How are referees selected?
The editors choose one or more referees from a common database of thousands of potential referees. This database has no borders between different areas of physics. The editors choose referees based on many factors including a referee’s area of expertise and availability (we try to avoid overburdening referees), quality of reports, and response time.
Can I suggest individuals to review my manuscript?
Authors are encouraged to suggest the names of potential referees. Any suggested referees can be added when you get to the Editorial Info page of your submission. Click on the “Add” button and enter the name, email, and affiliation for each suggested referee. The editorial staff will take your suggestions into consideration, but this does not mean your suggestions will necessarily be chosen. There are other factors editors consider when selecting referees — suitability to review your topic, and availability, among many others.
Can I exclude individuals from reviewing my manuscript?
Yes, you can include your request when you submit your manuscript. Your request can be added when you get to the Editorial Info page of your submission. In the text box provide the names of a few specific people (not names of research groups, collaborations, or institutions) and include a brief explanation. Such requests are generally honored, but see also the response to the next question.
How many referees review my manuscript?
This varies somewhat among journals. For most papers, the editors choose one or two referees (depending on the practice of the journal) to initially review your manuscript. However, if it comments negatively on another published manuscript, then an author of that manuscript may be asked to provide a signed advisory opinion. In some cases, the editors may choose a different number of initial referees for reasons specific to the manuscript, e.g., the need for more than one type of expertise, uncertainty about the availability of a particular expert, etc. If a referee is tardy, the editors may choose an additional referee, and if the tardy referee then responds, we may receive more anonymous reports than usual. If an impasse is reached between author and referee, then the editors may consult another referee in an effort to close the review process. This may happen at any time while the manuscript is under review.
Are all papers reviewed by referees?
No. The editors reject some manuscripts which they judge to be clearly unsuitable for the journal. However, no manuscripts are accepted without review by external referees. It is the editors’ experience that even eminently suitable manuscripts can benefit from careful examination by an expert referee, who may help improve the clarity and impact of the manuscript.
How many revisions will I have to make?
The editors seek to reach a final decision after one or two rounds of revisions and/or rebuttal.
Can I request another referee?
Yes. Generally the handling editor will grant this request if he or she feels that an impasse has been reached. Since the referees are chosen because of their familiarity with the subject matter of the manuscript, it is important to respond to their criticisms even if a different referee is to be consulted. The editors will generally not override a negative recommendation based on scientific criticisms unless an expert referee so advises.
Can a referee reject my manuscript?
No; only the editors can reject your manuscript.
What should I do when a referee criticizes my manuscript?
Read the referee report carefully and dispassionately. Approach the report with an open mind. What may at first seem like a devastating blow is perhaps a request for more information or for a more detailed explanation. At other times the referee may indeed have found a fatal flaw in the research or logic. Put yourself in the position of a reader, which is exactly the position of the referee. Is the manuscript well written? Is the presentation clear, unambiguous, and logical? Respond to all referee comments, suggestions, and criticisms. Explain which changes have been made and state your position on points of disagreement. In our experience, appropriate response to some referee comments may require more research or even reconsideration of the research project.
Why does the referee ask me to cite so many papers?
Assign credit where credit is due. Not only is it proper and customary to cite previous work on the topic of your research, it also demonstrates your knowledge of the subject. Moreover, it helps the less knowledgeable reader understand the history of the subject and how your work contributes to the advancement of the field. Finally, since more and more papers are hyperlinked, more people can find your manuscript if you cite all relevant papers; eventually, your manuscript will be cited more often.
Why does my manuscript sit in the office so long without any apparent activity?
Often this has nothing to do with your manuscript specifically but with a temporary overload of work for the editors and staff. Manuscript submissions follow a seasonal pattern. For example, we receive more in June or July than in January or February. This puts a large burden on the process at a time when fewer referees, editors, and staff may be available due to summer travel. At other times of the year, some events, such as the leading annual meeting in the field of the journal (or journal section), may reduce the availability of referees and editors. We make every effort to handle papers promptly but these large fluctuations in workload and availability cause occasional delays.
What can I do to speed the acceptance and publication of my manuscript?
First and foremost, spend the time and effort to write a manuscript that is clear and grammatically correct. If English is not your native language, consider asking someone else to proofread your manuscript before submission. Triple-check the manuscript before you submit it.
Second, if you receive a referee report requesting changes, do your best to respond to all of the points raised and detail the changes made in your resubmission letter. Take the comments and criticisms of the referee(s) very seriously. The referee is most likely one of your most interested readers.
After you receive a referee report, respond to it promptly and accurately if you desire rapid acceptance.
Finally, if you are a referee, please send in your referee report on another author’s manuscript as quickly as you wish another referee would review your own.