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Guide for Asian Journal of Andrology reviewers

  About the journal
  Criteria for publication
  The review process
  Selecting peer reviewers
  Upon receiving a manuscript for review
  Points to consider
  Writing the report
  Editing reviewer reports
  Conflicts of interest
  Publication policy and ethical considerations
  Editorial standards
  Standards of reporting
  Invited commentary

About the journal Top

This guide for reviewers contains information about basic considerations that should be applied when reviewing a manuscript that has been submitted to Asian Journal of Andrology, and about the editorial standards of the journal. Other relevant information about the journal’s aims and scope and editorial policies can be found at 'About this journal'.

Asian Journal of Andrology operates using a closed peer review system.

Publication of research articles by Asian Journal of Andrology is dependent primarily on their validity and coherence, as judged by peer reviewers and editors. The reviewers may also be asked whether the writing is comprehensible and how interesting they consider the article to be. Submitted manuscripts will be sent to peer reviewers, unless they are out of scope or below the interest threshold of Asian Journal of Andrology, or if the presentation or written English is of an unacceptably low standard.

Criteria for publication Top

AJA receives many more submissions than it can publish. It is therefore important that manuscripts are critically evaluated for compliance with the following criteria:

  • strong evidence for the conclusions that are drawn
  • broad biological significance
  • importance to the specific field
  • novelty
The review process Top

All submitted manuscripts are assessed by the editor(s) for suitability for the review process. The views of an Editorial Board member may be sought for further input towards this decision. To save authors and reviewers time, only those manuscripts judged most likely to meet our editorial criteria are sent out for formal review.

Submitted manuscripts are usually reviewed by two or more experts. Based on their advice, the editorial board and Editor-in-Chief decide to:

  • accept the manuscript, with or without minor revision
  • invite the authors to revise the manuscript to address specific concerns before a final decision is reached
  • the manuscript is rejected with an invitation to resubmit the work as a new paper once additional experiments have been carried out
  • or reject the manuscript, typically on grounds of specialist interest, lack of novelty, insufficient conceptual advance or major technical and/or interpretational problems.

Reviewers may recommend a particular course of action in their confidential comments to the editor, but should bear in mind that the editors may have to make a decision based on conflicting advice. Furthermore, editorial decisions are not a matter of counting votes or numerical rank assessments, but rather are based on an evaluation of the strengths of the arguments raised by each reviewer and by the authors. The most useful reviewer reports, therefore, are those that set out clear, substantiated arguments and refrain from recommending a course of action in the comments directed to the authors.

Reviewers may, on occasion, be asked for further advice, particularly in cases where they disagree with one another, or where the authors believe that they have been misunderstood on points of fact. This kind of discussion is sometimes necessary to provide an effective and fair review process. We do understand, however, that reviewers are reluctant to be drawn into prolonged disputes, so we try to keep consultation to the minimum we judge necessary to come to a fair conclusion. In certain cases, additional peer reviewers or members of our Editorial Board may be consulted to resolve disputes, but this is avoided unless there is a specific issue on which further advice is required.

Reviewers should also alert the editors of any issues relating to author misconduct such as plagiarism and unethical behaviour.

Selecting peer reviewers Top

Reviewer selection is critical to the review process, and our choice is based on many factors, including expertise, reputation, specific recommendations, and our previous experience with the reviewer. We avoid using reviewers who are chronically slow, sloppy, too harsh or too lenient. We invite reviewers and only on acceptance of the invitation will a reviewer have access to the full paper.

Upon receiving a manuscript for review Top

To avoid unnecessary delays in processing manuscripts, please do the following immediately upon receipt of a manuscript for review:

  • double-check the deadline to ensure that there have been no misunderstandings regarding timing, and contact the editorial office immediately if you anticipate any difficulties in meeting it
  • read the editor's letter carefully and be sure to note any points specific to the manuscript that the editor may have requested your opinion on
  • skim the manuscript and consider whether there might be a conflict of interest for you (with the authors, their institution, their funding sources) and whether you can judge the article impartially
  • consider whether the topic seems to fit the scope of the journal and is likely to be of sufficient general interest for publication.
Confidentiality Top

Peer reviewers should treat the review process as being strictly confidential, and should keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • manuscripts refereed for AJA should not be discussed with anyone not directly involved in the review process
  • if colleagues are consulted, they should be identified to the editors
  • if experts from outside the reviewer's own laboratory are consulted, peer reviewers should check with the editors beforehand to avoid involving anyone who may have been excluded by the editor
  • peer reviewers should, as a rule, not disclose their identities to the authors or to other colleagues since they may be asked to comment on the criticisms of other peer reviewers and may then find it difficult to be objective. 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 authors to determine the identities of peer reviewers or to confront them, and encourage peer reviewers to neither confirm nor deny any speculation in this regard.
Points to consider Top

Reviewers are asked to provide detailed, constructive comments that will help the editors make a decision on publication and the author(s) improve their manuscript. Reviewers should address the points below.

1) Is the question posed original, important and well defined?
• The research question posed by the authors should be easily identifiable and understood.
• It is useful to both the editors and authors for reviewers comment on the originality and importance of the study within the context of its field.
• Give references if the research question is unoriginal because related work has been published previously.
• Ask yourself if you have learnt something new and if there is a clear conclusion from the study.
• Has a hypothesis been generated to explain chance relationships between variables?

2) Are the data sound and well controlled?
• Comment if you feel that inappropriate controls have been used, indicate the reasons for your concerns, and suggest alternative controls where appropriate.
• Provide details if you feel that further experimental or clinical evidence is required to substantiate the results.
• Examine the exclusion and inclusion criteria. Has a large proportion of subjects been dropped from the analysis? Can it be justified? Has this led to suspicious conclusions?
• Have data been pooled, split or dropped?
• Have contradictory data been suppressed?
• Has a one-tailed statistical test been used incorrectly?

3) Is the interpretation (discussion and conclusion) well balanced and supported by the data?
• Are conclusions drawn from the study valid and result directly from the data shown?
• Check whether the authors' interpretation covers the relevance of all the results in an unbiased manner.
• Are the interpretations overly positive or negative?
• Have the authors provided references wherever necessary?
• Have contradictory reports been omitted?

4) Are the methods appropriate and well described, and are sufficient details provided to allow others to evaluate or replicate the work?
• Remark on the suitability of the methods for the study, which should be clearly described and reproducible by peers in the field.
• Specify whether or not statistical analyses need to be assessed specifically by an additional reviewer with statistical expertise.

5) What are the strengths and weaknesses of the methods?
• Comment on any improvements that could be made to the study design to enhance the quality of the results.
• Give details if any additional experiments are required.
• Pay special attention to the reliability and validity of novel experimental techniques.

6) Can the writing, organization, Tables and Figures be improved?
• Comment if you consider the standard of English is below that expected for a scientific publication.
• Suggest improvements if the manuscript is organized in such a manner that it is illogical or not easily accessible to the reader.
• Provide feedback on whether the data are presented in the most appropriate manner; for example, is a Table being used where a graph would give increased clarity? Are the Figures of a high enough quality to be published in their present form?

7) Check that the Instructions to Authors have been adhered to
• Pages and lines are numbered.
• There is a 250-word unstructured Abstract, a 50-character running title, a 40-word Take Home Message and 3-10 keywords.
• The Introduction presents the hypothesis and does not repeat the Discussion.
• The details in the Materials and Methods are accurate and display the appropriate use of units and multipliers, of significant digits, of rounded numbers, of WHO terminology for semen quality, of statistical and post hoc tests.
• The Results are concise; data are not repeated in the Text, Figures or Tables; a measure of the central tendency and dispersion of data are provided; comments on or discussion of the findings are not included.
• The Discussion does not repeat the Introduction or recapitulate the Results but includes comments on agreement or otherwise with the hypothesis and other work, and discussion of the significance of the work.

8) When revisions are requested
Revisions may recommended for any of the following reasons:
• Data need to be added to support the authors' conclusions.
• Better justification is needed for the arguments based on existing data.
• The clarity or coherence of the paper needs to be improved.

9) Are there any ethical or competing interests issues you would like to raise?
The study should adhere to ethical standards of scientific or medical research.
• Check that the authors have declared that they have received ethics approval and or patient consent for the study, where appropriate.
• Inform the editorial office if you are aware of any issues that you do not think have been adequately addressed.

10) Are the included additional files (supplementary materials) appropriate?
Online publishing enables the inclusion of additional files with published articles. Additional files of many types can be submitted, including videofiles, tabular data, mini-websites, files pertaining to original or raw data files that support the results reported in the manuscript.
• Comment on the appropriateness of the types of additional files included with the manuscript for publication with the final article.
• It is not expected that reviewers should re-analyze all supporting data as part of their peer review, but the availability of supporting data enables more detailed investigation of particular aspects of the study if the reviewer or editor feels it is necessary.

Writing the report Top

The primary purpose of reviewer reports is to provide the editors with the information that they need to reach a decision, but they should also instruct the authors on how to strengthen their manuscript if revision is a possibility. Peer reviewers are asked to submit both confidential comments to the editor and those that can be directly transmitted to the authors. We recommend the following division of the report:

Comments for transmission to the authors
Peer reviewers are asked to maintain a positive and impartial, but critical, attitude in evaluating manuscripts. Criticisms should remain dispassionate; 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 to ask for revision or to reject the manuscript.

The ideal report should include:

  • an initial paragraph that summarizes the major findings and the reviewer's overall impressions, as well as highlighting major shortcomings of the manuscript.
  • specific numbered comments, which may be broken down into major and minor criticisms if appropriate (numbering facilitates both the editor's evaluation of the manuscript and the authors' rebuttal to the report).

The report should answer the following questions:

  • what are the major claims and how significant are they?
  • are the claims novel and convincing?
  • are the claims appropriately discussed in the context of earlier literature?
  • who will be interested and why?
  • does the paper stand out in some way from the others in its field?
  • are there other experiments that would strengthen the paper or required to support the conclusion drawn? (Where possible, reviewers should provide references to substantiate their comments)

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

  • how the clarity of the writing might be improved (without necessarily going into specific details of spelling and grammar)
  • how the manuscript might be shortened
  • how to do the study justice without overselling the claims
  • how to represent earlier literature more fairly
  • how to improve the presentation of methodological detail so that the experiments can be reproduced

This “comments to author” report should not include a recommendation regarding publication, which is regarded as confidential information since the final decision regarding acceptance, revision or rejection rests with the editor.

Confidential comments to editor
The manuscript should be rated relative to others in the field, either on the form provided or in an e-mail, according to the following:

Originality and importance Top 10% / Top 20% / Top 50% / Lower 50%
Technical quality Top 10% / Top 20% / Top 50% / Lower 50%
Clarity of Presentation Top 10% / Top 20% / Top 50% / Lower 50%

Reviewers should indicate whether they consider any required revisions to be (‘Major Revision, ‘Minor Revision’ or ‘Accept’. In general, revisions are likely to be ' Major Revision' if additional controls are required to support the claims or the interpretations are not supported by the data, if further analysis is required that may change the conclusions, or if the methods used are inadequate or statistical errors have been made.

Additional confidential comments to the editor might include:

  • a definite recommendation regarding publication, the key issue is whether the work has serious flaws that should preclude its publication, or whether the work has significant importance or interests to readers that should facilitate its publication.
  • an assessment of how much any suggested additional experiments would improve the manuscript, and of how difficult they would be to complete within a reasonable timeframe (1-2 months)
  • in cases where the manuscript is unacceptable in its present form, an opinion about whether the study is sufficiently promising to encourage resubmission in the future.

Peer reviewers interested in receiving feedback regarding the outcome of the review process should indicate this as well.

Editing reviewer reports Top

As a matter of policy, we do not suppress reviewer reports. Comments intended for the authors are almost always transmitted. On rare occasions, however, we may edit a report where the reviewer has made an obvious factual mistake, or to remove offensive language or comments that reveal confidential information. We ask peer reviewers to avoid saying anything that may cause needless offence, but also expect authors to recognize that criticisms are not necessarily unfair.

Timing Top

AJA is committed to rapid editorial decisions and publication as efficiency in this process is a valuable service both to our authors and the scientific community as a whole. We therefore ask that peer reviewers respond promptly or inform us if they anticipate a significant delay. This allows us to keep the authors informed and, where necessary, find alternative peer reviewers.

Conflicts of interest Top

In order to ensure fairness in the referee process, we try to avoid peer 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 possible biases, however, we ask peer reviewers to draw our attention to anything that might affect their report, including commercial interests, and to decline to reviewer in cases where they feel unable to be objective. We do not find it necessary to exclude peer reviewers who have reviewed a paper for another journal; the fact that two journals have independently identified a particular person as well qualified to reviewer a paper does not decrease the validity of her/his opinion in our view.

Publication policy and ethical considerations Top

In spite of our best efforts to identify breaches of publication policy or ethical conduct, such as plagiarism or author conflict of interest, the peer reviewers who are more familiar with the field are more likely to recognize such problems and should alert the editors to any potential problems in this regard.

Editorial standards Top

Reviewers are asked to bear the editorial standards of Asian Journal of Andrology in mind and alert the editors if authors have not fully adhered to them. Asian Journal of Andrology is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Standards of reporting Top

Asian Journal of Andrology supports initiatives aimed at improving the reporting of research. Reviewers can find more details on this at Standards of Reporting in 'About Asian Journal of Andrology'.

Invited commentary Top

In order to highlight some of the most significant papers in the field recently published in Asian Journal of Andrology, and to appeal to a broad cross-section of andrologists, editorial office will invite some senior reviewers to write commentary articles. Reviewers who have good perspectives can aslo recommend themselves to write this kind of paper. The Commentary section of Asian Journal of Andrology provides a forum in which relevant scientific news and comments as reported in recently published Asian Journal of Andrology articles can be communicated to its readers. They should clearly state the advance being discussed and provide a critical evaluation of the research concerned. Please find the “Guidelines for Commentaries” here.

Asian Journal of Andrology CN 31-1795/R ISSN 1008-682X  Copyright © 2023  Shanghai Materia Medica, Chinese Academy of Sciences.  All rights reserved.