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Equitable Peer Review

This peer review equity toolkit is for IU ScholarWorks journal editorial teams and anyone interested in equitable peer review. It covers best practices regarding policies, references, transparency, editorial boards, and reducing bias in peer review.


All ScholarWorks journals should have a process for evaluating the quality of work they publish. Equitable peer review begins with providing your authors, readers, and reviewers with clear, transparent, and publicly available information about what kind of evaluation process your journal content undergoes.

If you haven’t already, you should add a detailed description of your journal’s peer review (or editorial review process) process to your website in the “About the Journal” section. Login to OJS and go to Settings>Journal Settings>Masthead tab>About the Journal section.



JMLA uses a double-anonymous peer review process in which the names of authors are not revealed to reviewers and the names of reviewers are not revealed to authors. Authors may provide the names and email addresses of up to five potential reviewers who are well qualified to comment on the work and would not have a conflict of interest with the authors (e.g., not direct colleagues or recent co-authors), which should be entered into the "Comments for the Editor" box during manuscript submission. Authors may also identify specific individuals who should not review their manuscript. Taking these suggestions into consideration, the editor typically assigns three reviewers to each manuscript. Reviewers are asked to use JMLA's peer reviewer guidelines to inform their comments and recommendation. JMLA aims to complete the review process and provide feedback to authors within 6-8 weeks of submission (Journal of the Medical Library Association).

While these examples are effective models to start with, they do not address all possible criteria for transparency. In their Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, the World Association of Medical Editors argues that all of the following elements must be addressed in your peer review policy description:

  • Whether or not the content is peer reviewed
  • Who conducts the peer review, for example, external experts or editorial board members
  • The type of peer review process(es) used
  • Any policies related to the peer review procedures, for example:
    • Use of author recommended reviewers
    • Any masking of identities, and if so, who is masked and to whom
    • Whether or not supplementary material is subjected to peer review
    • Whether or not reviews are posted with articles
    • Whether or not reviews are signed or anonymous
  • How a decision about a manuscript is ultimately made and who is involved
  • Any exceptions to the peer review process, such as specific article types that do not undergo peer review (Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing)

This final example incorporates all of these elements and can be used as a model for developing your own detailed peer review policy description:

[Journal Title] uses a [ex: double anonymous peer review process] in which [editorial board members, and/or external experts] evaluate and provide feedback on submitted manuscripts. Author names are not revealed to peer reviewers and reviewer names are not revealed to authors. 

In an initial desk review stage, each submission is evaluated by the managing editor to determine if it is a good fit for the journal and ready for peer review. Submissions considered ready for review are then anonymized and sent to at least two expert reviewers. Upon submission, authors may suggest up to 3 potential reviewers they feel are well-qualified to evaluate their work without any conflicts of interest. They may also indicate if they feel that anyone should not review their work. These suggestions should be made in the "Comments for the Editor" text box during the initial submission stage. 

Reviewers are usually given 1 to 2 months to complete their review. Reviewers should evaluate all aspects of a submission in making their decision, including supplemental material like data and appendixes. After evaluating a submission, reviewers must make one of the following recommendations: accept, decline, revision required, resubmit for review, or resubmit elsewhere. In some cases, another round of reviews may be required. Reviewers are expected to give unbiased evaluations of the submissions they are assigned. They should consider a submission as objectively as possible and without regard to race, gender, religion, nationality, sexuality, seniority, or institutional affiliation of the author. The editors reserve the right to edit or fully reject any review containing biased content and to end a biased reviewer’s association with the journal if we see fit.

Editors in consultation with the peer reviewers and editorial staff make the final determination to accept or decline a submission. Peer reviews are not posted with the article, and book reviews only receive editorial review, not peer review.