Reviewer Best Practices

What should I consider before accepting an invitation to review?

  • Is this article in my area of expertise?
  • Am I able to provide a quality, in-depth review within 1-2 weeks, in line with the expedited peer review process of IEEE Access (i.e., submission-to-publication time of 4 to 6 weeks)?
  • Do I have a conflict of interest with the author(s)? For example, have I worked with them on an article in the past, were any of them my advisors or my students, do we share an institution? If so, I should decline to review. Please note that IEEE Access follows a single-blind peer review process, where the identities of the reviewers are not known to the authors, but the reviewers know the identities of the authors.
  • Can I keep the confidentiality of the article? As per Section 8.2.2 of the IEEE Publication Services and Products Board Operations Manual, IEEE requires that reviewers treat the contents of articles under review as confidential information not to be disclosed to others before publication.

If I accept to review, what will I be asked to evaluate?

Reviewers will be asked to answer the following questions when completing a review on an article:

  1. Does the paper contribute to the body of knowledge?
  2. Is the paper technically sound?
  3. Is the subject matter presented in a comprehensive manner?
  4. Are the references provided applicable and sufficient? *Please note that suggesting one’s own references as a reviewer if not relevant to the article, or at an excessive level, is unethical and is not permitted.
  5. Are there references that are not appropriate for the topic being discussed? If there are, then please indicate which references should be removed.

What type of decision should I recommend?

Since IEEE Access uses a binary decision process, you may recommend decisions of either Accept or Reject. However, IEEE Access does offer two reject options, one where resubmission is allowed, and another where it is not. In the case of allowing resubmission, the authors are not required to resubmit to IEEE Access and may choose to submit elsewhere. The decision options you can choose from when reviewing an article are detailed below:

Accept: Reviewers should only recommend accept if there are minor edits required prior to publication (grammar, minor edits to figures or graphs, etc.).  Ideally, the article should be able to be published as is.  Please keep in mind that when you recommend acceptance of an article, the authors will not be expected to show the changes made.  It is also worth noting that you should only recommend accept if the article fits the criteria for an article to be accepted in IEEE Access (listed in the next question).

Reject (updates required before resubmission): You should recommend this decision if the article has merit but requires updates before it can be published.  If this is the final decision made by the Associate Editor, upon resubmission authors will be required to supply a list of changes made, and a “response to reviewers” document that addresses each reviewer’s concern.  You will be invited to review if the authors choose to submit the revised article. *Please note that IEEE Access allows authors to revise and resubmit their article only one time. 

Reject (do not encourage resubmit):  You should recommend this option if you feel the changes needed are too significant, if additional revision would not improve the manuscript, or if the article was previously rejected (updates required before resubmission) but the authors did not sufficiently address the reviewers’ concerns and the article is still not ready for publication. If the Associate Editor follows this recommendation, the authors will not be permitted to resubmit the article to IEEE Access.

Please keep in mind that, while reviewers provide guidance and a recommendation, Associate Editors use their own judgement in conjunction with the reviewers’ comments to make the final decision.

What are the criteria for an article to be accepted in IEEE Access?

The criteria for an article to be accepted for publication in IEEE Access include:

  1. The article should be original writing that enhances and contributes to the existing body of knowledge in the given subject area. Original review articles and surveys are acceptable, even if new data/concepts are not presented, but there must be a clear advance over existing work. **If you have any concerns about plagiarism, please alert the Associate Editor or article administrator immediately. Please do not run the manuscript through any plagiarism software.  Each article submitted to IEEE Access is scanned for plagiarism and evaluated during our thorough prescreening process.
  2. Results reported have not been submitted or published elsewhere (although expanded versions of conference publications as well as preprints are eligible for submission).
  3. Experiments, statistics, and other analyses are performed to a high technical standard and are described in sufficient detail.
  4. Conclusions are presented in an appropriate fashion and are supported by the data.
  5. The article is written in Standard English with correct grammar.
  6. Appropriate references to related prior published works must be included.
  7. The article falls within scope of IEEE Access.

What makes a good quality review?

Summarize the work, comment on its overall merits and drawbacks, and provide constructive, substantial feedback.

Consider the strength of the technical content. Does the literature review provide sufficient background and motivation for the work? Review the theoretical/experimental depth, strength of analysis, quality of supporting data and results. Is there sufficient benchmarking and validation, are the conclusions supported by the data and analysis, is the flow of information logical? Is there enough information in this paper for the experiments to be reproducible? If not, comment on what additional or supplementary information is needed. Are there any major technical flaws?

Comment on the article’s technical presentation and organization. Consider things like structure of the paper, language, writing style, quality of figures and tables, typos, formatting.

Can I ask authors to cite specific references?

Suggesting specific references, including articles you have authored, if not relevant to the article or at an excessive level, is not permitted.

You are expected to check if the references are current and relevant to the subject. If you feel that the authors have overlooked important prior research, we encourage you to recommend particular topic areas, rather than specific articles, to improve their literature review and/or better highlight the advantages over the state-of-the-art. If there are any irrelevant, inappropriate, or unnecessary references, be sure to mention this in your comments to the authors.

We of course realize that sometimes authors may miss crucial references to seminal work, or even very recent publications that the authors would benefit from seeing, so if you are going to recommend specific references while completing the review, please be sure to explain why you believe they are relevant to the work.

What should I consider if I am reviewing a resubmission (i.e., a previously rejected article)?

You should evaluate the updated manuscript, any supplementary information, as well as the authors’ response to reviewers’ document to determine if all your concerns have been addressed, and that you are satisfied with the updates. You may also wish to comment on how well the authors addressed the concerns of the other previous reviewers as well, or if you agree or disagree with the feedback from the other reviewers (based on the response to reviewers provided by the authors).

While we typically ask the original reviewers to take another look at the revised article, sometimes one or more are unavailable. Since IEEE policy requires that every article is reviewed by a minimum of two independent reviewers, we may need to invite a new reviewer on a resubmission. If you are reviewing a previously rejected article and did NOT review an earlier version, we still ask that you evaluate as outlined above and decide whether you have new feedback to provide for the authors.

What is the purpose of “Confidential Comments to Editor”?

If you have thoughts on the article that you prefer the editor not share with the authors, use the space provided.

Can I request a review deadline extension?

Yes, reviewers can request a deadline extension as needed.  Since IEEE Access has an expedited peer review process, we can only provide deadline extensions of 1 – 2 weeks maximum.

What does IEEE Access expect from reviewers?

Reviewers should:

  • Be experts of the subject area of the article they agree to review.
  • Complete the review within 7 days. Extensions can be given as needed, especially for longer articles.
  • Decline the review invitation if they have a conflict of interest (COI) with any of the authors of the article.
  • Treat the contents of articles under review as confidential information. Reviewers should not make inappropriate use of the special knowledge that the access to the articles provides.
  • Evaluate the unique contributions, technical soundness, and presentation style of the articles. Comment on the overall merits and drawbacks of the manuscript, provide constructive, substantial feedback and make a recommendation (Accept/Reject) to the best of their judgement.
  • Judge if the study is well-designed and executed, and if the data provided is sufficient to support the conclusion. Check if the illustrations, tables and graphs support the text.
  • Determine if the article makes significant advancement to the field. Please note that IEEE Access articles are not necessarily expected to have a high level of novelty, but they should be distinct from previous publications and technically sound.
  • Check if the references are sufficient and applicable. Please note that suggesting one’s own references as a reviewer if not relevant to the article, or at an excessive level, is unethical and is not permitted.
  • Alert the Associate Editor, the administrator, or the editorial office if they suspect that any part of the article was plagiarized.
  • Practice ethical behavior. Contacting the authors regarding the manuscript while the article is under review is an example of unethical behavior.