The responsibilities of a reviewer can be summarized as follows.
In confidential comments to the Review Editor: (Note: Journal of Clinical Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences does not allow confidential comments to the editor, except for ethical issues.)
Elaborate on your evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the manuscript and physiological significance of the findings in your confidential remarks to the Editor. State whether you judge the findings to 1) represent a breakthrough in understanding; 2) be of major importance; 3) be of minor importance, advancing the field only incrementally or not at all. State (yes or no) if you would rank the overall quality/impact of this manuscript in the top 25% of manuscripts you have reviewed in the field.
In comments to the Author:
Include in your critique your judgment of the physiological significance of the findings, the clarity of the rationale and hypothesis, accuracy of the experimental design, methods and statistical analysis, quality of data presentation, length and quality of Discussion, and the inclusion of appropriate references. Submit general comments first, and then specific comments for revision. Do not indicate any ethical issues in Comments to the Author; those should go in the Comments to the Editor. Do not reveal your decision recommendation to the author, but do make your comments diplomatically congruent with those that are in the Comments to the Editor.
Ethical responsibilities of a reviewer:
1.The reviewer should provide an honest, critical assessment of the research. The reviewer’s job is to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the research, provide suggestions for improvement, and clearly state what must be done to raise the level of enthusiasm for the work.
2. The reviewer should not manipulate the process to force the authors to address issues interesting or important to the reviewer but peripheral to the objective(s) of the study. The reviewer should maintain confidentiality about the existence and substance of the manuscript. It is not appropriate to share the manuscript or to discuss it in detail with others or even to reveal the existence of the submission before publication. There are some exceptions if approved by the editor. One exception is that the reviewer may want a junior colleague to have the experience of reviewing and therefore may ask him/her to collaborate on a review. However, if this is done, your collaborator on the review should also agree to maintain confidentiality, and the editor should be informed of the participation of this additional person.
3. The reviewer must not participate in plagiarism. It is obviously a very serious transgression to take data or novel concepts from a paper to advance your own work before the manuscript is published.
4. The reviewer should always avoid, or disclose, any conflicts of interest. For example, the reviewer should decline to review a manuscript on a subject in which he/she is involved in a contentious dispute and does not feel that a fair review can be provided. The reviewer should also avoid biases that influence the scientific basis for a review. Another example is if the reviewer has a close personal or professional relationship with one or more of the authors such that his/her objectivity would be compromised. Scientific merit should be the basis for all reviews.
5. The reviewer should accept manuscripts for review only in his/her areas of expertise. Although editors try very hard to match manuscripts with the most expert reviewers, sometimes mistakes are made. It is unfair to the authors and to the overall review process if the referee does not have the expertise to review the manuscript adequately. The exception to this general rule is when an editor specifically asks for your view as a “non-expert” or seeks your opinion on a special aspect of the manuscript (e.g., statistics).
6. The reviewer should agree to review only those manuscripts that can be completed on time. Sometimes, unforeseen circumstances arise that preclude a reviewer from meeting a deadline, but in these instances, the reviewer should immediately contact the editor. It is unfair to the authors of the manuscript for reviews to be inordinately delayed by tardy referees. Delaying a review can sometimes lead to charges by the authors that the reviewers (who undoubtedly work in the same area) are “stonewalling” in order to publish their related work first, thus establishing priority.
7. The reviewer also has the unpleasant responsibility of reporting suspected duplicate publication, fraud, plagiarism, or ethical concerns about the use of animals or humans in the research being reported.
The reviewer should write reviews in a collegial, constructive manner. The reviewer should not shy away from discussing the weaknesses (or strengths) of a study, however. No one likes to have a paper rejected, but a carefully worded review with appropriate suggestions for revision can be very helpful.