13 Careful reviewing of Research proposals and manuscripts

Reviewing research proposals and manuscripts is an important component of a researcher’s work. This chapter discusses the principles and procedures in situations where conflicts of interest might arise when reviewing other researchers’ grant proposals and manuscripts. A reviewer’s verdicts on articles, research proposals and grant applications can have serious consequences. It is important, therefore, that these appraisals show high technical quality, respect and independence. The ownership of ideas and confidentiality should always be safeguarded.

In order to guarantee factual quality, observe the following guidelines.

  • If one feels that one does not, on the whole, possess the expertise required to make a sound judgement on a manuscript or proposal offered for review, it is better to refuse the request.
  • It is a good idea to begin a review with a concise summary of the research question, design and main findings. This shows that the reviewer has understood them properly.
  • Any criticism should be factually correct; when in doubt, one should either refrain from making a judgement or check with the experts or in the literature. In such cases, one can state that one is not an expert on certain matters and therefore cannot make a judgement.
  • Make any comments as specific as possible and clearly indicate what the authors should address or change.
  • It helps the authors if the comments are backed by references to the literature.
  • If the report or proposal sets out to test a hypothesis or principle that one does not agree with, be careful to use only scientific arguments.
  • Clearly distinguish between matters of taste and scientific inaccuracies.