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Guidelines for Reviewers

About Molecular Plant

Molecular Plant is an international journal dedicated to publishing significant findings in plant biology, focusing broadly on cellular biology, physiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, genetics, development, plant-microbe interaction, genomics, bioinformatics and molecular evolution.

1. Criteria for publication in Molecular Plant
2. The peer review process
3. Navigating the System
4. After accepting a manuscript for review
5. Writing the review report
6. Review due
7. Conflicts of interest
8. Confidentiality and Ethical considerations
9. Feedback to reviewers
10. Review the manuscript
11. Reviewer’s profile
12. Getting help

1. Criteria for publication in Molecular Plant

Molecular Plant reminds the reviewers to consider two types of advice to the Research Articles. The first one concerns the originality and quality of a manuscript, and another one concerns whether a manuscript is of sufficient interest for publication in Molecular Plant and whether it provides a sufficient advance in our understanding of plant biological questions. To this end, Molecular Plant would suggest that manuscripts should be critically evaluated in compliance with the following criteria:

(1) Novelty
(2) Broad significance in plant biology
(3) Importance to the specific field
(4) Strong evidence supporting the conclusions drawn

Research Article in Molecular Plant should make a significant and novel contribution to our understanding of current plant biology, particularly novel findings that provide significant insights into the function and mechanistic processes of plant genes or genetic networks.

Review Article in Molecular Plant aims to not only summarize but also highlight, critique and synthesize recent important findings in a particular plant biology field.

Research Highlight in Molecular Plant is a commentary/mini-review type of paper, focusing on emerging topics and cutting edge researches in plant biology. Usually, it will have no more than 1,500 words (2–4 print pages) with at most one figure, and a maximum of 15 references.

Letter to the Editor reports novel findings that have an immediate impact on current plant biological research. Although shorter in length, it should still report a significant advance in our understanding or a breakthrough in a particular plant biology field.

Method development is a short (maximum of 8 printed pages) paper describing the development of new methods likely to be broadly utilized by the molecular plant science community. Papers reporting new methods or techniques should provide a significant application of the method.

All types of papers listed above are expected to undergo the peer review process. The journal does not have space for descriptive studies, such as those describing the gene expression patterns/profiles or the effects of a particular substance on plant growth and development unless a study provides significant mechanistic information. If a manuscript reports a genome-wide or high-throughput study, it should provide additional and novel insights into the functions of the identified targets by either verifying at least one target such that it is shown to be a crucial functional component of the network or phenotype of interest, or to use the data to make system-wide predictions about how the transcriptional network acts. Studies lacking such a contribution, no matter how meticulous, are not acceptable for publication. Generally, studies that repeat or verify in one plant species what has already been discovered in another should not be considered for publication in Molecular Plant.

2. The Peer Review Process

All submitted manuscripts are carefully assessed by the Editorial Staff for their formats and potential suitability. If the format of a submitted manuscript does not meet the requirements of the journal, the Editorial Staff will directly return it to the authors for revisions and resubmission. The abstract or a PDF file of manuscripts may also be sent to Editorial Board members for initial evaluation for this purpose.

To save time for all parties, the manuscripts will undergo the first-round evaluation carried out by the Editor-in-Chief, Deputy Editor-in-Chief, or Executive Editors in consultation with Editors in the specific areas. The manuscripts that fail to pass this initial evaluation will be rapidly rejected typically within two weeks. The manuscripts that pass initial Editorial Board evaluation will be assigned to an Editor familiar with the subject matter, and external experts in the field will be invited to carry out peer reviews. Selection of the reviewers is critical for the review process. After assignment, the handling Editor will suggest at least three names of potential reviewers for the assigned manuscript.

Considering all the comments coming from the reviewers together with his/her own assessments, the Editor may decide to:

(1) Accept the manuscript as is, or with minor revisions.

(2) Accept pending major revision. This means that authors need to revise the manuscript to address specific concerns that preclude acceptance of the manuscript. The revised manuscript will be re-reviewed by concerned reviewers and Editor who will make decision to accept or to request further revision, or decline the manuscript, depending on the reviewers/editor consensus.

(3) Reject the manuscript. This means that the manuscript typically presents insufficient novelty or lacks significant advance of our current understanding or has major technical problems. Although the journal usually does not suggest that the editor rejects the manuscript with resubmission encouragement, in specific cases this kind of decision may be made by the editor, depending on whether the reviewers’ comments and concerns could be addressed by the authors as assessed by the editor.

3. Navigating the System

Molecular Plant uses the web-based manuscript tracking system, 'Bench>Press', which allows the whole peer-review process to be conducted over the internet. Reviewers from the plant biology community may be familiar with this system as it has been used for many plant science journals including The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology.

When you first log into the system, please enter the ‘Reviewer Area’ to perform a pending action item. You may choose to respond to a review request or to work on the manuscript requested for review by clicking the corresponding links.

Once you accept the manuscript request, you will be presented with the requested manuscript in the "Active Review" screen. A list of partial links allowing you to:

(1) Read detailed information about a specific manuscript

(2) Download the PDF file of a manuscript that contains the associated figures.

(3) Download the supplemental data

(4) View the responses to reviewers if the manuscript is a resubmission

(4) Check status and review due

(5) Write and submit a review report

(Not all links will be present all the time. Only the applicable links will be visible.)

4. After accepting a manuscript for review

To avoid unnecessary delays in processing manuscripts, reviewers will need to do the following immediately upon the acceptance of a manuscript for review:

(1) Check whether the quality of the PDF file is in a reviewable resolution. Special attention is needed for figures.

(2) Keep track of the deadline and contact the Editorial Office timely if you are unable to finish the review within the set timeline.

(3) Go through the manuscript to clear any potential conflicts of interests for you (with the authors, their institution, their funding sources).

(4) Read the editor's letter carefully to see if there are any specific suggestions for the manuscript.

5. Writing the review report

Peer review is a critical element of scholarly publication, and one of the major cornerstones of the scientific process. Peer review serves two key functions:

(1) Acts as a filter: Ensures research is properly verified before being published;
(2) Improves the quality of the research: rigorous review by other experts helps to hone key points and correct inadvertent errors.

As a general guideline, reviewers should mainly focus on the significance and conclusiveness of the study at hand, i.e. whether the findings and conclusions at the current stage might be considered sufficiently important in principle, and whether the presented data actually support their conclusions.

Reviewers are asked to maintain a positive and impartial, but critical attitude in evaluating manuscripts. Criticisms should remain dispassionate and 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 of revision or rejection. Similarly, positive reports should explain why a study would be seen as an important advance in plant biology.

The typical report should include:

(1) An initial paragraph that summarizes the major findings and the referee's overall impressions, as well as major shortcomings of the manuscript.
(2) Specific, numbered comments, which may be broken down into major and minor criticisms/comments if appropriate (numbering facilitates both editor's evaluation of the manuscript and 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) Is the study of interest to more than a specialized audience?
(5) Does the paper stand out in some way from the others in its field?
(6) Are there other experiments that would strengthen the paper?

For manuscripts that may merit further consideration, it is also helpful if reviewers can provide advice on the following points where appropriate:

(1) Specific comments about whether the writing of the manuscript needs to be improved
(2) Specific suggestions whether the manuscript needs to be shortened
(3) Suggestion to have earlier literature represented more fairly
(4) Suggestion to add methodological details so that the experiments can be reproduced
(5) Require the submission of online supplementary data on the Molecular Plant website to enhance the presentation.

Reviewers are to be courteous and constructive in their comments regarding methods, experimental design, statistical analysis of results, validity of conclusions, and the arguments set out in the discussion. Please number your comments consecutively so that the author(s) may respond appropriately. Reviewers’ comments on any sections that could be removed or condensed will be appreciated.

Reviewers may also recommend a particular action in their confidential comments to the editor, but should bear in mind that editors may have to make a decision if there are conflicting comments. Therefore, we also encourage reviewers to be as clear as possible about what revision will be required before a manuscript becomes acceptable. Ideally, reviewers’ comments and suggestions should be clear and specific in their comments so that the editor (and authors) is informed how to proceed without the need for additional consultation with the reviewers.

6. Review due

An efficient review process is a valuable service to both our authors and the scientific community at large. Manuscripts submitted to Molecular Plant are expected to undergo rapid reviews and publications. Reviewers are requested to review the manuscript at their earliest convenient time. Typically, reviews for Research/Review articles are due within 2 weeks.

If a reviewer is unable to complete the review, please go to the journal online submission website (http://submit.mplant.oxfordjournals.org/), log in and choose the "Withdraw Review" action in your Active Reviews queue. If you anticipate a significant delay, please inform the Handling Editor or the Editorial Office so that appropriate alternative reviewers can be found on time.

7. Conflicts of interest

Upon the authors' request, Molecular Plant may exclude certain individuals as reviewers due to potential conflicts of interest. Molecular Plant will also try to avoid 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 potential biases, we strongly ask and appreciate reviewers to keep the Editorial Office informed about any possible conflicts of interest that might affect their reports, and to decline to review in cases where reviewers feel unable to be objective.

8. Confidentiality and Ethical considerations

The anonymities of reviewers’ identities will be strictly maintained at all times. Accordingly, the reviewers should keep the manuscript and review process strictly confidential, and should keep the following guidelines in mind:

(1) Manuscripts reviewed for Molecular Plant should not be discussed with anyone not directly involved in the review process.

(2) If a reviewer needs to consult with others colleagues when necessary, the identities of these colleagues should be informed to the handling editor through the online submission system before the consultations take place.

(3) To consult the experts outside your own laboratory, please check with the Editor beforehand to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the Editor or the authors.

(4) As a rule in general, the reviewers should not disclose their identities to the authors or to other colleagues. 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 the authors to determine the identities of reviewers or to confront them, and thus encourage reviewers to neither confirm nor deny any speculation in this regard.

In addition to the journal’s best efforts to identify breaches of publication policy or ethical conducts such as plagiarism, reviewers are encouraged to alert the editors whenever they recognize such problems.

(1) Plagiarism: If you suspect that an article is a substantial copy of another work, please let the editor know, citing the previous work in as much detail as possible

(2) Fraud: It is very difficult to detect the determined fraudster, but if you suspect the results in an article to be untrue, discuss it with the editor

(3) Conflicts of interest: please refer to the above section for the statements of potential conflicts of interest, and inform the Editor or Editorial Office if you have a conflict of interests to the manuscript requested for review.

9. Feedback to reviewers

Once a final decision on a manuscript has been made, it is the journal’s policy to inform all reviewers of that decision and to send final copies of reports from other reviewers. Reviewers who find that their recommendations have been overruled should realize that this does not imply any lack of confidence in their judgment. It is not uncommon for experts to disagree and, in the absence of a consensus, the Editors must still reach a decision one way or another. When a reviewer is asked to re-review a manuscript that has been revised in response to their criticisms, copies of original comments from all reviewers will also be included.

10. Review the manuscript

As described above, after logging into the system and accepting the review invitation, you will find the manuscript in the ‘Active Review’ screen. At the bottom of this screen you can find the ‘Edit/Submit Review’ link. Clicking on this link will display the "Submit Your Review" Screen. This screen is broken into 5 parts as follows:
(1) Manuscript information
(2) Review Tools, which will help the reviewer to find the related publications from the journal online, HighWire or PubMed during the review process
(3) A pop-down selection for review recommendation. Please indicate your recommendation by choosing one of those choices
(4) Comments for the Editor
This box is provided to reviewers so that they can communicate personally with the Editor who is handling the paper. Please avoid using this box to make comments about a paper that should also be shared with the authors or that do not reflect the concerns/comments made in the Comments for the author box. If a reviewer has any concerns regarding violations of our publishing ethics policies, for example concerns about potential plagiarism, duplicate publication or data falsification, this box can be used to communicate your concerns confidentially to the editor.
(5) Comments for the Author

This is a specific box in which to write or upload your review comments for the authors.

If you prefer to work offline, you may find it quickest to download and print the PDF file, draft your review report using your favorite word processor and cut/paste it back into the reviewer remarks text area on this screen. You can also upload the files containing your review comments for the Editor or Authors.

Be careful if you intend to copy and paste your written remarks back into the online system. Please double check to make sure all lines of your original text are successfully copied back into the text box on the online page, and manually go through the entire write-up.

11. Reviewer’s profile

If you have not done so recently, please remember to modify your profile when you are logged in. You can update your personal information by clicking your name shown once entering your reviewer area. Each reviewer is also asked to provide at least 3–4 keywords to briefly describe their field(s) of expertise. Please click the ‘Edit Expertise Terms’ link to add/edit your expertise.

12. Getting help

If a reviewer needs any of help, please click on the help icon spread throughout the Bench>Press system. A help dialog will pop up with context-sensitive help. For additional help, please contact the Editorial Office via email.