Peer review policy

Each manuscript submitted to the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal (SQUMJ) undergoes an initial evaluation for completeness and adherence to format standards. Following this, an Editor reviews the submission to determine its eligibility for peer review. In instances where an Editor is listed as an author or has a conflicting interest with a particular manuscript, another Editorial Board member will be appointed to manage the peer review process. The decision-making process involves Editors considering the feedback from peer reviews, though they are not strictly obliged to follow these recommendations or opinions. A manuscript may be declined based on the concerns of either a single peer reviewer or the Editor. Authors are provided with the peer review comments along with the editorial decision regarding their manuscript.

For conference proceedings papers, the review process is conducted by the Programme Chairs and Committee members of the respective conference, who may also enlist the assistance of external reviewers.


AI use by peer reviewers

In the world of scientific publishing, peer reviewers are crucial for their expert assessments and advice, aiding editors in making informed decisions and ensuring the research they publish is sound, thorough, and trustworthy. Peer reviewers are chosen primarily for their deep understanding of the subject or methodologies of the manuscripts they review, a proficiency that is both unique and indispensable. They bear responsibility for the precision and opinions in their reviews, and the peer review system relies on a reciprocal trust among authors, reviewers, and editors. Although there has been significant advancement in generative AI technologies, these tools have notable shortcomings, such as outdated information, and the potential for generating nonsensical, biased, or incorrect content. Additionally, manuscripts might contain confidential or proprietary data that shouldn't be disclosed beyond the peer review process. Consequently, while SQUMJ is considering the provision of secure AI tools to our peer reviewers, we request that reviewers refrain from uploading manuscripts into generative AI systems.

Should any aspect of the manuscript's claim evaluation be aided by an AI tool, we ask reviewers to openly disclose the use of such tools in their peer review report.


Peer reviewer selection

The selection of peer reviewers is a pivotal aspect of the publication process, influenced by various factors such as expertise, reputation, specific endorsements, potential conflicts of interest, and past performance. Desirable traits in peer reviewers include promptness, thoroughness, logical reasoning, and a collaborative spirit.

Editorial Responsibilities:

  • Editors are generally expected to secure at least three peer reviewers for manuscripts presenting primary research or secondary analysis of primary data. However, particularly in specialized or emerging fields, finding three independent reviewers may be challenging. In such situations, editors might decide to proceed with publication based on one or two peer reviews. Decisions based on a single review should only occur if that review adheres to the following standards.
  • Reviews should be in English, offering constructive and critical analysis of the author's work, particularly regarding the suitability of methods, accuracy of results, and whether conclusions are backed by the results. Decisions should hinge on reviews meeting these criteria, rather than those which are brief, superficial, and lack a rationale for their recommendations.
  • It's incumbent upon editors to validate the contact details of reviewers recommended by authors or third parties. Institutional email addresses are preferred for contacting reviewers. Each manuscript should be reviewed by at least two reviewers not proposed by the author.
  • Non-research manuscripts like Editorials, Commentaries, or Opinion pieces might be accepted without peer review. These should be evaluated by the editors if the topic falls within their expertise; otherwise, assessment by at least one independent expert reviewer or Editorial Board Member is required.
  • In exceptional cases where two independent reviewers are unattainable, the editor may serve as a second reviewer or base a decision on a single report.
  • Editors acting as second reviewers must have substantial knowledge in the relevant field.
  • Any solo reports should be comprehensive and detailed.
  • The primary reviewer should be experienced, relevant to the topic, and have recent publications in the subject area.

Potential reviewers must inform the editorial team of any conflicts of interest before accepting a review invitation. Communications between editors and reviewers are confidential and should not be disclosed to external parties.

SQUMJ permits authors to propose potential reviewers and request the exclusion of certain individuals or groups (typically up to two). Editors will take these suggestions into account but are not obligated to comply. The editor's decision on reviewer selection is definitive.

Authors should avoid recommending recent collaborators or colleagues from their own institution. Editors will need information to confirm the reviewer's identity and expertise, including their institutional email address and ORCID or Scopus ID.


Peer reviewer misconduct

Engaging in deceptive practices, such as misrepresenting identity or recommending fictitious peer reviewers, will lead to the manuscript's rejection, a thorough inquiry as per the misconduct policy of Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal (SQUMJ), and informing the respective institutions or employers of the authors. SQUMJ adheres to the standards set by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Additional details on peer review deception or fabrication are available here.


Peer review model

SQUMJ employs a double-blinded peer review model. While most journals opt for a single-blinded approach, where authors' identities are visible to reviewers but reviewers remain anonymous to authors, SQUMJ's process conceals the identity of both parties. In this double-blinded system, neither the authors nor the peer reviewers know each other's identities. Additionally, the pre-publication history of the articles is kept confidential and is not published online.


Peer reviewer guidance

The primary goal of peer review is to assist the Editor in making a fair, evidence-based decision that aligns with the journal's editorial standards. Review reports should also aid authors in refining their paper for potential publication. Reports recommending rejection must highlight the key weaknesses of the research to help authors improve their manuscript for submission elsewhere.

Peer reviewers are expected to follow COPE's Ethical Guidelines for Peer-reviewers, available here: COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer-reviewers.

Comments intended for the Editor alone are permissible, but they should not contradict the primary content of the author's report.

Reviewers must evaluate manuscripts solely based on the journal’s publication criteria.

Reviewers should observe the following standards:

  • Familiarize themselves with SQUMJ's peer review policy before accepting a review assignment.
  • Maintain objectivity in their reviews.
  • Avoid personal criticism of the author; defamatory or libelous comments are inappropriate.
  • Clearly articulate their views with supporting evidence and references.
  • Declare any potential conflicts of interest.
  • Refrain from reviewing manuscripts where a conflict of interest might exist due to relationships with any authors, companies, or institutions involved.
  • Keep the manuscript's content confidential and not discuss it with others or use the information for personal benefit.
  • Contact the journal first if wishing to delegate a review invitation to a colleague.
  • Communicate any concerns about these guidelines or the review process to the editorial team.

Reviewers are asked to consider the following aspects of a manuscript:

  • Key results: Summarize the most significant aspects of the work.
  • Validity: Identify any flaws that could prevent publication.
  • Originality and significance: If conclusions are not original, provide relevant references.
  • Data & methodology: Comment on the approach's validity, data quality, and presentation. Reviewers should evaluate all data, including supplementary information, and assess the reporting's detail and transparency.
  • Use of statistics and handling of uncertainties: Confirm the definition of error bars in figure legends and comment on the suitability of statistical tests and accuracy of error bars and probability values.
  • Conclusions: Assess the robustness, validity, and reliability of conclusions and data interpretation.
  • Inflammatory material: Check for inappropriate or potentially libelous language.
  • Suggested improvements: List possible enhancements to strengthen the work.
  • References: Evaluate the appropriateness of cited literature.
  • Clarity and context: Assess the clarity of the abstract and the appropriateness of the abstract, introduction, and conclusions.
  • Scope and expertise: Indicate any part of the manuscript or analyses outside your expertise.
  • Address any specific questions from the editor.
  • Alert the Editorial team of SQUMJ about any concerns regarding publication or research misconduct, such as plagiarism or image manipulation.
  • Review your report before submission, considering its tone and professionalism, and avoiding personal remarks or antagonistic comments.

The order of the report is flexible, but it should reflect the reviewer's thought process, justifying statements with facts and references. Not every aspect may apply to every paper due to discipline-specific norms. When in doubt, contact the Editor for guidance.

SQUMJ maintains neutrality regarding jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Reviewers should not request authors to make changes to these unless it critically affects the academic clarity of the manuscript.

SQUMJ aims for swift editorial decisions and publication, valuing an efficient process for both authors and the research community. Reviewers are asked to respond promptly and inform the journal of any anticipated delays, allowing for timely author updates and alternative arrangements if needed.