notes for referees

The task of a referee involves three main components: speed, confidentiality and thoroughness. These are, to some extent, conflicting, and the following notes may be of assistance.

If you feel there is any conflict of interest, either real or perceived, in carrying out your review, please refer to the Ethical considerations below.

1. Speed

Unless the article is of exceptional length or complexity, your report should be despatched within two weeks of receipt of the article. If you are unable to act, please let the Co-editor know immediately. You are welcome to suggest an alternative referee.

2. Confidentiality

Articles should be treated as confidential. In exceptional cases you may find it desirable to discuss the article with one of your associates; if you do this it is your responsibility to ensure that the information spreads no further. Under no circumstances should the article or any copy of it be retained.

The Editors do not reveal the identity of referees to authors. If, nevertheless, you wish to correspond directly with the author, the first contact should be made through the Editor or Co-editor.

3. Thoroughness

It will be helpful if you keep the following points in mind both in reading the article and in writing your report:

  • (a) Is the work original and new?
  • (b) Is the work sound and technically up-to-date? Are the conclusions firmly based on the observations or reasoning given?
  • (c) Are there any aspects of the article for which you would like to suggest another referee? (Referees are not expected to accept responsibility for the correctness of every detail of mathematical derivations, calculations, and the like.)
  • (d) Is the Abstract an adequate summary of the article? Abstracts should, as far as practicable, be 'informative' rather than 'indicative'; that is, they should contain the most important numerical and other results, and not merely state that such results are given in the article.
  • (e) Is the literature adequately and correctly referenced?
  • (f) Is the journal for which the article has been submitted the most appropriate?
  • (g) If the article has been offered to the appropriate journal, and the results are worthy of publication, is the presentation the most efficient possible? The 'information density' should be high and uniform throughout, in view of the volume of material submitted for publication.

The following additional points should also be considered with care:

  • (h) Has the article been submitted in the correct category, or should it be recast in a shorter form? For further details of the different categories of contributions, and for general information, see Notes for Authors.
  • (i) Does the article contain any tabular, illustrative or other lengthy matter which is, while worth preserving, likely to be of interest only to a very few readers? The IUCr has a Supplementary Publication Scheme which provides for the preservation and future availability of such material.
  • (j) Is the language usage satisfactory? Suggestions for minor corrections may be made when returning your review report. Obscure passages, if any, should be identified for the author to improve.

Finally, if you have suggestions that would make the article you are reviewing more accessible to a wide readership, please include these in your report.

4. Ethical considerations

IUCr publications are members of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and follow COPE guidelines on publication ethics. Referees are asked to follow the COPE Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers when handling articles for IUCr publications.


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