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Resources for Student Review Clubs

Welcome to the SPIE journals student review club! This page contains resources related to scholarly journal peer review, including the official review form used by Optical Engineering. It is intended to support the training and mentorship of students in optics in the expectations and responsibilities of peer review.

Best Practices for Peer Review

  • Anonymity: SPIE journals use a single-blind system of peer review. This means that the reviewers know the author's name, but the author does not know the reviewer's name. For that reason, it's crucial to remove any identifying information from your review.

    If you upload your review as a Word document or as a PDF, your name could be embedded in the metadata associated with that document and you might not even know it. You can find instructions on how to remove personal information from a Word document on the Microsoft support websiteLeaving Site. Straightforward instructions for removing your name from comments in Adobe Acrobat can be found hereLeaving Site.
  • Confidentiality: The contents of the research should be kept confidential. In an editorial on the responsibilities of peer review, former Editor-in-Chief of Optical Engineering, Don O'Shea, states, "A paper must be considered a privileged communication, whose contents cannot be disclosed to others or be used to further one's own research at the expense of the author."[Opt. Eng. 43(5), 1006-1007 (2004)]. The full editorial can be found online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/1.1738682Leaving site
  • Disclosure: Any conflict of interest resulting from direct competitive, collaborative, or other relationship with any of the authors should be disclosed to the Editor before beginning a review.
  • Timeliness: By accepting the responsibility to review a paper, you are agreeing to complete the review within the timeline given by the journal's editorial office.
  • A good reviewer should:
    • Identify and describe incorrect or flawed work.
    • Point out errors, misinterpretations, and unsubstantiated claims.
    • List any references that can amplify your critique.
    • Assuming the paper is technically correct, assist the authors by providing them with suggestions for improving the contents and language of their paper. (Note, however, that if the author's English is poor, you are not expected to go through the entire manuscript and correct the language yourself.)


    Helpful Resources

    COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer ReviewersOpens PDF

    The introduction states, "The Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE) Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers set out the basic principles and standards to which all peer reviewers should adhere during the peer-review process. It is hoped they will provide helpful guidance to researchers, be a reference for journals and editors in guiding their reviewers, and act as an educational resource for institutions in training their students and researchers."

    Checklist for Editors, Reviewers, and Authors

    JM3 Editor-in-Chief Chris Mack published a reviewer's checklist as part of his series on "How to Write a Good Scientific Paper." This editorial includes a detailed description of the peer review process and a checklist for authors, editors, and reviewers  It can also be accessed on the SPIE Digital Library at http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/1.JMM.14.2.020101.

    Sample Review Comments for an Optical Engineering Manuscript #1

    This paper was initially submitted and reviewed; it was then revised twice based on the comments of two independent reviewers. This sample review contains one reviewer's comments for each version of the paper. This reviewer's comments contributed to a declination to publish.

    Sample Review Comments for an Optical Engineering Manuscript #2

    This paper was reviewed twice, once at initial submission and again upon revision. This reviewer's comments contributed to an acceptance decision.


    Review Instructions for Student Review Club

    Download the review form and evaluation criteria for Optical Engineering.

    Review Process:

    The manuscript submission and peer-review process is broken down into the following steps:

    1. The Author submits a manuscript.
    2. The Editor assigns an Associate Editor to the manuscript.
    3. The Associate Editor assigns the Mentor as a Reviewer for the manuscript.
    4. The Mentor accepts the review and contacts the student review club members to organize a time and location (if needed).
    5. The review club meets with the Mentor online or in person to discuss the paper.
    6. One student consolidates the comments, writes a draft review, and sends it to the Mentor.
    7. After reviewing and editing the student comments as needed, the Mentor submits the review.
    8. The Associate Editor makes a decision on the manuscript based on all the reviewers' comments.
    9. The staff contacts the author with the decision.
    10. If the decision is a major revision and re-review, the Mentor could be contacted again to re-review the revised manuscript. It is the mentor's choice whether to reconvene the student review club for any subsequent re-reviews, or perform the review him/herself.

    Reviewing a Manuscript:

    Before the meeting: Respond to the mentor's meeting invitation promptly. Read the manuscript in advance so that you are familiar with the material. Also look at the sample reviews on this webpage.

    During the meeting: As a group, use the review form to rate the journalistic and scientific quality of the paper on a scale of excellent to poor. (The last page of the review form contains a detailed explanation of the rating scale.) Take notes about specific strengths and shortcomings; these will be entered as comments on the final review.

    After the meeting: One student should volunteer to consolidate the discussion into written comments, which will be reviewed and edited by the mentor as needed, and then submitted by the mentor to the journal as an official review.

    If you have any questions about meeting times or responsibilities, please contact the mentor for your university. If you have any difficulty accessing these documents or the submission system, please contact journals@spie.org.