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Reviewer guide

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General information

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). For more information on the principles that are of relevance to reviewers, please visit our journal policies webpage. Information on our editorial process can be found here. Further details on different article types can be found here and in the sections below.

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; 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.

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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 & Techniques’ 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 are occasions where referees need to communicate comments of a confidential nature to the Editor (particularly where there may be ethical issues), and we therefore provide a box for such confidential comments.

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.

Papers rejected from Journal of Cell Science may be transferred, with the authors' approval, to The Company of Biologists’ online-only Open Access journal Biology Open (BiO) for editorial review. In this case, the authors may choose to make the reviewers' reports available to the BiO Editors. By passing on reports, our aim is to reduce the burden on authors and reviewers by avoiding the multiple rounds of review often encountered on a paper's route to publication. Reviewers may choose whether to remain anonymous to the BiO Editors (reviewers are always anonymous to authors). Named reviewers will not be approached for further review by BiO.

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Tools & Techniques articles

Journal of Cell Science asks reviewers of Tools & Techniques papers to assess whether the paper describes a novel technique, or a sufficiently substantial advance of an existing technique, and whether the technique being reported will have a significant impact on cell biology research. The new technique should be described in sufficient detail to be easily replicated in other laboratories, and validation of the approach should be included, as should an application of the technique to an area of 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 & Techniques papers. As with Research Articles and Short Reports, Tools & Techniques papers rejected from Journal of Cell Science can be transferred, with the author’s approval, to our online-only Open Access journal Biology Open (BiO) for editorial assessment.

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Commissioned articles

Commissioned articles in Journal of Cell Science (Commentaries, 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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