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OSA Publishing

Author & Reviewer Resource Center

Overview of Peer Review Process

Manuscripts must meet the high quality standards that have been established for OSA journals, reporting original, significant results of interest to the optics and photonics community. Review by external referees is required for acceptance of all research articles, review papers, tutorials, discussion papers, comments and replies. All manuscripts are screened by OSA editors before they are sent out for external review. Editors may decline a manuscript without external review if they judge the manuscript to be clearly unsuitable for the journal (e.g. out of scope, fundamental flaws, duplicative, incremental, poor quality of English, excessively wordy). Note that a paper is considered "incremental" if it does not convincingly add new and important results to the field.

Resubmissions of previously rejected manuscripts require a cover letter with a detailed response to the referee and editor comments. If the new manuscript does not address the reviewer and editor comments, it may be rejected without peer review.


Peer Review Process Step-by-Step

  1. OSA's policy is to obtain two reviews per paper; however, papers first undergo an initial quality/relevance assessment by the editor upon receipt. At this stage, submissions are also screened for plagiarism using Similarity Check.
  2. Editor selects a topical/associate editor overseeing the appropriate technical subfield of your manuscript, who then sends your manuscript to anonymous reviewers.
    • When submitting to an OSA journal, you will be instructed to suggest three potential suitable reviewers.
    • Editor selects reviewers who are experts in the field of your manuscript.
  3. Reviewers are allowed time to complete their review and submit comments to the editor.
  4. Reviewers provide comments aimed to help create a better manuscript. Reviewers will recommend that:
    • The manuscript is acceptable for publication.
    • The manuscript requires further revisions.
    • The manuscript is not acceptable for publication.
    • The manuscript is more appropriate for another journal.
  5. Editor makes a publication decision based on the reviews and sends out a decision letter.
  6. If your manuscript needs modifications:
    • You may resubmit after revisions have been made (use a response letter to explain each change, point by point).
    • Editor decides whether to accept revised manuscript or refer it back to reviewers for further comment.
    • Editor makes final decision.
  7. If your manuscript is rejected:
    • Before submitting elsewhere, act on the reviewers' reports as this will lead to a better paper.
    • OSA editors filter submissions and strongly discourage resubmitting rejected manuscripts to other OSA journals, except by invitation from the editors.

OSA has provided step-by-step overview of the peer review process for a typical manuscript. This document outlines each step of the peer review process from the time an author submits a paper to a final manuscript decision. Once accepted, a manuscript will begin the production process. An overview of the production process can be found by clicking here.

Download a PDF version of the Peer Review Process Step by Step.

Guidelines for Reviewers

  1. Inasmuch as the reviewing of manuscripts is an essential step in the publication process, scientists have an obligation to do a fair share of reviewing.
  2. A reviewer should act promptly, submitting a report in a timely manner. Should a reviewer receive a manuscript at a time when circumstances preclude prompt attention to it, he or she should decline through the online peer review system immediately, and discard any hard copies of the manuscript that have been printed. Any suggestions for alternate reviewers at this time would be very helpful.
  3. A chosen reviewer who feels inadequately qualified to judge the research reported in a manuscript should do the same.
  4. A reviewer should recognize that a manuscript under review is a confidential document. Reviewers should not use or disseminate unpublished information, arguments, or interpretations contained in an unpublished manuscript, except with the consent of the author. During review, the manuscript should neither be shown to nor discussed with others except, in special cases, to persons from whom specific advice may be sought. In that event, the reviewer maintains responsibility for ensuring confidentiality. The reviewer should inform the editor of others who make significant contributions to a review.
  5. A reviewer of a manuscript should judge the quality of the manuscript objectively and respect the intellectual independence of the authors. A review should be as constructive and helpful as possible; in no case is subjective personalized criticism appropriate in a review.
  6. Reviewers should explain and support their judgment adequately so that editors and authors may understand the basis of their comments. Unsupported assertions by reviewers are of little value and should be avoided.
  7. A reviewer should be alert to failure on the author's part to cite relevant work by other scientists. Any statement that an observation, derivation, or argument has been previously reported should be accompanied by the relevant citation.
  8. A reviewer should call to the editor's attention any substantial similarity between the manuscript under consideration and any paper submitted to or published in a journal or other widely accessible form of publication. When evaluating the similarity between a manuscript and a conference paper, please refer to OSA's guidelines on expanded conference papers. The editor's attention should also be directed by the reviewer to perceived fragmentation of publication by the author(s).
  9. A reviewer should be sensitive to the appearance of conflict of interest when the manuscript under review is closely related to the reviewer's work in progress or published. If in doubt, the reviewer should decline promptly, advising the editor of the possible conflict of interest. Further, if the relationship between the reviewer and an author would bias judgment of a manuscript, then the reviewer should also decline. Again, any alternate reviewer suggestions would be most appreciated.
  10. After consulting with the editor, a reviewer may voluntarily reveal his or her identity to the author.


Become a Reviewer

Reviewers are a critical part of the publication process. OSA journal editors rely on reviewers to help maintain their journals' high standards. Providing a good review that is thorough and fair can be time-consuming and the editors appreciate the energy that reviewers devote to the task. Reviewing for OSA journals can also be rewarding however, and it provides insight to some of the most up-to-date research in the field.

If you are interested in reviewing for OSA journals, please create an account in Prism, our article tracking system. If you have published in an OSA journal you will already have an account. Ensure that your contact information and expertise keywords are up-to-date so that your record can be easily found.

Becoming a reviewer can take some time. Creating and updating your account in our system is just the first step. Editors select appropriate reviewers for each paper based not only on expertise keywords, but also on information such as publication records, prior reviewing experience or personal knowledge and recommendations. You are more likely to be chosen as a reviewer of a particular paper if you have also published articles on that topic for example. Here are some other tips to increase your chances of being asked to review:

  • Ask your supervisor to involve you when they review a paper so that they can guide you through the process.
  • If you are asked to review, respond promptly, even if you need to decline the invitation.
  • Update your account with a mixture of general and very specific keywords to describe your area of expertise.
  • Contact the editor who handles papers in your area to let them know you are interesting in contributing as a reviewer and provide him/her with details about your qualifications.

OSA has developed a brochure that provides an overview of the objectives and steps for reviewing a scientific manuscript with best practices for ensuring a constructive and ethical review of scientific research.



Download the English version of the Reviewing A Manuscript brochure.
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