Criteria for Publication (Notes for Reviewers)


Neuroscience Bulletin receives more submissions than can be published in each issue. It is therefore important that manuscripts are critically evaluated for compliance with the following criteria:

  • Scope of interest
  • Strong evidence for the conclusions that are drawn
  • Novelty
  • Importance to the specific field
  • Language

The Review Process

All submitted manuscripts are initially assessed by the Scientific Editor(s) for suitability for the review process. The views of an Associate Editor may be sought for further input on this decision. To save authors’ and reviewers’ time, only those manuscripts judged most likely to meet our editorial criteria are sent out for formal peer-review.

Manuscripts that are sent for formal review typically go to 2-3 reviewers. The peer review process should be completed within 2 weeks. Reviewers who agree to review manuscripts may receive reminders at the time the review is due. Based on the reviewer’s advice, the Associate Editor decides to:  

  • Accept the manuscript, with or without minor revision.
  • Invite the authors to revise the manuscript to address specific concerns before a final decision is reached.
  • Reject with an invitation to resubmit the work as a new paper once additional experiments have been carried out.
  • Reject the manuscript, typically on grounds of specialist interest, lack of novelty, insufficient conceptual advance, or major technical and/or interpretational problems.

Reviewers may recommend a particular course of action in their confidential comments to the editors, but reviewers should bear in mind that the editors may have to make a decision based on conflicting advice. Furthermore, editorial decisions are not a matter of counting votes or numerical rank assessments, but rather are based on an evaluation of the strengths of the arguments raised by each reviewer and by the authors. The most useful reviewer reports, therefore, are those that set out clear, substantiated arguments and refrain from recommending a course of action in the comments directed to the authors.  

Reviewers may, on occasion, be asked for further advice, particularly in cases where they disagree with one another, or where the authors believe that they have been misunderstood on points of fact. This kind of discussion is sometimes necessary to ensure an effective and fair review process. We do understand, however, that reviewers are reluctant to be drawn into prolonged disputes, so we try to keep consultation to the minimum we judge necessary to come to a fair conclusion. In certain cases, additional reviewers or members of our Editorial Board may be consulted to resolve disputes, but this is avoided unless there is a specific issue on which further advice is required. 

To avoid unnecessary delays in processing manuscripts, please do the following immediately upon receipt of a manuscript for review: 

  • Double-check the deadline to ensure that there have been no misunderstandings regarding timing, and contact the Editorial Office immediately if you anticipate any difficulties in meeting it. 
  • Read the editor's letter carefully and be sure to note any specific points on which the editor may have requested your opinion. 
  • Skim the manuscript and consider whether there might be a conflict of interest for you (with the authors, their institution, or their funding sources) and whether you can judge the article impartially

Confidentiality

Reviewers should treat the review process as strictly confidential, and keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • If colleagues are consulted, they should be identified to the editors
  • If experts from outside the reviewer's own laboratory need to be consulted, the reviewer should check with the editor beforehand to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the editor
  • Reviewers should, as a rule, not disclose their identities to the authors or to other colleagues since they may be asked to comment on the criticisms of other reviewers and may then find it difficult to be objective. Should they feel strongly about making their identities known to the authors, they should do so via the editor. We strongly disapprove of any attempt by authors to determine the identities of reviewers or to confront them, and encourage reviewers to neither confirm nor deny any speculation in this regard.

Writing the Report (for Peer-Reviewers)

The primary purpose of reviewer reports is to provide the editors with the information necessary to reach a decision, but they should also instruct the authors on how to strengthen their manuscript if revision is a possibility. Reviewers are asked to submit both confidential comments to the editor and those that can be directly transmitted to the authors. We recommend the following division of the report:

  • Comments for the authors:

Reviewers are asked to maintain a positive and impartial, but critical attitude in evaluating the manuscripts. Criticisms should remain dispassionate; offensive language is not acceptable. As far as possible, a negative report should explain to the authors the weaknesses of their manuscript, so that they can understand the basis for a decision to ask for revision or to reject the manuscript.

  • An ideal report should include:
  1. An initial paragraph that summarizes the major findings and the reviewer's overall impressions, as well as highlighting major shortcomings of the manuscript.
  2. Specific numbered comments, which may be broken down into major and minor criticisms if appropriate (numbering facilitates both the editor's evaluation of the manuscript and the authors' rebuttal to the report).
  • The report should answer the following questions:
  1. What are the major claims and how significant are they?
  2. Are the claims novel and convincing?
  3. Are the claims appropriately discussed in the context of earlier literature?
  4. Who will be interested and why?
  5. Does the paper stand out in some way from others in its field?
  6. Are there other experiments that would strengthen the paper?
  7. Are the illustrations (figures/tables) clear enough to support the results?
  • For manuscripts that may merit further consideration, it is also helpful if reviewers can provide advice on the following points where appropriate:
  1. How might the clarity of the writing be improved?
  2. How might the manuscript be shortened (possibly by rewriting it in the form of a Letter to the Editor or an Insights; see details at http://www.neurosci.cn/ep3-4.asp)?
  3. How might the earlier literature be represented more appropriately?
  4. How might the presentation of methodological details be improved so that the experiments can be reproduced?

The report to the author should not include a recommendation regarding publication, which is regarded as confidential information since the final decision regarding acceptance, revision, or rejection rests with the editor.

Confidential Evaluation

Additional confidential comments to the editor might include:

  • A definite recommendation regarding publication.
  • An assessment of how much any suggested additional experiments would improve the manuscript, and of how difficult they would be to complete within a reasonable timeframe (1-2 months).
  • In cases where the manuscript is unacceptable in its present form, an opinion about whether the study is sufficiently promising to encourage resubmission in the future.
  • In cases that might be breakthroughs or time-sensitive, an opinion whether faster publication could be considered.
  • In cases when the manuscript does not fit the requirements of an original article or a review, an opinion whether the study is sufficient to be accepted as a Letter to the Editor or an Insights.

Timing

Neuroscience Bulletin is committed to rapid editorial decisions and publication as efficiency in this process is a valuable service to both our authors and the scientific community as a whole. We therefore ask that reviewers respond promptly or inform us if they anticipate a significant delay. This allows us to keep the authors informed and, when necessary, to find alternative reviewers.

Conflicts of Interest

In order to ensure fairness in the review process, we try to avoid enlisting the help of reviewers who have recent or ongoing collaborations with the authors, have commented on drafts of the manuscript, are in direct competition, have a history of dispute with the authors, or have a financial interest in the outcome. Because it is not possible for the editors to know of all possible biases, however, we ask reviewers to draw our attention to anything that might affect their report, including commercial interests, and to decline to review in cases where they feel unable to be objective. We do not find it necessary to exclude reviewers who have reviewed a paper for another journal; in our view, the fact that two journals have independently identified a particular person as well qualified to review a paper does not decrease the validity of her/his opinion.

Publication Policy and Ethical Considerations

In spite of our best efforts to identify breaches of publication policy or ethical conduct, such as plagiarism or conflict of interest, reviewers who are more familiar with the field are more likely to recognize such problems and should alert the editors to any potential difficulties in this regard.