Declaration on transparent editorial policies for academic journals

Peer review and post-publication discussions are important pillars of quality management in academic publishing. However, on the basis of research journal websites and editorial instructions it is surprisingly hard to learn the details of research journal peer review procedures and editorial policies. Information on reviewer selection, review criteria, blinding, the use of digital tools such as text similarity scanners, as well as policies on corrections and retractions remains difficult to find.

Transparency about editorial policies is vital for several reasons. Authors are entitled to know exactly how and on what grounds their manuscript will be assessed. Reviewers benefit from clear and specific instructions about their task and role in the review process. Quality journals may distinguish themselves from predatory ones by articulating clear editorial policies. Transparent policies also enable research on the benefits of different peer review practices, which is required to ultimately facilitate better review. In general, transparency is crucial for building trust in the community, which is essential for the functioning of science.

Transparent editorial policies should explain procedures for four publication and peer review phases:

  1. At submission
    Explain editorial governance, including the precise composition of the editorial board, the scope of the journal, the applicable ethics policies, and the use of journal metrics, including rejection rates.
  2. During review
    Explain the criteria for article selection (e.g. the relevance of novelty and/or anticipated impact and methodological rigour) and the timing of review in the publication process (e.g. whether registered reports and/or post-publication review are used). Be clear about the extent to which authors’ and reviewers’ identities will be known (blinding), and to whom review reports will be communicated. Specify how reviewers will be selected, instructed, or possibly trained. Also explain how digital tools such as similarity scanners and scanners for digital image manipulation will be used and whether any reporting guidelines are applied.
  3. Publication
    Make information about the review process of published articles available on the article-level, by detailing the roles in the review process (e.g. specify how many reviewers were involved and what other people contributed to the final decision), what criteria for acceptance and what digital tools were used.
  4. Post-publication
    Explain the criteria and procedures for corrections, expressions of concern, retractions, or other rectifications or changes to published material.

Transparent editorial policies should be explicit and detailed. For example, mentioning that ‘blind review’ is performed is not enough, since this can refer to anonymised authors, authors removed from references, anonymised reviewers, identities that are revealed after review or publication, or even anonymised editors. Similarly, announcing the use of a similarity check does not explain what will be done with the results. Hence, procedures should be specified in detail. Information about editorial policies should be kept up to date and changes should be documented and archived. This can either be done on the journal homepage, in the guide for authors or on the article-level along with published articles.

Making editorial policies transparent will require an effort by publishers and editors. However, it builds trust in the research community and constitutes an essential measure to improve the fairness, integrity and quality of the journal review process.

This declaration was issued by the participants of the meeting “IT Tools in Academic Publishing: between Expectations and Challenges”, Leiden University 5-6 July 2018.


The participants of the workshop are authors of this declaration. While drawing on their professional backgrounds, the participants are signatories of the declaration in their private capacity:

IJsbrand Jan Aalbersberg (Elsevier)
Isabelle Boutron (Paris Descartes University, INSERM- Sorbonne Paris Cité)
Kim Eggleton (IOP)
Joed Elich (Brill)
Catriona Fennell (Elsevier)
Laura Henderson (Frontiers Media)
Jean Philippe de Jong (Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen)
Cyril Labbé (Université Grenoble Alpes)
Ana Marušić (University of Split School of Medicine, European Association of Science Editors)
Bahar Mehmani (Elsevier)
Hans van der Mey (Brill)
Alenka Princic (TU Delft library)
Brandon Stell (PubPeer)
Jason Roberts (Origin Editorial)
Johan Rooryck (Leiden University)
Jelte Wicherts (Tilburg University, StatCheck)

Workshop Organisers:

Willem Halffman (Radboud University)
Serge Horbach (Radboud University, Leiden University)
Thed van Leeuwen (Leiden University)
Andrea Reyes Elizondo (Leiden University)
Sarah de Rijcke (Leiden University)

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Institutional signatories

The European Association of Science Editors (EASE) EASE logo - landscape (1)



Individual signatories

Jing Wang - Radboud University
Alex La Vos - Radboud University
Tung Tung Chan - Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Leiden University
Munawar A. Anees - Dr. Hasan Murad Centre for Knowledge Futures
Dario Vasquez - International Journal of Management, Economics and Social Sciences
M. S. Ahmad - Science Publications
Itsar Bolo Rangka - Universitas Indraprasta PGRI Jakarta
Ch. Mahmood Anwar - Scholars Index
Alexander Kostyuk - Virtus Interpress
Ksenija Bazdaric - Croatian Medical Journal and European Scence Editing
Paola De Castro - Istituto Superiore di Sanità
Wytske Hepkema - Radboud University
Farrokh Habibzadeh - NIOC Health Organization, Iran
Kamlesh Kumar Sahu - Indian Journal of Psychiatric Social Work
Carlos Mauricio Moreno Tellez - Revista Facultad de Ingeniería (UPTC)
Héctor Luis Pittman Villarreal - Common Ground Research Networks
Natalino Perovano Filho - Revista ODEERE
Luis Álvarez Rodas - Universidad Politecnica Salesiana
Maria Giovanna Guedes Farias - Universidade Federal do Ceará, Revista Informação em Pauta
Fouad K. Mohammad - Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Iraq
Mirta Natalia Bertune Fatgala - Universidad Nacional de La Matanza
German Gonzalez - Estudios económicos
Michal Kokowski - Studia Historiae Scientiarum
Tomàs Baiget - Ediciones Profesionales de la Información SL
Nader Ale Ebrahim - Alzahra University
Hossein Gholizadeh - Canadian Prosthetics & Orthotics Journal
Nilo Serpa - CALIBRE-Revista Brasiliense de Engenharia e Física Aplicada
Ammar Anwer - Pakistan Journal of Surgery and Medicine
Josía Isea - Fundación Koinonía
Maria Célia da Silva Gonçalves - Humanidades & Tecnologia
Vincentas Lamanauskas - SMC-Scientia Educologica
Ruth S. Contreras Espinosa - Obra Digital Journal
Lilin Rosyanti - Poltekkes Kemenkes Kendari
Altemar Amaral Rocha - GEOPAUTA
Lilin Rosyanti - Poltekkes Kemenkes Kendari
Nataliya Romanyuk - Ivan Franko National University of Lviv
Andrzej Klimczuk - SGH Warsaw School of Economics
Ruben Mendez Reategui - Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador
Ayrton A. Trelles Castro - Disenso. Crítica y Reflexión Latinoamericana
Lisiane Ilha Librelotto - Federal University of Santa Catarina/ Virtuhab Research Group
Alicia Zúñiga Llamas - Sistema de Universidad Virtual
José Larez - Laboratorio de Estudios Latinoamericanos sobre el Pensamiento Crítico y Transformaciones Políticas