Driving integrity and trust in research: a Peer Review Toolkit

This Peer Review Week (PRW), F1000Research joins the academic research community in focusing on Research Integrity: Creating and Supporting Trust in Research. As we recognize the vital role peer review plays in scholarly communication, this PRW is a chance to reflect on how researchers, publishers, and journalists can play a role in promoting research integrity through peer review.

At F1000, we believe that transparency in the peer review process is a hallmark of quality and accountability, making it easier to know if research can be trusted. With rigorous pre-publication checks and open post-publication peer review, researchers can publish their findings rapidly without compromising research integrity. Whether you choose to participate in an open peer review or a blind peer review process, see how you can play a role in driving research integrity by diving into the Peer Review Toolkit below.

What does it take to review with integrity?

Peer review is an essential method by which research integrity is upheld and kept in check. Reviewers act as referees that judge the validity, significance, and originality of research.

To safeguard research integrity and enable public trust in research, peer reviewers should be:

Rigorous – Write rigorous, thorough reports that address the full breadth of the research paper.
Expert – Be experts in the field to provide an accurate review of the research.
Fair – Be fair, impartial, and objectively judge the quality of the research reported.
Encouraging – Include any concerns or criticisms in the review but do so encouragingly and constructively.
Respectful – Avoid derogatory comments or tone and ensure that comments focus on the content of the article in question.
Ethical – Acknowledge any potential conflicts of interest or if they suspect plagiarism.
Efficient – Be mindful of their turnaround time to ensure authors can make any necessary changes to their research as soon as possible.
Specific – Give as much detail as possible, with references where appropriate, so the authors can fully address any issues.

How to write a genuinely helpful peer review report

The most effective peer review reports are easy to follow and provide actionable feedback to improve an article.

Start by giving a high-level summary of what the research paper claims to report. Then, provide an overview of the article’s key strengths and weaknesses to showcase your overall impression of the research.

Next, situate the research in the context of the author(s)’s field. What are the potential impact and implications of the research? Providing an assessment of how the research could potentially impact the field or society is extremely valuable, especially when reviewing openly, as other researchers, policymakers, and the general public could read your report.

Now it’s time to move into detailed comments and questions to address specific areas for improvement. First, outline any major issues the author(s) must address before the paper can pass peer review. Anything included here should be fundamental to the soundness of the current study.

Secondly, list any minor issues that affect the quality of the article but do not affect the overall conclusions of the research. Minor revisions should include typos, spelling or grammatical errors, missing references, technical clarifications, and data presentation.

For major and minor issues, structure your comments systematically, in line with the article structure or in the order that they appear, so that the author can easily address your feedback.

End with your recommended course of action. If you are reviewing for F1000Research, you should assign an approval status of either: Approved, Approved with Reservations, or Not Approved.

Peer reviewing tips

Experienced peer reviewers share their tips for writing an effective peer review report.

Consider the statistics

It’s helpful if you comment on the number of replicates, the controls, and the statistical analyses. This information is crucial for understanding how robust the outcome is.– Christine Mummery, Leiden University Medical Center 

If it’s good, say so

Don’t be afraid to be positive. If a paper that you are asked to review is really good, say so!.– Anthony Imbalzano, University of Massachusetts Medical School

Icon of document with a tick representing credibilityOrganize your comments

“When listing your specific concerns, separate them into “major” and “minor” points and, if your list is very long, consolidate the most minor points.– Robert Fisher, Mount Sinai School of Medicine 

Icon of a lightbulb, representing innovationBe constructive in your criticism

“Be constructive, view your reviewer role as an opportunity to help improve the paper you are reviewing.– Bruce MacIver, Stanford University 

Real reports

Take a look at some real examples of what excellent peer review looks like in your field.


Donald Hobern for ‘Recommendations for connecting molecular sequence and biodiversity research infrastructures through ELIXIR


Tamarind Haven for ‘Grant writing and grant peer review as questionable research practices

Social Sciences

Axel Bowman for ‘A grammatico-pragmatic analysis of the because X construction: Private expression within public expression

Discover more on research integrity and peer review

Upholding research integrity is more important now than ever
Identity and integrity in peer review: the role of co-reviewing
Can data peer review support research integrity?