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Peer Review Resources


Reviewer Key Responsibilities | Respond to an Invitation | Read a Manuscript | Write a Review


A collection of available resources for peer reviewers of American Heart Association journals—and for the peer review community more broadly—drawn from research and interviews with editors, editorial board members, and experienced reviewers.

Peer reviewers that complete reviews on time and judged as satisfactory by the journal editor team responsible for the manuscript will be eligible for CME credit. See the AHA Journals CME for Physicians page for more information.


Reviewer Key Responsibilities

Journal editors are looking for you to help them determine the suitability of the manuscript for the journal. Therefore, it is important to be familiar with AHA/ASA Journals publication criteria and your ethical responsibilities during the review process.

AHA/ASA Journals Publication Criteria

  1. Research Guidelines - AHA/ASA Journals are committed to publishing high-quality research and upholding accepted standards of methodological rigor, reproducibility, and transparency. 
  2. Statistical Guidelines - Statistical analyses are a crucial component of the biomedical research process and are necessary to draw inferences from biomedical research data. The application of sound statistical methodology is a prerequisite for publication in the AHA/ASA journal portfolio. 
  3. Disparities Research Guidelines - Manuscripts that primarily focus on reporting health differences by race and/or ethnicity should employ consistent framing, terminology, and methods aligned with established best practices for scientific work on racial and ethnic disparities in health.

Ethical Responsibilities During Review Process

  1. Confidentiality - The reviewer should maintain confidentiality about the existence and substance of the manuscript. It is inappropriate to share the manuscript or to discuss it in detail with others before publication. There are some exceptions, if approved by the editor.
  2. Reviewer Conduct - As stated in the ICMJE Recommendations, “Reviewers must not publicly discuss authors’ work and must not appropriate authors’ ideas before the manuscript is published. Reviewers must not retain the manuscript for their personal use and should destroy copies of manuscripts after submitting their reviews.” Knowledge of the content of confidential manuscripts should not be used for any other purpose unrelated to the reviewing of the manuscript.
  3. Reporting Concerns - The reviewer also has the responsibility of noting any ethical concerns, not limited to but including suspected duplicate publication, fraud, plagiarism, or ethical concerns about the use of animals or humans in the research being reported.
  4. Respectful, Unbiased Review - The reviewer should be respectful of the authors and avoid inflammatory language or personal attacks. It is not necessary to provide feedback on the quality of the writing to the authors unless it impedes your understanding of the science, in which case this can be noted in the Comments to the Editor. If a section or part of the manuscript is unclear, this can be indicated to the authors but reviewers should not comment on their language skills or request that the manuscript be reviewed by a "native English speaker."

Respond to an Invitation

Consider the following when deciding whether to review a manuscript:

  1. Do you have the necessary expertise to understand and comment on the work presented in the manuscript?
  2. Will you be able to complete the review within the requested time frame?
  3. Do you have a conflict of interest that must be declared? Please review Section 3.4 For Reviewers in the AHA Journals Conflict of Interest Procedure for details regarding disclosure requirements. When in doubt, please email the journal editorial office with questions.

If you are not able to accept the review, please decline the invitation as soon as possible; this will help ensure a prompt peer review process.

 


Read a Manuscript

A reviewer's main purpose is to determine if the authors' claims are supported. Please be sure to review all files associated with the manuscript including any supplemental files and related files. The following is a section by section guide.

Abstract and Introduction

  • Look for a concise review of the background around the topic, including citations to key articles in the field.
  • Note if anything has been missed and whether the introduction sets the context for the manuscript. 
  • Note if there is a clear statement of purpose or aim for the study at the end of the introduction.

Methods

  • Focus on this section. There should be enough detail for the experiments to be reproduced and should provide sufficient information for the reader to understand the basic methods of the study and to review the fundamental findings in a mechanistic way.
  • Check if additional detail is included in supplemental materials.
  • Refer to AHA Research Guidelines as needed.

Results

  • The results should reflect the methods in organization and structure.
  • Text should summarize or provide context for data presented in tables and figures. Text should not repeat data presented in tables and figures.
  • Consider whether there is sufficient data to support the authors' conclusions and whether all necessary data points are included.
  • Comment on statistical method selection or usage if this is within your area of expertise. 

Discussion

  • Focus should be on the data presented.
  • Note if conclusions are too broad or generalized.
  • Note if limitations are included and sufficient.

Write a Review

Try to be both critical and constructive. Part of the reviewer's role is to help authors improve their manuscript. Whenever possible, number your comments to help the authors organize their response.

Make a Recommendation - Select from available options such as Accept, Minor Revision Required, Major Revision Required, Reject.

Comments to the Editor - Summarize the reasons for your rating and recommendations. Provide specific comments regarding the original aspects of the work and its importance.

Comments to the Author - The comments to the author should not include any statements that indicate to the author your judgment as to the acceptability of the manuscript for publication.

  • All comments should be stated in a constructive and helpful way.
  • Number and organize your comments, sorting them into major and minor comments as appropriate.
  • Discuss the shortcomings and/or strengths of a study. Include in your critique your judgment of 1) originality and scientific importance, 2) adequacy and length of the title, 3) adequacy of the abstract, 4) introduction, rationale and clarity of hypothesis, 5) adequacy of experimental design and methods, 6) quality of data and presentation of results, including figures, 7) appropriateness of the authors’ interpretation of their data, 8) length and appropriateness of the discussion, and 9) inclusion of recent and appropriate references.
  • If possible, make specific recommendations for revisions.
  • Do not focus on minutiae such as correcting typos or grammar.

 


Reviewer Resources