Peer Review Process

Double-Blind Peer Review

The Journal of Maternal and Child Health is an open-access double anonymized peer-reviewed journal. The peer review is meant to serve as the quality control of the papers published. Peer review is an independent assessment of the submitted research paper by experts in the same field. The purpose of peer review is to judge the paper’s validity, significance, originality, quality of the paper, and suitability for publication.

Peer review is carried out by experts who volunteer their time to help improve the manuscripts. It is a collaborative process, where authors engage in a dialogue with peers in their field, and receive constructive support to advance their work.

The peer review system exists to validate academic work and to help improve the quality of published research. By undergoing peer review, manuscripts are expected to become:

  1. More robust - peer reviewers may point out gaps in a paper that require more explanation or additional experiments.
  2. Easier to read - if parts of the submitted paper are difficult to understand, reviewers can suggest changes.
  3. More useful - peer reviewers also consider the importance of the paper to others in a similar field.

Steps of the Peer Review Process

At the Journal of Maternal and Child Health, the review proceeds in 5 steps (Figure 1).

1. Submission of Paper

The corresponding or submitting author submits the paper to the journal online via the Open Journal System.  

2. Journal Editors Screen Manuscript

Manuscripts submitted to a journal first go through an initial screening by the journal editor. The journal editor checks that the paper adheres to the requirements described in the journal’s author guidelines, and assesses the paper for its conformity with the aims and scope of the journal, its originality, and its merits. At this stage, manuscripts are screened for similarity using Turnitin similarity detection tools to minimize the risk of submitting and publishing plagiarised work. At this point, the quality of the paper is not yet assessed, but the journal editor decides whether or not to send it for full peer review. If the manuscript lies outside the aims and scope of the journal or Turnitin similarity exceeding 25%, then it will be rejected.

3. Manuscript is Peer-Reviewed

Papers that clear the screening are sent to two experts for peer review. The journal editor sends invitations to two reviewers believed to be appropriate reviewers. The peer review is double-blind where reviewers are unaware of the identity of the authors, and authors are also unaware of the identity of reviewers.

Potential reviewers consider the invitation against their expertise, conflicts of interest, and availability. They then accept or decline the invitation to review. If possible, when declining, they might also suggest alternative reviewers.

The reviewers evaluate several key aspects of submitted manuscripts. For original research studies, these will include the importance of the research question, the rigor of the methods, the completeness, accuracy, and novelty of the study and its results, and the validity of conclusions drawn from the data.

The presentation of the manuscript, including the writing style, structure, grammar, and syntax also determines the reviewers’ judgment. Although the study design and results may be valid, these findings may be lost if the presentation is not precise or if there are grammar and spelling errors.

Reviewers also consider whether the study adds to existing knowledge in the field, whether it was ethically conducted, and whether it may be subject to any conflicts of interest.

The peer review is completed once all the reviewers send the journal a detailed report with their comments on the manuscript and their recommendations.  Peer reviewers do not decide to accept or reject papers, but independently make a recommendation to the journal editor as to whether the manuscript should be rejected or accepted (with or without revisions).

4. Journal Editors Make Decision

The journal editors consider all the feedback from peer reviewers and make an informed decision to accept or reject the manuscript.  If the two reviews differ widely, the editor may invite an additional reviewer to get an extra opinion before making a decision. The journal editors make decisions to accept or reject papers based on their opinion of the papers’ publication worthiness and reviewers’ comments.

The following are the possible decisions that journal editors make:

  • Accept without any changes (acceptance): the journal will publish the paper in its original form. The first decision is rare.
  • Accept with minor revisions (acceptance): the journal will publish the paper and ask the author to make small corrections. The second decision is typically the best outcome authors should hope for.
  • Accept after major revisions (conditional acceptance): the journal will publish the paper provided the authors make the changes suggested by the reviewers and/or editors. The third decision is by far the most common.
  • Revise and resubmit (conditional rejection): the journal is willing to reconsider the paper in another round of decision-making after the authors make major changes
  • Reject the paper (outright rejection): the journal will not publish the paper or reconsider it even if the authors make major revisions. An outright rejection means that the journal thinks the paper will not meet its publication standards or interests even after heavy revisions.

5. The author is Informed of the Decision

Whatever the decision, the journal editor sends a decision email to the author including any relevant reviewer comments. If the article is rejected or sent back for either major or minor revision, the journal editor will include constructive comments from the reviewers to help the author improve the article. At this point, reviewers will also be sent an email or letter letting them know the outcome of their review. If the paper was sent back for revision, the reviewers should expect to receive a new version, unless they have opted out of further participation. However, where only minor changes were requested this follow-up review might be done by the journal editor. The accepted manuscript will be processed further for publication.