Guidelines for Reviewers

Co-Reviewing Policy


  1. Inasmuch as the reviewing of manuscripts is an essential step in the publication process, scientists have an obligation to do a fair share of reviewing.
  2. A reviewer should act promptly, submitting a report in a timely manner. Should a reviewer receive a manuscript at a time when circumstances preclude prompt attention to it, he or she should decline through the online peer review system immediately, and discard any hard copies of the manuscript that have been printed. Any suggestions for alternate reviewers at this time would be very helpful.
  3. A chosen reviewer who feels inadequately qualified to judge the research reported in a manuscript should do the same.
  4. A reviewer should recognize that a manuscript under review is a confidential document. Reviewers should not use or disseminate unpublished information, arguments, or interpretations contained in an unpublished manuscript, except with the consent of the author. During review, the manuscript should neither be shown to nor discussed with others except, in special cases, to persons from whom specific advice may be sought. In that event, the reviewer maintains responsibility for ensuring confidentiality. The reviewer should inform the editor of others who make significant contributions to a review. See Co-Reviewing Policy.
  5. A reviewer of a manuscript should judge the quality of the manuscript objectively and respect the intellectual independence of the authors. A review should be as constructive and helpful as possible; in no case is subjective personalized criticism appropriate in a review.
  6. Reviewers should explain and support their judgment adequately so that editors and authors may understand the basis of their comments. Unsupported assertions by reviewers are of little value and should be avoided.
  7. A reviewer should be alert to failure on the author's part to cite relevant work by other scientists. Any statement that an observation, derivation, or argument has been previously reported should be accompanied by the relevant citation.
  8. A reviewer should call to the editor's attention any substantial similarity between the manuscript under consideration and any paper submitted to or published in a journal or other widely accessible form of publication. When evaluating the similarity between a manuscript and a conference paper, please refer to Optica Publishing Group's guidelines on expanded conference papers. The editor's attention should also be directed by the reviewer to perceived fragmentation of publication by the author(s).
  9. A reviewer should be sensitive to the appearance of conflict of interest when the manuscript under review is closely related to the reviewer's work in progress or published. If in doubt, the reviewer should decline promptly, advising the editor of the possible conflict of interest. Further, if the relationship between the reviewer and an author would bias judgment of a manuscript, then the reviewer should also decline. Again, any alternate reviewer suggestions would be most appreciated.
  10. Optica Publishing Group’s single-anonymous review policy means that the reviewer’s identity should not be revealed to the author. However, if they have a reason to want to reveal their identity to the authors, the reviewer may consult with the editor to obtain permission to do so.


Co-reviewing is the process by which a reviewer works with a colleague to peer review a manuscript.  It entails working jointly to assess the manuscript and prepare a report with comments for the authors and/or editor.  The colleague is usually a more junior researcher who benefits from the opportunity for training and mentorship and who should receive credit for their contribution.

Optica Publishing Group journal editors recognize that co-reviewing makes a positive contribution to the development of junior researchers while helping to expand the pool of available reviewers, both of which benefit the optics and photonics community more broadly.

Co-reviewing Policy

Any researcher who is invited to review a manuscript for an Optica Publishing Group journal may co-review that manuscript with someone else so long as they tell the editor when they submit their comments.  The co-reviewer’s name, and contact information must be disclosed to the editors. 

Each co-reviewer is expected to have critically read the manuscript and the final report must be jointly agreed upon.  All reviewers and co-reviewers must abide by Optica Publishing Group's reviewer and ethical guidelines.  This includes maintaining confidentiality and disclosing any potential conflicts of interest.

At this time, this policy does not apply to partner titles JOCN and Photonics Research.

How to Disclose a Co-review

If you co-review a manuscript, simply select the appropriate checkbox when you submit your review in the manuscript system, Prism.  You will be prompted to enter information about your co-reviewer: name and contact information.  These details will be available to the editor and will be recorded in our database. The co-reviewer will receive a thank-you message and points towards reviewer rewards.

Other Considerations

Reviewers may wish to consult a colleague in the course of reviewing a manuscript.  This should also be revealed to the editor (via the ‘Confidential comments to editor” box for example), but is not considered a co-review unless the colleague worked jointly to assess the manuscript and prepare the report.  Anyone consulted in this way must also abide by Optica Publishing Group’s reviewer and ethical guidelines, including maintaining confidentiality and disclosing any potential conflicts of interest.

Reviewers are welcome to recommend a colleague to review a manuscript.  This can be a junior colleague if the original reviewer is confident that the junior colleague is capable of completing the task without significant mentoring.  In this case, the original reviewer may decline to review and the journal will contact the suggested reviewer directly.

Junior researchers taking part in peer-review for the first time, whether as a co-reviewer or not, may benefit from Optica Publishing Group’s Reviewer Certification Course.  The course explains the objectives of peer review and best practices for writing a constructive and ethical review.  Participants hear directly from OSA journal editors what they find valuable in a report and learn how to identify the key criteria that should be considered in a review.  The course is free to access and takes one to two hours to complete.  After passing the final assessment, the participant is certified as an Optica Publishing Group reviewer and will earn points within the Reviewer Recognition Program.

We have developed the following helpful material that provides an overview of the objectives and steps for reviewing a scientific manuscript with best practices for ensuring a constructive and ethical review of scientific research.