Note from the editors

January and February, 1998

Perhaps you've noticed the notation in our masthead that states, "Swine Health and Production (SHAP) is a peer-reviewed journal...." Perhaps you've wondered precisely what that means. In this column, I'd like to explain the peer review system at SHAP.

The peer review process is a very important part of science. Also known as "refereeing," it was devised to provide a way for experts to check the quality of every manuscript that is published in the scientific literature. The review process serves as a safeguard to ensure the rigor of the studies that appear in the literature and that comprise the knowledge in a given field. Most scientific journals that publish original research are peer-reviewed.

The Swine Health and Production peer review process

When we receive a manuscript submission at SHAP, we send it to a member of our Editorial Board, who serves as "lead reviewer" for that manuscript. The lead reviewer is chosen based on his or her field of expertise, as well as his/her availability at that time. The lead reviewer reads the submission to determine whether or not it meets minimum standards of readiness for the peer-review process. If the lead reviewer deems the manuscript ready for review, s/he names two to three other individuals to serve on the review team. For most of our submissions, one of those individuals is a practitioner.

The manuscript is then sent to the review team the lead reviewer has selected. The reviewers are encouraged to carefully consider a number of aspects of the manuscript, including:

  • whether the topic is appropriate for our readership;
  • whether the article is sufficiently original to warrant publication in SHAP;
  • whether the title of the paper is appropriate and clear;
  • whether the paper completely and clearly states its objectives and explains the importance and relevance of the topic;
  • whether the ideas in the paper are expressed clearly, coherently, and logically;
  • whether the literature review (usually a part of the introduction) adequately and efficiently positions the study in the context of salient knowledge of this topic;
  • if original research, whether the experimental design was appropriate to test the hypothesis in the paper (i.e., had adequate controls, appropriate sample size, appropriate randomization, etc.);
  • whether statistical analysis was conducted and adequately described;
  • whether the conclusions were warranted by the results, with no overgeneralization;
  • whether alternative explanations for the findings were adequately considered in the discussion;
  • whether the conclusion included a discussion of how the findings apply to swine practitioners; and
  • whether the figures and tables were clear and necessary.

Once the reviewers have completed this rigorous and thoughtful review, their comments are returned to the lead reviewer, who makes a tentative publication decision based on his/her own review and the feedback from the other members of the review team.

The manuscript is then returned, with comments from all reviewers, to the editorial office of SHAP. If the lead reviewer recommends publication of the manuscript, it receives a final check for:

  • clarity, coherence, consistency, and completeness (conducted by our Associate Editor), and
  • appropriateness of experimental design and statistical analysis (conducted by our Consulting Statistician).

In most cases, if the lead reviewer has tentatively recommended that we publish the manuscript, s/he requires revisions to be made before it reaches print. The manuscript is, therefore, returned to the author(s) so that they can respond to the comments and concerns of the reviewers. Only when the author has returned a revised manuscript that satisfies the concerns of all the members of the review team is it published in SHAP. In this way, the peer review process becomes a dialogue between the author(s) and all the members of the review team, who negotiate the final form of the publication.

Such a rigorous peer review process is made possible by the many individuals who have served as referees. It is thanks to their generous donations of time and attention that we can continue to bring you high-quality, rigorous swine science.

If you wish to be included in the pool of individuals from which we draw our peer reviewers, please contact our editorial offices or mark the appropriate box on the membership information form that will be mailed to you soon.

--Bob Morrison