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Table 1 Role-related statements (‘roles’ refer to the overarching nature of peer reviewers’ function. The statements are ranked by numerical frequency. Each statement is linked back to the specific papers in the Additional files 2, 3, 4 and 5)

From: A scoping review on the roles and tasks of peer reviewers in the manuscript review process in biomedical journals

  Itema   #b
Peer reviewers should be…    
 Proficient experts in their field 1 Be expert in the subject area/matter/field and/or be familiar with/trained in research methods and statistics 70
2 Be actively involved in research and have experience of conducting research and publishing scientific papers 15
3 Be familiar with reporting guidelines 5
 Dutiful/altruistic towards the scientific community 4 Consider peer reviewing to be a responsibility, duty and obligation to the field and to the scientific community 26
5 Consider the act of peer reviewing as an honour and a privilege 8
6 Indicate willingness to re-review the manuscript 7
7 Be aware of one’s role, responsibilities and rights as a peer reviewer 4
8 Perform reviewing task altruistically/gratis 2
9 End one’s appointment as reviewer to create opportunity for others 1
10 Act regularly as peer reviewer 1
 Familiar with journal 11 Be familiar with journal’s mission, review process, review criteria, guidelines (i.e. both author and reviewer guidelines) and forms prior to starting the review 39
12 Guide the substance and direction of a journal 1
 Unbiased and ethical professionals 13 Declare/avoid potential or actual conflict of interest 66
14 Maintain confidentiality of the manuscript, avoiding disclosure/discussion with others 52
15 Be fair: evaluate manuscript in a fair manner 39
16 Be objective: objectively judge all aspects of the manuscript 36
17 Be unbiased in their assessment: peer reviewers should have an unbiased attitude towards an author’s gender, previous work, institution and nationality 32
18 Review ethically: they should not use the obtained information in any way 17
19 Be honest/frank 13
20 Maintain integrity of the peer review process and not communicate with authors during the review process 12
21 Inform editor if a colleague will help or has helped with review 11
22 Review ethically: they should not copy and plagiarise 6
23 Be aware of their own biases: peer reviewers should recognise their potential biases and hold them in check 6
24 Upon completing the review, manuscript, illustrations and tables should be destroyed 5
25 Review ethically: in general terms, peer reviewers are expected to undertake task in an ethical and diligent manner 4
26 Be familiar with fundamental issues of publication integrity 4
27 Decline review request if these cannot be performed in an unbiased manner 4
28 Review ethically: they should not ask for their own articles to be cited 4
29 Review ethically: they should not delay publications purposefully 4
30 Be transparent and perform review in a transparent manner 2
 Self-critical professionals 31 Prior to accepting review request, determine whether the manuscript is within one’s area of expertise (only review manuscripts in one’s own field of expertise) 35
32 Be aware of own limitations: recognise and communicate them to the editors. If needed, recommend review by an expert (e.g. statistician) 22
33 Be innovative and open to new ideas 13
34 Peer reviewers should consider reviewing as a learning exercise and evaluate one’s own performance as a reviewer, i.e. read other peer reviewers’ reviews and thereby improve their own understanding of the topic and/or decision reached 8
 Reliable professionals 35 Timeliness: meet journal deadline 81
36 Consider one’s time availability prior to accepting review request 36
37 Be willing to devote sufficient time and attention to the review task 23
38 Respond to review requests in a timely manner 21
39 Inform the editor as soon as possible if proposed deadline to be exceeded 12
40 Immediately communicate to journal when cannot perform review 9
41 Suggest other reviewers if unable to review 7
 Skilled critics 42 Provide constructive criticism 87
43 Improve manuscript 84
44 Be thorough/comprehensive/detailed/accurate 35
45 Be critical/sceptical: evaluate a manuscript in a critical manner 27
46 Be specific: provide authors with specific guidance on how to improve their manuscript 26
47 Support comments with evidence: reviewers should document their comments and substantiate their points by referring to appropriate references and resources 20
48 Be clear: clearly explain concerns 14
49 Provide relevant comments: offer meaningful and reasonable comments that can be addressed 12
50 Be consistent with comments to authors and editors: comments provided to the authors should be in line with confidential comments provided to editor in order to facilitate editors’ decision-making, ensure consistency and avoid miscommunication. 11
51 Be systematic and methodological 11
52 Be balanced: provide a balanced critique 9
53 Be logical: provide logical arguments 5
54 Be concise/incisive 5
55 Evaluate manuscripts in a consistent manner 4
56 Have intuitive capacity to detect faults and recognise quality 2
 Respectful communicators 57 Be polite/courteous/respectful in the communication with authors 41
58 ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you’: treat others as we expect to be treated 22
59 Be positive: peer reviews should be written in a positive attitude and offer praise for work well done 13
60 Be nice/kind/considerate 12
61 Be helpful: provide helpful comments 12
62 Be collegial: treat each manuscript as if it had been written by a valued colleague 8
 Gatekeepers 63 Maintain and improve manuscript quality and scientific rigour 15
64 Weed out unsuitable manuscripts that are not scientifically valid 11
 Educators 65 Educate and mentor authors: provide a learning opportunity 15
66 Encourage authors: peer reviewers should encourage authors to improve manuscript 11
 Advocates for author/editor/reader 67 Be an advocate for the editor 6
68 Be an advocate for the author 6
69 Be an advocate to readers 2
 Advisors to editors 70 Advise editors on the merits of manuscripts 40
71 Provide confidential comments to editor 32
Peer reviewers should not… 72 Be decision makers: they should acknowledge that the final decision on the publication of a manuscript rests with the editor 22
73 Be copy editors (i.e. offer editorial comments about grammar and spelling) 21
74 Ask for unreasonable or pivotal change 11
75 Be overtly critical or too detailed: peer reviewers should not be generous and should not ‘nit-pick’ or overwhelm the authors 9
76 Add additional requests in subsequent reviews that are not related to the original revisions 2
  1. aCorresponds to the ‘Role item(s)’ columns in the tables related to roles in the additional files
  2. bNumber of extracted roles statements across all data sources in the scoping review