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Reviewer guide

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Reviewing for Journal of Cell Science

Unbiased independent critical assessment is of vital importance in scholarly publishing, and Journal of Cell Science adheres to The Company of Biologists' editorial principles and to the guidelines on publishing objective and unbiased scientific information set by COPE (the Committee on Publication Ethics). Please also see our editorial process and details on different article types.

Journal of Cell Science expect reviewers to review papers in a respectful manner. Please take care to ensure that any statements are factually supported, and that opinions stated are genuinely held and well justified. On rare occasions where Editors of the journal are concerned that papers have not been reviewed according to these principles, we may contact the reviewer and reserve the right to make changes to the report before it is transmitted to the authors.

Journal of Cell Science encourages the involvement of postdocs and other early career scientists in the peer review process. We simply ask that: the name of the co-reviewer is reported to the Editor (a field is provided in the report form for this purpose); the same rules of confidentiality and conflict of interest be applied; there is a genuine mentoring process; and the senior invited reviewer takes responsibility for the report delivered to the journal.

Journal of Cell Science uses a system of cross-referee commenting (see our Editorial for details). The aim is to help resolve differences between referees, identify unnecessary or unreasonable requests, or – conversely – highlight valid concerns raised by one referee but overlooked by others. Our system provides a 48 hour window to allow referees to comment on each others' reports before the Editor makes a decision. We would greatly appreciate any feedback you may have on the other referees' reports, particularly if your appraisal of the manuscript differs from theirs. The Editor may also be in touch directly with specific questions that will help him/her to make a decision on the manuscript.

Reviewers wishing to identify themselves to the authors by signing their reviews are welcome to do so.

To avoid breaches of confidentiality, peer reviewers must not upload manuscripts to AI tools. If any part of the evaluation of a manuscript was produced or supported by an AI tool, we ask peer reviewers to declare the use of such tools transparently in the peer review report. Peer reviewers must remain accountable for all content in their review, including any AI-generated comments. Journal of Cell Science values the expertise of our peer reviewers and believes that expert human review is vital to ensuring scientific rigor.

Journal of Cell Science now publishes ‘Peer review history’ files alongside published manuscripts. These include decision letters, referee reports and author point-by-point responses, along with a timeline of the submission and revision process, and the name of the handling Editor.

Authors will be able to opt out of having their peer review history files published, but we hope that most authors will be happy to include these as part of the published record. Referees, by accepting to review a paper for Journal of Cell Science, will be indicating their willingness to have their comments published, although we will maintain anonymity unless a referee chooses to reveal their identity. Comments made through the cross-referee commenting process will remain confidential.

To make manuscript submission as easy as possible for authors, Journal of Cell Science has a format-free submission policy, meaning that authors do not have to adhere to journal formatting guidelines when they first submit a manuscript for peer review. We encourage authors to format their manuscripts for ease of viewing by reviewers and Editors by using double-line spacing and inserting line numbers but this is not a mandatory requirement. As an author, we are sure you appreciate this policy; however, as a reviewer, if you have trouble viewing a specific manuscript, please contact the Editorial Office and we will ask the authors to provide a more user-friendly version.

Papers rejected from Journal of Cell Science may be transferred, strictly with the authors' approval, to our sister journal Biology Open (BiO) or to publisher partners within our manuscript transfer network (Journal of Cell Biology or Molecular Biology of the Cell). Reviewer reports and identities will be made available to the BiO Editors, who aim to make a decision on the basis of the existing reviews, but reviewer reports shared with other publishers will remain anonymous, unless consent to transfer personal data is provided. Reviewer identities are always anonymous to authors. Please contact the Editorial Office should you have any queries.

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Guidelines for Reviewing Research Articles and Short Reports

In reviewing an article for Journal of Cell Science, we ask referees to consider two main questions. Firstly, what is the advance made in the paper and how significant is this for the field? Secondly, do the data reported in the paper justify the conclusions drawn? Where referees are positive about potential publication, we ask that comments should be focussed on essential revisions, rather than potential extensions of the study. Where referees would not recommend publication, we ask that the comments clearly detail the problems or limitations with the study. Referees are of course welcome to provide feedback on extending the scope of the study, but these should be clearly specified as such. We strongly encourage referees to view the Referee Report Form before starting to review a paper. When reviewing an article, please bear in mind the following points:

1. The main criterion for publication in Journal of Cell Science is that a Research Article or Short Report should make a significant and novel contribution to our understanding of cell biology, and should be of broad interest to the cell biology community. Studies lacking such a contribution, no matter how meticulous, are not acceptable for publication, and nor, in general, are papers repeating in one species what has already been discovered in another. Short Reports, although shorter in length, should still report a significant advance that furthers our understanding of cell biology.

2. Descriptive studies, such as those describing the expression pattern of a gene or the localisation of a specific protein in a particular cell type, will generally not be considered for potential publication. Articles that demonstrate the effect of a particular substance on a given cell line must also provide significant mechanistic information and be of broad significance. Only under exceptional circumstances will an Editor decide that an exception to these guidelines is warranted. Please note that the journal also has a ‘Tools and Resources’ section; specific guidelines for reviewing these papers can be found below.

3. Journal of Cell Science requests that authors limit the amount of supplementary data that they submit with a paper to those materials essential for the paper. When assessing supplementary data, please check if all of the data submitted are appropriate and essential for supporting the findings of a paper. For further information on what is and is not acceptable as Supplementary Information, please refer to our author guidelines.

4. We ask that referees specifically assess manuscripts in terms of the validity of statistical methods used, as well as the quality and integrity of the data presented. Please clearly outline any potential concerns in these areas (such as inappropriate data manipulation or improper use of statistics) in your report.

5. In general, we believe that all information pertinent to the decision on a manuscript should be included in the comments to the author. However, we recognise that there may be occasions where referees need to communicate comments of a confidential nature to the Editor (particularly where there may be ethical issues). Although we no longer provide a box for such confidential comments, in the spirit of our transparent peer review policy, you can send such comments to the Editorial Office for forwarding on to the appropriate Editor.

6. Because preprints are not peer reviewed, reviewers should not reference preprints as examples of lack of novelty when evaluating manuscripts. Authors may be encouraged to discuss relevant preprints, but they should not be taken into consideration when making a recommendation on a paper.

Please note that an Editor may seek additional feedback from referees or advisors in cases where a decision is not straightforward, and this may involve sharing referee reports (anonymously). However, editorial decisions are not made according to a majority rule as an Editor will evaluate the recommendations of all the reviewers before reaching a final decision. Reviews are also shared between reviewers of the same paper once a decision has been communicated to the authors.

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Tools & Resources articles

Journal of Cell Science asks reviewers of Tools & Resources papers to assess whether the paper describes a novel technique, or a sufficiently substantial advance of an existing technique, or a new resource, and whether the technique or resource being reported will have a significant impact on cell biology research.

All other standard reviewing guidelines that relate to Research Articles, including the article’s length, supplementary material and statistical analysis (as detailed above), also apply to Tools & Resources papers. As with Research Articles and Short Reports, Tools & Resources papers rejected from Journal of Cell Science can be transferred, with the author’s approval, to our online Open Access journal Biology Open (BiO) for editorial assessment.

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Commissioned articles

Commissioned articles in Journal of Cell Science (Reviews, Opinions, Hypotheses and Cell Science at a Glance articles) aim to provide a timely, insightful and accessible overview of a particular field or aspect of cell biology research. For specific details on the aim and format of each article type, please refer to our article types page. Please note that commissioned articles are edited in detail in-house to help authors revise their articles. Please also note that it can be difficult for us to reject commissioned manuscripts owing to a referee's lack of general enthusiasm for an article; if you have specific concerns or objections about publication of the article, therefore, please make these explicit in your report.

Below, we provide a list of points for referees to bear in mind when reviewing each type of commissioned article.



  1. Does the author provide new insight into the topic being reviewed?
  2. Are the author's arguments logically and coherently made? Are counterbalancing viewpoints acknowledged and discussed?
  3. Are all relevant key experiments and hypotheses covered?
  4. Is the article adequately and appropriately referenced?
  5. Is the article accessible to the non-specialist?
  6. Is the article too long? If so, what could be removed or condensed?
  7. Is the title appropriate?
  8. Is the information provided in figures, figure legends, boxes and tables clear and accurate?


Opinions and Hypotheses

  1. Does the author introduce and explain the topic under discussion sufficiently well to enable readers to place the opinion or theory into the context of the field as a whole?
  2. Does the author present coherent and well-supported arguments to support their opinion or theory?
  3. Does the author acknowledge any shortcomings in the hypothesis or opinion and propose ways in which it could be tested experimentally?
  4. If a debate exists in the field under discussion, are opposing viewpoints presented in a fair and balanced manner? (Authors are free to express which particular views they but their discussion of opposing views should be accurate and balanced.)
  5. Does the author's hypothesis or opinion provide new insights into the process being discussed?
  6. Is the article adequately and appropriately referenced?
  7. Is the article too long? If so, what could be removed or condensed?
  8. Is the information provided in figures, figure legends, boxes and tables clear and accurate?


Cell Science at a Glance poster articles

The main focus of this article type is the poster, which presents an overview of a topic that will appeal to specialists and non-specialists alike and is meant to be a stand-alone resource. It should therefore be understandable in isolation from the text. It will be printed at four times journal size, so the author should display much more information than they would in a normal figure. The text should introduce the field and summarise what is displayed in the poster; it can also expand on the information depicted in the poster. Please note that all posters are redrawn by our graphics artist following peer review.

Additional points to consider:

  1. Are the author's explanations of the topic accessible to a non-specialist audience?
  2. Are the author's points logically and coherently made and all appropriate viewpoints acknowledged?
  3. Does the author cover all the necessary aspects of the topic and provide an up-to-date account?
  4. Can the poster be understood in isolation from the text?
  5. Does the poster convey a clear message?
  6. Is there anything missing from the poster? Or is there too much/unnecessary information?

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Focus on biodiversity: The Forest of Biologists

The Forest of Biologists logo

To acknowledge our reviewers, who help preserve the integrity of the scientific record, we are funding the restoration and preservation of ancient woodland within Great Knott Wood in the Lake District National Park, UK. Each time a peer reviewer completes the review process for one of our articles, we will dedicate a tree in the ancient woodland to them. Representations of these trees will be added to our virtual forest periodically. There will be no association with specific articles to ensure that peer reviewers retain their anonymity.

Read the Editorial to find out more about The Forest of Biologists.

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