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Review Guidelines

Collaborative Peer Review

  • Rigorous, constructive, efficient and transparent

  • Two phases: independent review & interactive, collaborative review

  • The Handling Editor is acknowledged on all published articles

  • Average time from submission to final decision: 90 days

The Collaborative Review aims to maximize manuscript quality while ensuring the rights of authors to submit their work for a rigorous, constructive and transparent review process.

Peer review is handled by active researchers and scholars, carefully appointed to our Editorial Boards according to strict criteria of excellence, and who certify the accuracy and validity of research with their names on the published article.

We believe peer review must be centered on objective criteria for the validity and quality of the work presented. At the same time, it should be rigorous, fair, constructive, accountable and transparent for everyone involved. Last, but not least, peer review needs to be efficient.

The award-winning Collaborative Review Forum that unites authors, reviewers and the handling Editor online and brings the highest quality service to all participants of the review process. We continuously innovate to provide cutting-edge tools and services for an efficient peer review. All submissions, including those that are part of themed Special Issues article collections, undergo the same rigorous review process.

General Principles

The journal upholds strict quality standards for manuscripts and the peer-review process through clear criteria and dedicated teams. Manuscripts that pass these criteria are accepted, those that do not pass the criteria are rejected. Handling Editors and reviewers can recommend rejection at any time; Editors make acceptance and rejection recommendations; and Chief Editors make acceptance and rejection decisions.

What is expected of everyone involved?

  • Authors must submit a manuscript that has significant scholarly value and falls within the scope of the journal. They must comply with all editorial and ethical policies and take all reviewer and editor comments into consideration.

  • Reviewers are subject experts and evaluate manuscripts by using the quality assessment tool and designated review questionnaire that prioritize scientific quality, rigor and validity. They evaluate the methodology of a study for solidity and rigor, ensure the research provides valid conclusions, and is supported by sufficient data.

  • Editors are subject experts and assess the peer-review process and manuscripts meticulously. They only endorse publication if the reviewers validate the contents of a manuscript.

Peer Review Quality Standards

The Editorial Review Operations Team ensures a high quality, rigorous and efficient peer-review process for all manuscripts submitted to the journal.

The team is responsible for upholding the following quality standards:

  • Editors and reviewers are experts in the subject of the manuscript, with necessary expertise to evaluate the research by having established a sufficient research work or publication record on the same or related research area;

  • Editors and reviewers have no relationship to the authors and/or research that would affect the objectivity of the peer-review process;

  • In case the peer review is ongoing, and it is discovered that editors or reviewers do not have the relevant expertise or have a conflict-of-interest, they can be revoked and replaced during review by the Peer Review Team and/or the editor;

  • Reviewers thoroughly complete the subject-specific questionnaire provided to assess the scientific rigour, quality and validity of the manuscript they are reviewing. Review reports are verified to ensure they provide a constructive assessment of the manuscripts’ validity and quality to the authors;

  • Final editorial checks to verify that the peer-review process adhered to the quality standards, that the reviewers’ and editor’s concerns have been addressed and that the manuscript is ready for publication 

In accepting a peer-review assignment with the journal, editors and reviewers agree to:

  1. Have the necessary expertise to judge the manuscript’s quality, rigour and validity;

  2. Submit thorough, high-quality review reports;

  3. Provide feedback in a timely manner, remaining responsive to collaborate with the authors;

  4. Behave in a professional, ethical way and be constructive during interactions with the editors, authors and editorial team.

In parallel, for manuscripts to remain under consideration for publication, the authors must:

  1. Remain engaged with the peer-review process and responsive for queries from the editors, reviewers or Editorial Office;

  2. Behave in a professional way, use constructive, respectful language when communicating with the editorial board members, reviewers or Editorial Office, and collaborate effectively during the peer-review process.

Pillars of Peer Review

The Collaborative Review provides and guarantees:

Collaborative Review

Our Collaborative Review Forum unites authors, reviewers and the handling Editor – and if need be the Chief Editor – in a direct online dialogue, enabling quick iterations and facilitating consensus. Editors and reviewers work with the authors to improve their manuscript.

Objective Review

Editors and reviewers have the mandate to focus on objective criteria evaluating the quality, rigour and validity of the study and to ensure that the results are valid, the analysis is correct, and the quality high. Reviewers may recommend rejection based upon objective errors and the criteria for rejection.

Rigorous Review

The journal provides a review questionnaire template to make reviews systematic and convene the efforts of reviewers on objective issues. The review must focus on the quality of both the research and the manuscript, and must aim at providing constructive comments to bring the final paper to its best quality. This allows fair, rapid, comprehensive and comparable assessment of research.

Transparent Review

To guarantee the most rigorous and objective reviews, the identities of reviewers remain anonymous during the review period. Reviewers’ names are not published with a manuscript or disclosed if a manuscript is accepted, rejected or withdrawn. The handling Editor’s name is made public on the published article, acknowledging their contribution. Please also note that, as the journal operates a single-blind peer review process, the authors’ identities are known to the reviewers.

Efficient Review

The journal’s publishing platform is custom-built by Frontiers, offering one of the fastest systems amongst academic publishers. The Collaborative Review Forum guides authors, reviewers and editors smoothly through the review process and alerts them when any action is required.

Full Peer Review Guidelines

The full Collaborative Peer Review process consists of two phases.

  • Independent Review During the Independent Review phase, the reviewers assess the manuscript independently from each other and from the authors, according to a standardized review template. These templates are adapted to each article type.

  • Interactive Review During the Interactive Review phase, authors and reviewers can interact with each other through real-time comments in the discussion forum – with the aim of addressing all concerns about the manuscript. The handling Editor oversees the review process, and, if required, the Chief Editor can also enter the Review Forum.

Post-Submission Steps

Once a manuscript is submitted, the Editorial Office conducts a pre-screening for validation of research integrity and quality standards. If a manuscript meets the journal’s quality criteria, the Chief Editor also completes a pre-screening check of the manuscript. After a preliminary content check, the Chief Editor decides whether to send the manuscript for review or to reject the manuscript.

The Chief Editor may decide to invite a handling Editor to oversee the peer review process.

The handling Editor then invites experts to review the manuscript; most article types require at least two reviewers to complete a review.

Independent Review Phase

The reviewers are asked to submit the standardized Independent Review Report via the online Collaborative Review Forum. This is done independently by each reviewer. The handling Editor is automatically notified as soon as each of the Independent Review Reports is submitted.

Once all reviewers have submitted an Independent Review Report, the Editor is responsible for activating the next phase, i.e. the Interactive Review, to release the review reports to the authors. If the Editor would like to recommend rejection during the Independent Review phase, they can do so by activating the Interactive Review phase with major concerns, providing the authors with the reports and a unique opportunity for rebuttal during a defined timeframe.

Interactive Review Phase

Once the editor activates the Interactive Review phase, authors are immediately notified and granted access to the Collaborative Review Forum, where they are able to view the reviewers' comments. Authors are asked to respond and/or submit a revised manuscript within a set number of days, depending on the level of revisions requested by the editor.

The Editor can access and post comments in the Collaborative Review Forum at any time. Additionally, the Editor monitors the discussions occurring between authors and reviewers within the Forum and ensures not only the timeliness, but also the constructiveness, of the participants’ interactions.

Should a dispute arise at this stage, the Editor must act as a mediator, working with all parties involved to resolve the issues and even inviting new reviewers for further opinions if needed. If the disagreement persists, the Chief Editor is then invited to enter the Interactive Review phase, assess the situation, and take a final decision as to whether the review should be ended by rejecting the manuscript or continued – potentially, but not necessarily, with a new handling Editor and set of reviewers.

When a disagreement cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of a reviewer, he/she can choose to recommend rejection of the manuscript. The handling Editor is then informed of the rejection recommendation and the reason. A reviewer can also withdraw from the review at any time. In both cases of rejection recommendation and withdrawal, the reviewer will no longer participate in the Review Forum, but may continue to follow the manuscript status under their My Account page. The Editor is informed of the reviewer recommendations and may choose to further recommend rejection to the Chief Editor, or invite other reviewers to receive additional expert opinions. If a reviewer submitted an Independent Review Report prior to withdrawal or rejection recommendation, the report will be maintained in the Review Forum for participants to access throughout the review process. It is not removed or lost.

The review is complete only once all reviewer and editor comments have been satisfactorily addressed by the authors.


Should a dispute arise that may result in the rejection of the manuscript, the authors may trigger an arbitration. In the first place, the handling Editor will mediate and involve all reviewers in a discussion aimed at resolving the dispute.

If a resolution cannot be agreed upon, the Chief Editor is alerted and can opt to bring in additional reviewers and handling Editor for consultation.

Reviewers are entitled to trigger an arbitration, too, if they judge that the authors are reluctant to make required changes. Reviewers may of course recommend rejection at any time or withdraw from the review process if they disagree with the arbitration ruling (in both cases their identity remains undisclosed). The withdrawal of a reviewer requires the recruitment of a new one, which slows down the process. Therefore, authors are encouraged to cooperate as much as possible in addressing the concerns of the reviewers involved with their manuscript. Should an arbitration rule in favor of the authors, then the manuscript can be accepted even if there was a previous rejection recommendation.

Manuscript Acceptance

If the reviewers endorse the publication of the manuscript in its current form, they must finalize their Interactive Review Reports, which automatically notifies the handling Editor.

The Editor can then either accept the final version of the manuscript or request further changes as necessary, typically within a few days. Acceptance of a manuscript requires the approval of a Chief Editor.

Acceptance by the handling Editor moves the article into the Final Validation phase, during which the Editorial Office performs final technical and quality checks, including whether the review was performed adequately.

The Article Processing Charge (APC) is payable within 30 days of acceptance and is required before final publication of the manuscript.

Manuscript Rejection

If the minimum required number of reviewers to endorse the manuscript is not met (usually two), then the handling Editor must recommend to the Chief Editor that the manuscript be rejected for publication. The final rejection decision is made by the Chief Editor.

If a manuscript is rejected, no Article Processing Charges or other fee is charged.

Short Peer Review Guidelines

The following articles types are attributed a shortened peer review:

Commentary, Letter to the Editor, Editorial, Opinion

Short peer reviews differ from full peer reviews in two aspects: they are directly forwarded to the Interactive Review Phase and they may be reviewed by the handling Editor alone. It is up to the Editor’s consideration if further reviewers are invited to the review process.

Therefore, following submission, an Editor is immediately invited to take on the manuscript editorial assignment, which encompasses the role of the reviewer, too. Since no Independent Review Report is required, the manuscript enters the Interactive Review Phase immediately.

Interactive Review, manuscript acceptance and rejection follow the same rules as for full peer reviews.

Editorial Policies

Conflicts of Interest

The journal is committed to upholding the highest standards of publication ethics and takes publication malpractice and conflicts of interest very seriously (see our Author Guidelines). Personal, financial and professional affiliations or relationships can be perceived as conflicts of interest. All authors and all members of the Editorial Board are required to disclose any actual and potential conflicts of interest at submission or upon accepting an editorial or review assignment.


As an author, disclosure of any potential conflict of interest should be done during the submission process. Consider the following questions and make sure you disclose any positive answers. If you failed to disclose any of the potential conflict of interest below during submission, please contact the Editorial Office with the details as soon as possible.

  1. Did you or your institution at any time receive payment or services from a third party for any aspect of the submitted work?

  2. Do you have financial relationships with entities that could be perceived to influence, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing, what you wrote in the submitted work?

  3. Do you have any patents and copyrights, whether pending, issued, licensed and/or receiving royalties related to the research?

  4. Do you have other relationships or activities that readers could perceive to have influenced, or that give the appearance of potentially influencing, what you wrote in the submitted work?

Associate Editors, Special Issue Editors and Reviewers

Associate Editors, Reviewers and external reviewers are requested to fill a questionnaire before taking on an assignment to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Special Issue Editors are also asked to complete the questionnaire upon assignment to a manuscript under their Special Issue. If you can answer yes to any of the questions below, the journal considers this to be a potential conflict of interest. Such potential conflicts might be between the editor and authors, the reviewers and authors, or the reviewers and editors. Editors are recommended to invite independent reviewers from a broad range of institutional and geographic locations to promote diversity of thought and to ensure an objective and fair peer review process.

If you have any doubt about whether a relationship or an interest qualifies as a conflict of interest, it is always better to disclose this potential conflict so that editors and the Editorial Office can determine whether it necessitates disclosure on the article, or whether an alternate reviewer or editor should be assigned. 

Editors must report actual or potential conflicts of interest to the journal's Editorial Office. Reviewers must report actual or potential conflicts of interest both to the journal's Editorial Office and the editor handling the manuscript.

In case of doubt, please contact the Editorial Office by email at You should provide the details of the situation and the potential conflict(s) that you would like to report.


  •  Are any of the authors a spouse or significant other, a member of the same family or a very close personal friend? Reviewers should also not be a member of the same family as the handling Editor.


  • Are you currently hosting or have hosted a Special Issue with any of the authors within the past 2 years?

  • Are you currently collaborating or have you collaborated on a research project or a publication with any of the authors within the past 2 years?

  • Are you currently collaborating or have you collaborated with any of the authors as an advisor or in any other direct supervisory capacity in the past 3 years?

  • Are you currently collaborating or have you collaborated with any of the authors as a student or in any other direct subordinate capacity in the past 3 years? Note: Reviewers should not accept assignments if they have a close professional relationship with the handling Editor, which in their view could affect the objectivity of the review.


  • Are you affiliated with the same institution as any of the authors? If so, has this resulted in interactions, collaborations, or mutual interests with the authors that would compromise your impartiality in conducting this review?

  • Are you a current member of a committee or department that coincides with an affiliation with any of the authors?


  • Do you have a business or professional partnership with any author?

  • Do you have financial interests or business relations with any organization involved in this research or in the preparation of the manuscript?

  • Do you have any financial interest or competing interests in the content of the manuscript that might affect your ability to perform an objective review?


Reviewers should hold a PhD or an equivalent degree, or the equivalent number of years to a recognized qualification, in the relevant field of research. It is also encouraged that all external reviewers have sufficient experience in scientific publishing, either from the perspective of an author or reviewer.

External reviewers are subject to the same conflicts of interest restrictions as Editors, and must report actual or potential conflicts of interest both to the Editorial Office and the Editor handling the manuscript.

Publication Ethics

The journal takes issues relating to publication ethics very seriously. The journal and the publisher Frontiers endeavor to follow the guidelines and best practice recommendations published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Frontiers is a member of COPE and is also represented on the COPE council by its Editorial Office Manager. Frontiers follows the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) guidelines including its recommended authorship criteria.

Authors are expected to abide by ethical standards in regard to the attribution of authorship, conflicts of interest, respect of ethical considerations in the use of experimental animal and human participants, financial support disclosures and participation in the peer review process. Additionally, cases of invalid or fraudulent data, plagiarism and dual submissions will constitute grounds for rejection.

Editors and reviewers are also expected to abide by ethical standards in regard to conflicts of interest, confidentiality of the reviewed papers, objective evaluation of the work and preservation of reviewers’ anonymity until acceptance in addition to refraining from coercive citation. Editors bear the authority and responsibility for the acceptance of papers.

The external posting of review reports or discussions from the review process is strictly prohibited. As contributions made to the interactive review process come from a number of different parties, the decision to share these contributions are not the reserve of any one party.

Malpractice and Misconduct

The journal’s publisher Frontiers will investigate allegations of misconduct both before and after publication. Corrections or retractions will be published if necessary, in order to maintain the integrity of the academic record. The Editorial Office should be contacted immediately on suspicions of misconduct. Frontiers also investigates allegations made on social media or other relevant websites as we become aware of them.