In as much as the reviewing of manuscripts is an essential step in the publication process, every scientist has an obligation to do their fair share of reviewing.
A chosen referee who feels inadequately qualified or lacks the time to judge the research reported in a manuscript should return it promptly to the editor.
A referee of a manuscript should judge objectively the quality of the manuscript and respect the intellectual independence of the authors. In no case is personal criticism appropriate.
A referee should be sensitive even to the appearance of a conflict of interest when the manuscript under review is closely related to the referee's work in progress or published. If in doubt, the referee should return the manuscript promptly without review, advising the editor of the conflict of interest or bias.
A referee should not evaluate a manuscript authored or co-authored by a person with whom the referee has a personal or professional connection if the relationship has the potential to bias judgement of the manuscript. Please see also our competing interests policy.
A referee should treat a manuscript sent for review as a confidential document. It should be neither shown to nor discussed with others except, in special cases, persons from whom specific advice may be sought; in that event, the identities of those consulted should be disclosed to the editor.
Referees should explain and support their judgements adequately so that editors and authors may understand the basis of their comments. Any statement that an observation, derivation, or argument had been previously reported should be accompanied by the relevant citation.
A referee should be alert to failure of authors to cite relevant work by other scientists. A referee should call to the editor's attention any substantial similarity between the manuscript under consideration and any published paper or any manuscript submitted concurrently to another journal.
Referees should not use or disclose unpublished information, arguments, or interpretations contained in a manuscript under consideration, except with the consent of the author.
A referee should only suggest to the author the inclusion of additional literature if such suggestions are of substantial relevance for the scientific argumentation of the manuscript. Suggestions should be balanced regarding authors, journals, working groups, and institutions.