Peer reviewers play a role in ensuring the integrity of the scholarly record. The peer review process depends to a large extent on the trust and willing participation of the scholarly community and requires that everyone involved behaves responsibly and ethically. Peer reviewers play a central and critical part in the peer review process, but may come to the role without any guidance and be unaware of their ethical obligations. Journals have an obligation to provide transparent policies for peer review, and reviewers have an obligation to conduct reviews in an ethical and accountable manner. Clear communication between the journal and the reviewers is essential to facilitate consistent, fair and timely review. COPE has heard cases from its members related to peer review issues and bases these guidelines, in part, on the collective experience and wisdom of the COPE Forum participants. It is hoped they will provide helpful guidance to researchers, be a reference for editors and publishers in guiding their reviewers, and act as an educational resource for institutions in training their students and researchers.
Peer review, for the purposes of these guidelines, refers to reviews provided on manuscript submissions to journals, but can also include reviews for other platforms and apply to public commenting that can occur pre- or post-publication. Reviews of other materials such as preprints, grants, books, conference proceeding submissions, registered reports (preregistered protocols), or data will have a similar underlying ethical framework, but the process will vary depending on the source material and the type of review requested. The model of peer review will also influence elements of the process.