Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences

Referee Guidelines

Scope and relevance
Marine and Freshwater Research publishes original and significant papers on aquatic science, and its scope spans research conducted in all aquatic habitats and ecosystems from groundwaters and wetlands to estuaries, reefs and the open ocean. Studies that are globally relevant, address broad conceptual questions and have significant applications to management and conservation are especially welcomed. The journal aims to publish the most important manuscripts with the greatest significance to the wider scientific community.

Although specialist papers at the forefront of a particular field are encouraged, they must explicitly identify their broader relevance and implications for the field. The journal discourages the submission of manuscripts that report preliminary or incremental results that do not have sufficient originality, studies that are solely descriptive or taxonomic, research that is simply another example or case study of a well-known phenomenon, and work of largely local relevance.

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Privacy of unpublished results
An unpublished manuscript is a privileged document. Please protect it from any form of exploitation. Do not cite a manuscript or refer to the work it describes before it has been published and do not use the information that it contains for the advancement of your own research or in discussion with colleagues.

Do not discuss the manuscript with its authors unless permission has been granted by the Editor. Although it may seem natural and reasonable to discuss points of difficulty or disagreement directly with the author, especially if you are generally in favour of publication and do not mind revealing your identity, this practice is prohibited because the other referee(s) and the Editor may have different opinions, and the author may be misled by having ´cleared things up´ with the referee who contacted him/her directly.

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Reviews should be completed within 21 days (3 weeks). If you know that you cannot finish the review within that time, please contact the Editorial Assistant immediately. In addition, if you believe that you cannot judge a given article impartially through contact with the authors or a possible conflict of interest, please return it immediately with an explanation.

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The review
A good review is succinct, well organised, constructive and diplomatic. It describes what is interesting and significant about a manuscript, how the manuscript might be improved and, if the manuscript is not publishable, why the flaws are fatal.

Reviews for Marine and Freshwater Research consist of three sections:

  1. Multiple-choice questions
  2. Comments to the author(s)
  3. Confidential comments to the Editor

We recommend that you prepare your comments in a text file so that they can be copied and pasted into ScholarOne when you submit your review.

(1) Multiple-choice questions
To help provide consistency across reviews, ScholarOne presents referees with six multiple-choice questions. The answers to these questions are for the Editor’s use only and are not conveyed directly to the authors. The most important questions concern the quality of the science in the manuscript and your recommendation.

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(2) Comments to the author(s)
In this section, please identify the major contributions and strengths of the manuscript. Then, assess where there are weaknesses in design and analysis that are likely to affect the manuscript’s suitability for publication. Emphasise the most significant points, phrasing them in such a way that they help the author revise and amend the manuscript if feasible. Some flaws in design are fatal (e.g. inadequate sample size, inappropriate scale of replication, sampling or experimentation, unsuitable methods) and these should be clearly identified as such.

It is very helpful if comments are numbered as this makes it easier for specific reference to them by the author and Editor.

Negative criticism, no matter how justified, is hard for an author to accept, and we ask that referees criticise the science, not the scientist. Harsh words may cause the author (and members of the Editorial Board) to doubt the referee´s objectivity and perhaps discount the comments. Although an opinion expressed by an author may differ from that held by a referee, it should be left to stand if justified by material presented in the manuscript.

Your comments should address the following points:

  • Relevance to the journal’s scope and importance to readers
  • Soundness of the science (e.g. appropriate scientific approach, sampling method, experimental or survey design, statistical analysis)
  • Originality
  • Degree to which the data support the conclusions
  • Organisation, writing style and clarity of presentation
  • Length relative to information content

Specific comments should give evidence to support positive or negative general comments. Aspects to consider include:

  • Presentation: Is the manuscript’s story cohesive and tightly reasoned throughout? If not, where does the text deviate from the central argument? Do the title, abstract, additional keywords, introduction, results and discussion accurately and consistently reflect the major point(s) of the manuscript? Is the writing concise, readable and easy to follow? Is there any excessive speculation? Is the English expression clear and unambiguous throughout? Please note that you are not requested to correct deficiencies of style or mistakes in grammar, but any help you can provide to the authors in clarifying meaning or correcting mistakes (such as misspellings of locations, use of outmoded terminology, misspelled or misidentified scientific names of organisms, inappropriate scientific jargon and incorrect nomenclature) is welcome.
  • Justification and implications: Do the abstract and introduction clearly identify the relevance and context of the work? Are the implications of the findings specifically explained? Where relevant, are there clearly framed hypotheses and predictions? Are these adequately addressed in the results and discussion? Are caveats or limitations to the study clearly explained and compensated for?
  • Length: What parts of the manuscript should be expanded, condensed or combined? Give specific advice (rather than saying ‘shorten the Introduction by 20%’, for example). Instead of correcting the whole manuscript if too long, giving a sample paragraph of condensed text may be helpful to verbose authors. Over-use of references is another common problem – more than two or three references to support a claim is usually too many, and authors should be encouraged to focus on only the key publications in the field.
  • Methods: Are the methods appropriate, current and described clearly enough to allow the work to be replicated? Is the study design fully explained? Is there adequate replication at appropriate levels? Are the statistical analyses appropriate and correctly applied? Are significance statements fully justified with reference to the test statistic, its degrees of freedom and its probability level? Does the manuscript follow the journal’s guidelines for data analysis and presentation? For manuscripts reporting experiments with humans or animals, do the methods conform to established codes of practice or ethics?
  • Data presentation: Can all results be readily verified with reference to tables, figures or statistical information? Are all tables and figures necessary, readily interpretable and fully labeled?
  • Errors and reference citations: Are there errors in techniques, facts, calculations or interpretations? Are only relevant references cited? Are references provided for all assertions of fact not supported by data in this manuscript? Does the manuscript present data or conclusions that are already published or in press? If so, please provide details.

In your comments to the author, please do not make any statements regarding the acceptability of the manuscript for publication. Instead, you should reserve these comments for the Editor.

You may wish to edit the manuscript yourself using Word’s ‘track changes’ feature, and upload the edited file as an attachment with your review. A Microsoft Word file of the manuscript may be available in ScholarOne by accessing the Manuscript Files tab.

You may sign your review if you wish. Unless you indicate otherwise, we shall assume that you wish to remain anonymous.

Please note that Marine and Freshwater Research sends reviewers a copy of the decision letter for each manuscript that they have reviewed. Your review will thus be shared with other reviewers of the same manuscript. Your identity remains confidential unless you have divulged it in your review.

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(3) Confidential comments to the Editor
This section allows you to communicate your candid, frank and honest assessment of the quality of the science and the style of the communication to the Editor. These comments are not shown to the author.

An example might be:
‘This is an interesting topic fitting the scope of the Journal but because the authors have pooled their six sets of samples across three reefs without justification and considered this as 18 replicates, we seem to have within-reef and among-reef variation confounded. Given the marginal significance of the ANOVA on these pseudoreplicated data, I find the conclusions suspect. I also cannot figure out how they determined their SE bars on Fig. 4 (is it based on n=18 or does n=3 reefs and they averaged the 6 samples per reef?). There are no hypotheses in the Introduction and the Discussion section rambles badly on lines 233–384. Many of the isopod generic names are spelled wrongly in Table 2. Finally, 19 of the 40 references are incorrectly cited – to me, this seems a bit sloppy. These flaws do not seem fatal and I think the authors should be encouraged to revise their manuscript. I would be happy to look over it again to check the isopod names and the revised statistics.’

It is helpful to the Editor if you comment on unnecessary length and point out figures and tables that are of secondary importance and could be presented as Supplementary Material. Supplementary Material is linked to the online version of the journal article.

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What happens next?
When the Editor has made a decision on the manuscript, you will be able to see the decision letter (including all referees´ comments to the authors).