A while back we invited you to ask us anything. Here’s our answer to our next question, from Richard Feldman. The question has been paraphrased for brevity, click through for the original.
How do you fairly review a paper for a smaller or more local journal? Does one just look at recent issues and say ‘oh, that’s how it’s done at this journal’, or does one push the authors to be more rigorous and correct mistakes?
Jeremy: I have some old advice on how to review a paper that’s broadly relevant here.
I think you adjust your review to the journal with regards to judgment calls like fit, impact, importance, and interest. Looking at recent issues of the journal can indeed help with that. I don’t think you ever let clear-cut technical mistakes slide. You shouldn’t ever recommend statistical machismo, though (as Richard himself noted in his original question).
Semi-relatedly, I don’t think you adjust your review based on the author. I don’t review papers any differently when the lead author is a student, even an undergrad. Anyone who submits to a professional journal is agreeing to have their work evaluated by professionals, according to professional standards.
If you’re unsure by what standards to judge the ms, explain where you’re coming from in you confidential comments to the editor. Editors always welcome that sort of context, it aids their decision-making.
But I may not be the best person to answer this question, because it’s never come up for me. I’ve never done a review for a small local journal.