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Guidelines for reviewers of Geological Society publications

The Geological Society of London is committed to providing a high-quality and rigorous peer review process. Our referees play a vital role in maintaining these standards and we are grateful for your time and expertise.

These guidelines are for all GSL publications. They are intended to supplement the instructions given in the submission system for each journal/book series and the checklists provided in the review forms.

You should check the scope of the publication you are reviewing for with the links below:

Should you agree to review | Ethics and key points | Assessing the manuscript | Ethics | What not to assess | Making a final recommendation | Best practice | Benefits of reviewing | Co-reviewers

Should you agree to review?

Before accepting an invitation to review a paper, you should consider:
  • Whether you are able to provide a review within the timeframe requested. 
    • If you accept and later find you do not have the time then please let the editor know as soon as possible. 
  • If you have the expertise to assess the quality, rigour and importance of the paper. 
    • Recommendations of suitably qualified reviewers will be appreciated if you do not feel able to review the manuscript. 
  • If there is any conflict of interest.

Ethics for reviewers and conflicts of interest

Reviews should be fair and unbiased.

Please decline to review if you are unable to give an objective opinion of the manuscript. Let the editor know as minor conflicts may not disqualify you from reviewing but will be taken into account when decisions are made. Conflicts of interest include:

  • Having had significant and acrimonious disagreements with the authors in the past. 
  • Being in direct competition with the authors and gaining an advantage by reviewing the manuscript (especially in applied areas of Earth Sciences). 
  • Working at the same location or organisation as the authors. 
  • Being current or recent co-investigators or collaborators with one of the authors.

The content of the paper and your review are confidential and should only be discussed with the editors. If you wish to discuss the paper with colleagues please check with the editor before doing so. You must not allow the manuscript to be reproduced whilst in your custody.

GSL operates a single-blind peer review process but does encourage open reviewing whereby your name will be made known to the authors. This is optional and we will respect your choice to remain anonymous. Do not send your report directly to the authors – it should be submitted through the manuscript submission site for the editor to make their own assessment.

Assessing the manuscript

An acceptable manuscript will meet the following general criteria:

  • It makes a significant and important contribution (either scientific or historical) to the subject covered. 
  • It will be of interest to a broad audience of researchers working within the scope of the journal. 
  • It is scientifically rigorous and any analytical method used is sound. It should be explained with sufficient detail so that the experiments are reproducible by other scientists or can be transferable in an applied setting. 
  • Conclusions are supported by data or observations. 
  • It is concise, well written and understandable.

When assessing the manuscript, please consider:

  • Title
    • Does the title succinctly, clearly and accurately reflect the content of the manuscript?
  • Abstract 
    •  Does the abstract allow the reader to readily determine the value of the article to them and outlines the important findings whilst still being concise? 
    •  Does it maximise the impact and visibility of the manuscript? 
  • Main text 
    • Is the topic parochial in nature or of broad interest?
    • Is the article timely and reflect current understanding? 
    • Do you feel that the author(s) reviewed the existing literature adequately, but not exhaustively? Are all cited papers in the reference list? 
    • Do you know of any additional papers that the authors may want to refer to and discuss? 
    •  Is there distinction between assertions of fact, interpretation, inference, assumption, opinion and speculation? Are all assertions supported by theory, data or reference? 
  • Quality of writing 
    • Is the manuscript written with clarity and is it readable? Manuscripts containing sound science must also be well-written and organised to be acceptable. 
    • Is the narrative well-developed and do paragraphs flow smoothly? 
    • Is there unnecessary repetition? 
    • Are enough examples provided to assist readers in relating to the author’s ideas? 
  • Technical 
    • Is the paper acceptable in terms of methods, procedures and data quality? 
    • Have all the measurements been reported in SI (metric) units – either as standard or as equivalents when non-SI units are normal practice. 
    • Is adequate location information provided? 
    • Are abbreviations properly explained at first use? 
    • Is the use of jargon limited? 
  • Tables and figures 
    • Are all the tables and figures necessary, understandable and readable? 
    • Are the tables and figures self-explanatory with sufficiently detailed captions?
    • Do the figures have appropriate scale indicators and is north indicated? 
    • Is there sufficient information on maps for someone unfamiliar with the region to locate them? Are longitude and latitude shown?
    • Do any figures show unsafe or improper practices (e.g. researchers under a cliff without hard hats, trespass, hammers on SSI sites)? 
    • Can any illustrations benefit from colour? There is no charge for colour in GSL publications. 
  • Supplementary material 
    • Is it useful and appropriately referred to in the manuscript? 
    • Can the paper be understood without access to the supplementary material? If not it should be included in the main manuscript. 
    • Is it in a suitable format? It will not be edited or typeset.
  • Data
    • The Geological Society support the open accessibility, findability, interoperability, reusability and preservation of geoscience data.
    • Have all datasets been properly referenced?
    • If they haven’t been provided or you are unable to access any datasets, you may request these from the Editor or editorial staff
    • Please see the full Geological Society data policy at:


Please contact the editor immediately if you suspect any ethical wrongdoing related to the paper. This could relate to plagiarism or self-plagiarism, parallel submission, inaccurate authorship declarations, fabrication of results, undeclared conflict of interest or excessive self-citation.

What you do not need to assess

GSL has a highly-trained team of Production Editors who will correct spelling, grammar and language issues. Referees are not expected to correct or highlight these issues if they are minor. If the manuscript is so poorly written that it is not understandable then this should be reported to the editor early on rather than persevering with a difficult-to-read manuscript.

Making a final recommendation

Reflecting your assessment of the manuscript, please recommend a decision to the editor. GSL publications may have all or some of these options for you to recommend:

  • Accept – no further changes, however minor, are required. 
  • Minor revision – the manuscript is acceptable but there are some suggestions for the authors to consider. Please indicate if you would like to review the revised version before a final decision is made. 
  • Moderate revision – there are some more substantial changes suggested for the authors to make before the manuscript is acceptable. 
  • Major revision – the manuscript might be acceptable and would make a significant contribution to the literature but major changes are required. 
  • Reject – the manuscript is not within the scope of the publication, has significant flaws that cannot be fixed within an acceptable revision time or does not make a significant contribution to existing literature in the field.

Best practice

  • Ensure that comments are suitable for transmission to the authors. Think about the type and tone of comments that you would be happy to receive as an author. 
  • Include all your comments during the first round of review – do not include new, unrelated suggestions in the subsequent rounds of review. 
  • If, having agreed it with the editor in advance, you receive assistance in reviewing from someone else (i.e. a student) then please ensure they receive the credit for their work.
  • Any suggestion you make that the author include citations to your (or your associates') work must be for genuine scientific reasons and not with the intention of increasing your citation counts or enhancing the visibility of your work (or those of your associates).
  • Suggestions to cite specific relevant work from the journal is acceptable, but do not insist that authors cite references from the journal.

Benefits of reviewing for GSL publications

GSL is very grateful to referees for the time and effort they put in to reviewing our publications. GSL is committed to providing reward and recognition for peer review activities, and as a reviewer you can benefit from:
  • Reading the latest developments in your field.
  • Being part of the GSL community.
  • Gaining recognition for your review. We recommend signing up for and tracking your activity through free services such as ORCID and the Web of Science Reviewer Recognition Service (previously known as Publons).
  • Inclusion in the annual lists of reviewers that many of our journals publish so the community is aware of your service.
  • Being eligible to win the respective Reviewer of the Year awards if you review for JGS or QJEGH.

We are collaborating with the Web of Science Reviewer Recognition Service to give you the recognition you deserve for your peer review contributions. On Web of Science Reviewer Recognition Service you can effortlessly track, verify and showcase your review work and expertise without compromising anonymity. Sign up now for free so when you complete any reviews they can be instantly added to your profile.


In co-review, the invited reviewer has the option to involve a colleague in the reviewing process and completion of the report. Oftentimes, co-reviewing is an ideal opportunity for a student or young researcher to gain experience assessing and critiquing a manuscript. For GSL publications, co-reviewer contributions are fully acknowledged along with the primary reviewer.

For co-reviewing, the primary reviewer should contact the Editor to notify them that they intend to use a co-reviewer and provide the co-reviewer’s name and email address. The Editor will then invite the co-reviewer in Editorial Manager. The primary reviewer and co-reviewer can then both submit their reports into Editorial Manager (ideally only one person will submit a complete report with comments; the other reviewer can answer the reviewer questions and note that they were/used a co-reviewer) and both will be acknowledged as reviewers.

A co-reviewer may also be an established researcher whose expertise compliments your own. In these cases, it is also suggested that the name of the co-reviewer is shared with GSL staff and/or added to the reviewer report so that the author is aware that another expert was consulted during the review. If the co-reviewer provides a significant amount of feedback, it is recommended that they be invited as an additional reviewer. These will be handled on a case-by-case basis and you should contact the corresponding Editor of the submission for discussion.

All peer reviewers for GSL publications are expected to follow the Society’s ethical guidelines, including confidentiality of peer review.

As a member of COPE, GSL also recommends reviewers refer to COPE’s Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers.