Handling a manuscript

Handling a manuscript

Academic Editors at ITScience are responsible for deciding whether a manuscript should be published as an article in a journal. If you are a new Editor or a Guest Editor or if you have not handled a manuscript for some time, this guide provides step-by-step assistance for the editorial process.

Manuscripts are handled using ITScience’s online system. Editors receive an email when they are invited to handle a new manuscript. 

Receiving a manuscript

Our team assign manuscripts based on an Editor’s field of study and current workload. Editors should be comfortable with the topic of the manuscript, but an in-depth understanding is not essential. It is the role of the peer reviewers to assess the technical details. However, if an Editor finds that a manuscript is too far from their area of expertise, they should decline to handle the manuscript.

Although we select our Editors carefully, if an Editor suspects a conflict of interest (e.g., they work in the same institution as one of the authors or are working on a competitive project), they should decline to handle the manuscript.

Conflicts of interest

As a member of a journal’s Editorial Board, you need to be very aware of the risk of conflicts when handling a manuscript.

Firstly, you should assess your own potential conflicts. If you have recently coauthored with the author(s) of the manuscript, you could be perceived to be influenced by your relationship. Similarly, if you have recently shared an affiliation or employment history with the author(s), it could also be seen to be inappropriate for you to handle their work. ITScience aims to avoid assigning papers to Editors who might have conflicts, but we also expect our Editors to declare any conflicts. If you believe a conflict exists, you should refuse to handle the manuscript.

As a subject expert, the journal relies on your knowledge of the discipline to assess any conflicts declared by a submitting author. You are also uniquely placed to be able to identify any undeclared conflicts that an author might have. You should think about these factors when making a recommendation on the manuscript.

You should also consider potential conflicts when assigning the manuscript to reviewers. Typically, you should not select a referee who:

  • works or has recently worked at the same institution as the author or authors; or
  • has recently coauthored a paper with the author or authors; or
  • has a recent or current collaboration with the author or authors.

Discretion may be applied when publications are authored by a consortium.

If you have concerns about a potential reviewer, consider appointing someone else. If you believe a reviewer’s recommendation on a manuscript was made to further their own interests, you may tell the authors they do not need to address that point.

We are aware that certain specialist areas may involve a higher likelihood of association and overlap between researchers. In some instances, you may be the best-placed individual to act as Editor despite a connection with the author or authors. In this case, you should inform your ITScience editorial contact. They can then refer the case for review by our Research Integrity team.

Initial evaluation

ITScience performs essential editorial screening on all submissions, before assigning them to Editors.

On receiving a manuscript, Editors should check if it is potentially suitable for publication. They should consider whether the article suits the scientific scope of the journal, as well as the basic quality of the article.

Research published in a ITScience journal must also be: 

  • Scientifically valid – adhering to accepted community standards of research. 
  • Technically accurate in its methods and results. 
  • Representative of a specific advance, or replication, or null/negative result, which is worthy of publication. 
  • As reproducible as possible – sharing underlying data, code, and supporting materials wherever able.
  • Ethically sound — adhering to best practice with respect to animal and human studies, consent to publish and clear declaration of potential conflicts of interests, both real and perceived. 

In the spirit of sharing findings through our open science mission, emphasis is not placed on novelty, interest, or perceived impact

Submissions failing this evaluation should be rejected immediately. All other articles should be sent for formal peer review.

Recruiting peer reviewers

Editors should invite at least two reviewers to assess the manuscript. We encourage Editors to invite reviewers of their choosing, but ITScience’s software will also provide reviewer suggestions.

There are many important factors to consider when selecting a peer reviewer.

Are they impartial?

  • Reviewers should not work at the same institution as any of the authors, or have an active or recent collaboration with any of the authors. Avoid using any referees whom the authors have requested not be invited. If we detect a potential conflict of interest, we will ask you to assign a different reviewer. See our page on ‘Managing Conflicts of Interest’ for more information.

Are they qualified?

  • Reviewers should have significant experience in the relevant field. Editors can assess a reviewer’s experience by looking at their publication history. Reviewers range from post-doctoral researchers through to emeritus professors, but occasionally experts from industry may also be appropriate.

Do they cover every necessary expertise?

  • It may not be possible for a particular referee to adequately assess all aspects of a manuscript. For example, if a manuscript covers practical laboratory-based experiments and high-level theoretical work, it may not be possible to find a single reviewer with all the necessary skills. Editors should ensure that the reviewers are capable, between them, of covering the breadth of techniques employed.

Editors may choose reviewers from their existing academic network. They may have come into contact with suitable reviewers through conferences or collaboration or as colleagues. Searching for key terms in abstracting and indexing services is another excellent way to find referees. We also suggest browsing a manuscript’s reference list to discover researchers working on similar topics. Finding peer reviewers is not always easy, as appropriate candidates may not have the time to accept your invitation.

Asking those who decline an invitation to suggest similarly qualified experts, perhaps from their own research group or institution, is an excellent way of gathering further recommendations.

Reviewers may, upon request, consult with colleagues from their own research group so long as the confidentiality of the manuscript can be maintained. In such cases, we ask that they note the name of the colleague(s) in the ‘comments to the editor’ section of their report.

Making a decision

Having read and assessed the manuscript, each reviewer will provide a report along with one of the following recommendations:

  • Publish Unaltered
  • Consider after Minor Changes
  • Consider after Major Changes
  • Reject

Considering the reviewers’ recommendations and deciding the fate of a manuscript is not always straightforward. If a majority of reviewers suggest rejection of a manuscript, then it must be rejected. However, if just one reviewer notices a fundamental technical flaw and suggests rejection, it can warrant rejection of a manuscript despite positive recommendations from the other reviewers.

Published manuscripts must be technically sound. Concerns over the validity of the experimental process, or logic employed, should result in rejection. The perceived importance and potential impact of a manuscript should not be a primary cause for rejection, though papers should present original research and add to scientific understanding. ITScience journals publish work of significance to specialists, but replicative and highly derivative work should be rejected unless a strong scientific case supports publication.

If the reviewers raise insurmountable problems, for example if the experiments are critically flawed or the results have been presented previously, then the Editor should reject the manuscript.

ITScience supports the deposition of manuscripts in preprint servers, and does not consider this to compromise the novelty of the results.

If the manuscript could be improved to make it more suitable for publication, the Editor should invite the authors to revise and resubmit. We ask Editors to use ‘Consider after Minor Changes’ if they are confident that they are able to assess personally whether the suggested changes have been made properly. If an Editor believes they require the reviewers’ expertise to assess the changes, they should use ‘Consider after Major Changes’ instead.

If the reviewers find no fault, and deem the manuscript to be suitable for publication in its current state, the Editor may choose to use ‘Publish Unaltered’.


All manuscripts should be kept completely confidential. Editors should not use any of its insights until after publication.

Reviewers will be anonymous to the authors unless they choose to disclose their identity by signing the review report. At no time should an Editor communicate the names of the reviewers to the authors, or to anybody else in the community.

Publication ethics

ITScience’s editorial screening team checks manuscripts and the publication record of the authors for issues including plagiarism and other types of research misconduct.

If an Editor becomes aware of any publication ethics issues on a manuscript they are handling, including plagiarism, authorship disputes, duplicate and redundant submission, or manipulation of data and figures, they should contact the Research Integrity Team via cnaphc@itscience.org .

From time to time, we may consult you about ethics issues on published articles. ITScience is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and we recommend reading their guidelines and other resources.


In recognition of Editors’ work and to provide transparency about the journal’s review process, the name of the Editor who accepts a manuscript will be mentioned in the final published version of the paper.