Guidelines for editors

Given that multiple editors from different disciplines manage submissions for ESD, these guidelines have been produced to provide some standardization in the editorial process.

Criteria for acceptance for open discussion phase (peer review)

The first decision by the editor deals with the access review to decide whether the submission should go forward into peer review. The general criteria for acceptance are that the manuscript has acceptable "(a) formatting, language, and other technical aspects of the manuscript; (b) scientific merit; and (c) appropriateness of the manuscript for the journal". In addition, ESD requires the manuscript to be of an interdisciplinary nature that covers more than one discipline of the Earth sciences.

After reading the submitted manuscript, the editor should feel that the manuscript should have the potential for acceptance in ESD before accepting it for peer review. It is, however, not guaranteed that all reviewed manuscripts will eventually pass peer review and will be published in ESD.

The manuscript should be an original and new scientific contribution. Replication of previous results using new models or methods is acceptable (up to some point, given the results are not well established already) as are, potentially, review or synthesis papers.

Manuscripts that are poorly written or poorly organized should be returned to the authors for improvement before acceptance. This includes poor English language that impedes understanding of the manuscript.

Given the interdisciplinary nature of ESD, manuscripts should be written in such a manner so as to be clear to a range of relevant disciplines. This is also a point on which the editors can ask referees to comment as part of their review.

Note that editorial intervention, either before or after initial acceptance, regarding clarity of language and description and manuscript structure can be useful and is acceptable. The ESD editorial system supports editor comments to authors for such purposes (multiple rounds of comments can occur, particularly in the revision stage).

As noted on the ESD web page: "Manuscripts should be as concise as possible but not at the expense of scientific accuracy and completeness." Note that supplemental material can be used to provide additional details while maintaining a concise manuscript (note, however, that supplementary material is not archived as is the manuscript). It is acceptable (and preferable) for the editor to return a manuscript to authors for re-structuring before initial acceptance. This provides a more concise main manuscript for reviewers to read.

Reasons for initial rejection include the following:

  • Lack of novelty: The manuscript is very similar to previously published work and represents a marginal improvement. It might be useful to check previous work by the authors so that you can form your own opinion as to whether the submitted work represents sufficient novelty. In case of doubt, you can request the authors to provide a better explanation and/or adapt the manuscript to emphasize the novel aspects.
  • Lack of interdisciplinarity: ESD is an interdisciplinary journal and emphasizes interactions, feedbacks, and the functioning of the whole system. Submissions that are entirely representative of a single discipline should be rejected. Examples of such papers are ones that focus on the regional geology of a country or document climate station time series.
  • Not sufficiently objective: The manuscript should follow accepted scientific practices, and the conclusions should not predominantly be speculative but be based on results that are obtained by the described methods. A lack of a clearly objective approach to a scientific topic can be a reason for an initial rejection.
  • Poor English: The text is difficult to understand, possibly even to the extent that the methods or results are incomprehensible. While accepted manuscripts will go through copy and language editing at Copernicus, which deals with minor errors in written English, papers that cannot be understood should be rejected.
  • Lack of methods: The methods should explain how the results are obtained. If the methods are not explained, are incomplete, or are incomprehensible, the manuscript should be returned to the authors for improvement, or it should be rejected.
  • Lack of references: The scope of the submission needs to be placed into the scientific context and past published works on related topics. A manuscript that has no or hardly any references to related work included should be returned to the authors for improvement, or it should be rejected.
  • Lack of a scientific approach or standards: The analysis in the submission is weak or flawed and does not meet basic scientific standards.

If you decide to reject a submission at the initial stage, provide a reason for rejection and possibly give suggestions on what would be needed for the manuscript to be considered for peer review. If you have questions, contact the chief editors.

Manuscript reviewers

It is important that independent reviewers be found for submissions (e.g. reviewers not associated with the authors of the manuscript). In general, here are some suggestions:

  • Three independent reviewers from different institutions be found for each manuscript not directly associated with the authors and their institutions. Two reviewers is the minimum. Given the difficulty in finding reviewers, if the editor feels the manuscript is appropriate and not likely to be controversial, the editor’s views can, in essence, be the third review. Also, if scientific comments were made in the discussion phase, these may serve as a third review as well.
  • Reviewers should not be chosen solely from the list of reviewers provided by the authors.
  • Reviewers should not be too closely related to each other (e.g. there exist a substantial number of co-authored papers) so that they can provide independent opinions.
  • Potential conflicts of interest of the reviewers should be avoided. If a conflict cannot be avoided due to a lack of suitable reviewers, then this potential conflict needs to be documented in the editorial system. It also needs to be ensured that the reviewer provides an objective review. Check that the reviews were sufficiently critical, constructive, and complete. If not, an additional reviewer might be needed. An obviously cursory review can be a reason to obtain an additional review or a read-through by the editor to verify the quality of the manuscript.
  • If an editor is having difficulty finding a sufficient number of reviewers, e-mail the ESD editors list and ask for help. One strategy is to directly write colleagues with appropriate backgrounds (not through the ESD system) asking if they might have time to review the paper, or if they could suggest someone who might be appropriate (e.g. postdocs or advanced graduate students from their group).
  • If it appears that a manuscript could be controversial or otherwise difficult to review, check with the chief editors or the editorial board for support.
  • Data and model modifications used in the manuscript should be available in open-access repositories. See also the data policy web page on the ESD site for further information and options of repositories.
  • Please pay attention to inclusive, gender-neutral, non-discriminatory language and terminology in the manuscript, the reviews, and the correspondence. In case of doubt, contact the Copernicus staff or the chief editors.

All manuscripts should be treated equally. If the authors of the manuscript have a close association with an editor (collaborator, advisee, mentor, etc.), that editor should not manage that manuscript. Care must be taken for manuscripts that come to conclusions that an editor does not personally agree with but might be legitimate. One possibility is to find another editor to handle the submission.

Criteria for acceptance for ESD (after peer review)

Based on the expert opinions of the reviewers, the editor needs to make the decision if the reviews were adequately addressed by the authors in their reply and by the revised submission. The reviewer comments should be generally positive, and the authors should have adequately addressed all reviewer comments in the review.

If the authors have not adequately addressed the reviewer comments, then the editor should return the manuscript to the reviewers for another round of review.

The editor will need to read the author’s response to the referees and read the revised manuscript to judge if the reviewers’ comments are sufficiently addressed, either by changing the manuscript or in their reply. It is not uncommon for an additional round of revisions (or more) to occur between the editor and authors to make sure all relevant issues have been addressed.

Returning the revised manuscript to one or more referees for re-consideration is an option.

If the reviewers demand changes to the manuscript or further analyses after the discussion phase that substantially changes the paper, the editor should consider the option of rejecting the submission and should encourage resubmission. In this way, the revised manuscript enters a discussion phase again.

To make the decision by the editor transparent, a brief explanation should be posted as an editorial comment.