers” pages before you begin the review process.
- Understand the impact: Does the manuscript provide novel contributions to the field? Is it a good fit for the journal? These are key factors to consider when writing a review.
- Evaluating the manuscript: As a reviewer, it’s your job to gauge if the manuscript is scientifically sound, clearly written, contains strong graphics and data, and contains enough detail to be replicated.
- Building your case: Compile your review in an organized manner, and be specific, professional, and accurate. It’s important to be as thorough as possible when completing the reviewer form.
All manuscript referees must submit their reviews via ACS Paragon Plus, which provides complete access to all publishable parts of the manuscript and will save a copy of your comments in case a second round of reviews is needed.
For the convenience of our authors, ACS offers a Manuscript Transfer Service. If the author accepts an offer to refer the manuscript to a different ACS journal, your review of the manuscript will also be transferred. Please be assured that ACS will handle your review with the same confidentiality in the next ACS journal as in the original journal. Note that your review may also be shared by the authors independently.
What Authors Need to Know
How it works: ACS journals engage in single-anonymized review. Authors will not know who is reviewing their manuscript, but reviewers will know who has authored the manuscript.
Each journal does things a little differently*, but when you send in a manuscript for publication, it undergoes an initial screening to make sure it’s ready for review. Next, the journal editor evaluates whether your manuscript is a good fit for the journal in terms of scope, target audience, and overall scientific quality and impact. If your manuscript meets these criteria, it enters the formal peer review process.
*See below for more information regarding Transparent Peer Review
- Conflicts of interest: Know what constitutes a conflict of interest and how this may affect the review of your manuscript. A conflict of interest occurs when a reviewer has a personal or financial interest in the outcome of the review process—due to their connection to the authors, their funding organization, or their research—of which the editor may not be aware.
- What reviewers look for: Your submission will be assessed on its scientific impact, methodological approach, scope, and more. Keep these things in mind as you write.
- Making it look good: Make sure your manuscript is properly organized, easy to read, and that all visuals are clear and properly referenced. ACS journals have different formatting requirements, so be sure to read the journal-specific guidelines carefully ahead of submission.
- How to respond to feedback: When responding to reviewers, it’s important to be professional, make sure you understand all comments made, and provide updates to your manuscript in a timely manner.
For further reviewer education, we encourage all researchers to enroll in ACS Reviewer Lab. You can also attend peer review sessions at most ACS on Campus events.
Transparent Peer Review
ACS Publications is exploring a new way of conducting peer review to better serve our community and demonstrate our commitment to open science. To provide more transparency into the overall peer review process, we have launched a transparent peer review pilot with two journals, ACS Central Science and The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters.
What is transparent peer review?
Transparent peer review means that the reader can see the exchange between authors and reviewers. If the author chooses to participate in transparent peer review, the anonymous reviews and the author's response to the reviewers’ comments will be published as supporting information, freely available alongside the article at the time of publication. Note that transparent peer review maintains the anonymity of the reviewer, unless otherwise requested by the reviewer. Learn more about transparent peer review.