1. Section Editor(s): Brandon, Debra PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN
  2. McGrath, Jacqueline M. PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN

Article Content

With the significant increase in the number of journals as well as author submissions worldwide, peer review is more important than ever. While at the same time, the burden of peer review is also worrisome since reviewers often review for several journals increasing the chances for multiple simultaneous review requests. Yet, without rigorous peer review, clinicians, educators, students, and researchers may be misled by inaccurate information.1 In this editorial we want to share some changes to our peer review process that we believe will facilitate thoughtful review.


As editors, we depend upon strong peer review because just like you we do not have expertise in all subject areas. Similar to most journals we solicit a minimum of 3 peer reviews for each manuscript; however, we often have to invite twice that many individuals to achieve 3 completed reviews. Reviewers decline to review for a variety of reasons including competing priorities during the time frame requested for the review, illness, or lack of expertise in the content of the manuscript. However, it is important to note that we do not select reviewers solely on their expertise in the topical area of the manuscript. First, we may select a reviewer because of the role they play in neonatal care (eg, bedside nurse, advanced practice nurse, educator, and researcher). As a staff nurse you may not have the expertise to evaluate the validity of the research methods used in a study, but you would likely know the potential barriers to implementation of the clinical recommendations from a study. Your thoughts around the acceptability or feasibility of the findings would stimulate the researcher to address an important aspect of the work. As a staff nurse you also provide a perspective that is representative of the majority of the readership of Advances in Neonatal Care (ANC), and as such this perspective is important to our review process.


Other reviewers decline a review because they do not have the expertise to evaluate the complex methods or statistics used in a quality improvement project. Do not be concerned if you lack expertise in one area of any manuscript whether it be a clinical practice issue, a case study, or a databased paper. As Co-Editors in Chief we also select reviewers for their collective contribution to the review (expertise in the topical area, research methodology, and statistical expertise). Most reviewers can identify at least one area of a manuscript that they cannot fully evaluate, but that does not mean that they cannot make a meaningful contribution to the review. Recently, I was asked to review a manuscript evaluating the relationship between sleep and developmental outcome in infants. Having expertise in research in both sleep and high-risk infant developmental outcomes, I felt confident that I could make a meaningful contribution to the review. However, this infant study was completed with rats and I have no expertise in bench research with animal models. Therefore, I gave the editor my thoughtful review and acknowledged that I was unable to assess whether the methods used to assess development in the rats was appropriate. By acknowledging this limitation, I also provided the editor with information about whether this manuscript would be comprehensible to the audience in question. This is important information that provides the editor direction about potential revisions. Consequently, if you are asked to review an article, assume that if you use the ANC reviewer guidelines, you will make a significant contribution to the collective review.2,3


Beginning with 2017, we will no longer be using a double-blinded review process. Authors will remain blinded to the reviewers of their work, but the reviewers will know the authors of the manuscripts they review. We are making this change for 2 reasons. First and foremost, blinding of authors can be very difficult. Many reviewers with the expertise to review a manuscript are also aware of individuals in the field with similar expertise. Therefore, the reviewer can often "rightly guess" the manuscript's authors. The essential element for any reviewer, whether they know the authors or not, is to declare any real or potential conflicts of interest to the editors. However, if as a reviewer you are able to state you could complete an unbiased review, we would appreciate your contribution to the author's scholarship. Second, blinding of the authors of a manuscript is difficult for the authors. For example, this can often mean disguising the institution where the work was completed. Removing the need to blind the authors allows the institution name and citations of prior work by the author to be included in the text of the manuscript and references.


As noted previously,2,3 the peer review process is to highlight the big picture problems and minor issues with a manuscript while providing specific suggestions for addressing each issue in a positive constructive manner. As a reviewer, suggestions for reorganization and elimination of redundancy are welcome, but you do not need to provide line-by-line editing. Each manuscript is read by a Section Editor and a Co-Editor in Chief. If either editor identifies issues with syntax or grammar, we will recommend the authors use an editor to address these deficiencies.


In this editorial we would also like to thank all of our 2016 reviewers. We recognize the time it takes to conduct a thoughtful review and your service to the profession is appreciated. Without your dedication and support of the peer review process, we would not have a scholarly journal. Finally, please find the full explanation of our revised reviewer guidelines at Thank you!



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Debra Brandon, PhD, RN, CCNS, FAAN


Co-Editor; Advances in Neonatal Care


Jacqueline M. McGrath, PhD, RN, FNAP, FAAN


Co-Editor; Advances in Neonatal Care




1. Kearney MH. Rigorous peer review is worth the effort. Res Nurs Health. 2016;39(6):393-395. [Context Link]


2. Brandon D, McGrath JM. Provision of and response to manuscript reviews. Adv Neonatal Care. 2014;14(3):137-138. [Context Link]


3. Brandon D, McGrath JM. Conducting a peer review: novice or expert. Adv Neonatal Care. 2015;15(6):365-366. [Context Link]