BIOMETRICS
A Journal of the International Biometric Society

Guide for Referees


1. Suitability of Papers for Biometrics

The International Biometric Society, which publishes Biometrics, is an international society promoting the development and application of statistical and mathematical theory and methods in the biosciences, including agriculture, biomedical science and public health, ecology, environmental sciences, forestry, and allied disciplines. Accordingly, papers suitable for Biometrics should be in this general spirit.

Papers may be submitted to one of four sections of the journal; the manuscript number assigned to the paper will indicate the section for which it is being considered; the section will also be indicated in our electronic submission system, where you will access the paper. Papers should be evaluated according to the criteria of the indicated section. Descriptions of the sections are as follows (these are also available under the Information for Authors link at http://www.biometrics.tibs.org under Types of Submissions Accepted):

    - Biometric Methodology (manuscript numbers with suffix "M"): This section is designed for papers that focus on the development of new methods and results of use in the biosciences. These should where possible be made accessible to biologists and other subject-matter scientists by the inclusion of an introductory section outlining the application and scientific objectives on which the new methods focus, with discussion of real data or settings that exemplify the issue being addressed. The journal typically insists on illustration of new methods with real data wherever possible. Extensive mathematical derivations and proofs should be removed to an appendix.

    It is expected that most nonstatisticians would not be able to read and understand these papers in their entirety. The introductory section should provide a description of the applied problem the new methods are meant to address and a discussion of the need for the new methods at a conceptual level, so that the contribution of the paper could be understood by a nonstatistician.

    - Biometric Practice (manuscript numbers with suffix "P"): This section is designed for the following types of papers:

        (i) They demonstrate innovative applications of existing methods to areas in which such a method has not been previously employed. Consequently, new insights or findings are provided.

        (ii) They creatively illustrate the proper use of different methods under various explicit/implicit assumptions. Consequently, clearer guidance and understanding of the use of different methods is offered.

        (iii) They propose innovative and practical data analysis strategies, based on a combination of experience, intuition, and methodological arguments.

        (iv) They re-examine from a new perspective statistical practices that are widely used in biometric applications, providing useful alternatives to the current standard.

        Papers in this section may, but do not need to, contain new methodology. The key of a successful publication in the section is its ability to provide practical contributions, biological insight, and/or significant new findings.

    - Reader Reaction (manuscript numbers with suffix "R"): This section is designed for papers that refer directly to articles previously published in the journal. These may describe extensions of or improvements to methods developed in a published article, offer alternative perspectives to those advocated in a published article, or raise relevant issues unaddressed in a published article, in each case supported by appropriate justification.

    - Letters to the Editors (manuscript numbers with suffix "L"): This section is designed for short comments on content appearing previously in the journal.

Biometrics stresses the application of statistics and mathematics to the biosciences. Consequently, regardless of section, Biometrics papers should emphasize the relevance and usefulness of methodological developments to the subject-matter science. Papers presenting new results in "pure" mathematical statistics are not generally acceptable and cannot be made so by perfunctory references to possible biometric applications. These papers more properly belong in journals reaching an audience with less specialized interests.

This is not meant to imply that Biometrics papers should not involve technical developments if these are relevant to addressing the applied challenges. Thus, advanced mathematical treatment is acceptable where it forms an essential part of the paper. Wherever possible, however, extensive and unavoidable technical arguments and details should be separated from the main paper, so that the exposition focuses on the more applied aspects. If such arguments are very short, they may appear in a brief appendix at the end of the paper. Otherwise, such arguments and details should be presented in appendices appearing in Supplementary Web Materials; for published papers, these materials are posted on the journal website. The journal policy on such materials is given under the Information for Authors link at http://www.biometrics.tibs.org under Instructions for Submitting a Paper.

Artificial examples, though sometimes unavoidable, are particularly unsatisfactory in a journal like Biometrics; wherever possible, papers should include illustrations involving genuine applications and data. Interpretation of results in the context of the subject matter is encouraged where appropriate.

2. Procedures

The Associate Editor is your point of contact for the paper you have been asked to review. S/he will have sent you an email invitation to serve as a referee through our ScholarOne electronic submission system. Please respond as soon as possible and confirm your acceptance of the invitation by following the instructions in this email. If you cannot review the paper, we would appreciate greatly if you would provide to the Associate Editor the names and email addresses, if possible, for alternative qualified reviewers.

If you have any questions or concerns while you are reviewing the paper, please contact the Associate Editor (rather than contacting the Co-Editors, Executive Editor, or Editorial Manager).

Please submit your report by logging into the ScholarOne system and providing the following:

    - For transmission to the author and editors, please provide comments, both general and detailed. These may be pasted into the Comments to the Author field or uploaded in the system in a separate file. THESE COMMENTS SHOULD NOT CONTAIN YOUR RECOMMENDATION ON ACCEPTANCE OR REJECTION.

    - For transmission only to the editors, present any remarks you wish to make to the associate editor (or co-editor) but not to the author. Also include your recommendation on acceptance or rejection. These may be pasted into the Confidential Comments to the Editors field or uploaded in the system in a separate file.

UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU COMMUNICATE WITH THE AUTHORS OF THE PAPER YOU ARE REVIEWING DIRECTLY! YOU SHOULD SUBMIT YOUR REPORT ONLY TO THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR THROUGH THE SYSTEM; DO NOT SEND IT OR ANYTHING ELSE DIRECTLY TO THE AUTHORS.

    If the decision of the Co-Editor handling the paper is to solicit a revision, you will typically be asked to serve as referee for the first revision and subsequent revisions. In this event, you will receive an email invitation from the Associate Editor through the ScholarOne system asking that you review the revision for responsiveness to your criticisms from the last round of review and that you again prepare reports as described above. Special considerations for reviewing revised papers are given in the next section.

3. Considerations for Preparing Reports

Every journal must rely heavily on the cooperation of referees whose recommendations form the basis of editorial decisions. Please make your comments as constructive as possible. Here are some general guidelines.

    - We ask that you review both the main paper and any supplementary materials submitted with it. Supplementary materials will often contain additional simulation results and proofs and mathematical derivations.

    - We do not expect you to check all the mathematical details of paper and its supplementary materials on a line-by-line basis. Rather, we ask that you evaluate whether or not the results are interesting and important, the results are plausible, and the approach and methods used in their derivation are described with sufficient clarity that an interested reader could indeed verify the results.

    An exception is in the infrequent case that the Associate Editor has retained you as a reviewer specifically for your expertise in the technical aspects and has explicitly asked you to check certain details.

    - Likewise, we do not expect you to go through the paper line-by-line checking for and noting typographical and grammatical errors. Regarding the exposition, it is sufficient to restrict your comments to issues of style, clarity, and structure of presentation.

    - We ask that you consider the following essential questions when formulating your review:

        o  Is the problem addressed of clear biometrical importance?

        o  Is the application interesting and well laid-out?

        o  Are new methods developed and/or the application reported new and interesting? For Biometric Methodology papers, do the new methods developed represent a genuine advance over what is currently available? For Biometric Practice papers, is what is presented innovative, creative, and likely to have an impact on practice?

        o  Have the authors faithfully referenced the relevant literature?

        o  Have the authors described the application of new or existing methods in sufficient detail that one could, for example, write a program to implement the methods and/or analysis?

        o  Are there changes or additions that could improve the science of the paper?

        o  Are there changes or additions that could make the paper more accessible to readers? We are not asking you here to rewrite the paper but merely to point out which parts of the paper might be made better by the authors.

    - Because space in Biometrics is at a premium, we ask that you consider carefully whether or not some of what is presented in the paper could be presented instead in supplementary materials and make recommendations in your comments to the editors. For example, are there mathematical derivations or appendices that could be moved to a supplementary appendix? Would it be sufficient to report only a few representative simulations in the paper and present the remaining simulation results in supplementary appendices and tables?

    - When you are refereeing a revised paper that you have reviewed previously, we ask that you focus your attention on the issues you raised on the initial review rather than conducting a de novo review of the paper. Thus, we request that, in this situation, in fairness to authors who have responded in good faith to original criticisms, you do not bring up new issues that were present in the original version and that you could have raised on the initial review but did not. On an initial review, then, please consider carefully and raise at that time all points that you feel should be addressed by the authors.

Some exceptions to this policy:

        o  If you notice issues you neglected to raise originally that would take trivial effort to address (e.g., "the material at the top of p. 7 could be made clear if you mentioned X and Y"). However, please do not produce long lists of such trivial changes.

        o  If the paper has been rewritten so extensively that it is essentially a new paper.

        o  If you notice a FATAL flaw in the paper at the revision stage that you did not recognize when reviewing the original. Here, a fatal flaw is one that is so serious as to significantly undercut or virtually invalidate the contribution of the paper; a fatal flaw is not just any weakness.

        o  Where the author has provided on request extra details regarding a proof, simulation results, or data analysis, and these extra details lead to the discovery of further problems that could not have been apparent in the original version.

        It is acceptable to bring up a new issue as a "suggestion" with the understanding that it is up to the authors whether or not to address it in the current paper, explore it in a future paper, or ignore it. Such suggestions should be identified clearly as points that the authors are under no obligation to address in the current paper.

        Of course, if authors have not responded satisfactorily to issues you did raise on an initial review, it is appropriate to note this in your report on a revision and ask again that they do so.

4. Time to Review

Biometrics is committed to maintaining swift times to review; currently, our review times are among the shortest in the statistical profession. Please submit your report within 4-6 weeks of agreeing to serve as a referee.

If the requested time frame for completing your review falls during a very busy time (e.g., preceding a grant deadline), so that you anticipate that you would be unable to submit your report in a timely fashion, we would prefer that you decline the invitation to review and provide the Associate Editor with the names/contact information of other qualified reviewers.

If you have agreed to review a paper and find that you are having difficulty meeting the time limit, please notify the Associate Editor and let him/her know and inform him/her as to when s/he may expect to receive your report. The Associate Editor and/or Executive Editor may query you by email if your report is outstanding; we would be grateful for your prompt reply to these queries.

As you undoubtedly know, review times for statistical journals are considerably longer than those in many other disciplines. This has been a continuing issue for our profession that has been documented repeatedly over the years. Remarks on the review process were given in an enlightened discussion by Leon Jay Gleser in the American Statistician (1985, volume 4, pages 310-312). Also see the IMS Bulletin (1995, volume 24, #6, pages 607-608) for an interesting discussion. Former Editor Raymond J. Carroll presented a commentary in Biometrics (2001, volume 57, pages 1-6); this is also available as a PDF file at http://www.biometrics.tibs.org/carroll.pdf, and Executive Editor Marie Davidian presented a commentary in the September 2013 issue of the Amstat News.