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Reviewer Guidelines & Publication Criteria

1. About The International Journal of Spine Surgery.

The International Journal of Spine Surgery is a publication aimed at disseminating high-quality spine surgery research to an audience of physicians, policy-makers, and patients. To achieve this goal of maximizing the impact of the research we publish, the Journal provides access to its articles without any paywall or subscription.

In order to provide free, instant public access to articles, the Journal has opted not to charge author fees; submitting an article and publishing with the Journal remains just as free as reading articles. The Journal is funded by reprints, permissions, advertisements, partnerships, grants & donations, and so on. As in traditional scholarly publishing models, the Journal holds copyright on its published material rather than using any alternative licensing scheme. The Journal’s fast, free publication fits the criteria for many Open Access funder mandates (NIH, AHRQ and other US agencies, Research Councils UK, Wellcome Trust, and any that do not require compulsory Creative Commons or alternative rights schemes; if you have questions, please inquire at

The double-blinded peer review of each article is a rigorous process, created around recommendations from the ICMJE, and focuses on ensuring that any new technologies or techniques are explained clearly and on the technical and statistical soundness of methods outlined in articles as well as their execution.

2. Criteria for Publication

To be accepted for publication in the Journal, research articles must satisfy the following criteria:

  1. The material must be not only relevant but of utility to spine surgeons, biomechanical engineers, and/or scientists involved in spine surgery research.

  2. Results reported in primary scientific research have not been published elsewhere.

  3. Experiments, statistics, and other analyses are performed to a high technical standard and are described in sufficient detail.

  4. Conclusions are presented in an appropriate fashion and are supported by the data.

  5. The article is presented in an intelligible fashion and is written in standard English.

  6. The research meets all applicable standards for the ethics of experimentation and research integrity.

The Journal’s Peer Reviewer Board, and any invited external peer reviewers, will evaluate submissions against these criteria.

To expand on each of these criteria:

  1. Is the manuscript not only relevant but of utility to spine surgeons, biomechanical engineers, and/or scientists involved in spine surgery research? As the official scientific publication of the International Society for the Advancement of Spine Surgery, the audience of both Journal and Society are the same: surgeons, engineers, and scientists. The Journal accepts primary research, editorials & commentary, trial protocols, case reports of considerable interest, meta-analyses, and literature reviews.

  2. Have the results reported been published elsewhere? The Journal does not accept for publication work that has already been published elsewhere. However, studies that replicate results that are already in the literature may be considered for publication, as the independent confirmation of results can often be valuable, as can the presentation of a new dataset (for example, a new clinical trial). Research that has been put into an institutional repository or written as a thesis do not disqualify an article from publication.

  3. Are the experiments, statistics, and other analyses performed to a high technical standard and are described in sufficient detail? The research must have been performed to a technical standard high enough to allow robust conclusions to be drawn from the data. Methods, instruments, and reagents must also be described in sufficient detail so that another researcher is able to reproduce the experiments or surgical techniques described.

  4. Are the conclusions presented in an appropriate fashion with speculations and hypotheses identified as such? The results must be interpreted appropriately, such that all conclusions are justified. However, authors may discuss possible explanations for their results as long as these are clearly identified as speculations or hypotheses, rather than as firm conclusions. Inappropriate interpretation of results is a justifiable reason for rejection.

  5. Is the article presented in an intelligible fashion and written in English? Journal staff perform only minimal copyediting the text of accepted manuscripts; it is therefore important for the work, as presented, to be intelligible. Perfect, stylish English is not essential but the language must be clear and unambiguous. If the language of a paper is poor, Editors should recommend that authors seek independent editorial help before submission of a revision. Poor presentation and language is a justifiable reason for rejection.

  6. Does the research meet all applicable standards with regard to the ethics of experimentation and research integrity? Research published in the Journal must have been conducted to the highest ethical standards, usually as determined by Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval. As there is no single global IRB, the onus is on the author to ensure that they have have received the appropriate approval from whatever formal ethical organizations are relevant to their research. Industry-funded research requires at least one author that is not an employee of the sponsoring organization.

3. Overview of the Editorial Process

The Journal will provide all authors with an efficient and "hassle-free" editorial process. Our aim is to identify those submissions that warrant inclusion in the scientific record and present them to the scientific community with as few hurdles as possible. The editorial process is run by the journal’s extensive Section Editors who work together to orchestrate the peer-review process. Editors are invited to handle submitted manuscripts on the basis of the content of the manuscript and their own expertise. The Editor evaluates the paper and decides whether it describes a body of work that meets the editorial criteria of the Journal. Editors can employ a variety of methods, alone or in combination, to reach a decision in which they are confident:

  • They can conduct the peer review themselves, based on their own knowledge and experience

  • They can take further advice through discussion with other members of the editorial board

  • They can solicit reports from further referees

After appropriate consideration by the Editor, a decision letter to the author is drafted. This letter may also be circulated to other members of the editorial board, who are given a short time to comment on the editorial decision. There are several types of decisions that may be made by Section Editors:

  • Accept, which requires the approval of both Section Editor and Editor in Chief

  • Revision

  • Reject

Upon acceptance, the manuscript is checked by Journal staff to ensure that it is in a form that will allow it to be efficiently handled by our production system. The authors will be queried and allowed to make any final minor revisions that are needed when presented with a draft proof.

This is the final stage at which authors will see their manuscript before publication. It is therefore essential that authors provide a thoroughly proofread and checked manuscript, following the author checklist and any comments from Journal staff.

4. Reviewer Selection

Selection of reviewers for a particular manuscript is the responsibility of the Section Editors and is based on many factors, including expertise, reputation, specific recommendations of authors and editors, and the Editor’s own knowledge of a reviewer’s past performance.

As part of our editorial procedure, we confer with potential reviewers before sending them manuscripts to review. Reviewers should bear in mind that even these initial messages or conversations contain confidential information, which should be regarded as such.

5. Using the Reviewer Form

The Journal employs a structured reviewer form to help reviewers share their insights with authors and improve the efficiency of peer review. The form consists of three sections:

  1. Reviewer Suggestion (required) Reviewers here answer the question of whether the manuscript should be Accepted, sent back for Revision, or Rejected.

  2. Comments to the Author (required) In this section, reviewers should address each and every point in which the manuscript may be improved in their estimation, especially those with regard to the publication criteria above. Authors should be given a chance to improve their manuscript as much as possible, and this feedback is the core of the peer review process.

  3. Confidential to Editor In this section, reviewers must declare any potential or perceived competing interests that may influence their review, as well as any other comments that they wish to remain confidential between themselves and the editor or to further explain the choice made in 1).

More broadly, reviewers may wish to consult this helpful guide to peer reviewing.

6. Confidentiality

The review process is strictly confidential and should be treated as such by reviewers. As the author may have chosen to exclude some people from this process, no one who is not directly involved with the manuscript (including colleagues and other experts in the field) should be consulted by the reviewer unless such consultations have first been discussed with the Section Editor. Reviewers must not take any confidential information they have gained in the review process and use it before the paper is published. Even after publication, unless they have the permission of the authors to use other information, reviewers may only use publicly published data (i.e. the contents of the published article) and not information from any earlier drafts.

7. Timely Review

An efficient editorial process that results in timely publication provides a valuable service both to authors and to the scientific community at large. The authors are your peers and deserve due respect.

8. Anonymity

Reviewers may remain anonymous during the review process or may choose to sign their review and therefore become known to the author.

9. Editing Reviewers' Reports

The editors and Journal staff do not edit any comments made by reviewers that have been intended to be read by the authors unless the language is deemed inappropriate for professional communication or the comments contain information considered confidential. Such remarks should be reserved for the confidential section of the review form, which is intended to be read by the editors only. In their comments to authors, reviewers are encouraged to be honest but not offensive in their language. On the other hand, authors should not confuse frank and perhaps even robust language with unfair criticism.

10. Competing Interests

As far as possible, we respect requests by authors to exclude reviewers whom they consider to be unsuitable. We also, as much as possible, try to rule out those reviewers who may have an obvious competing interest, such as those who may have been collaborators on other projects with the authors of this manuscript, those who may be direct competitors, those who may have a known history of antipathy with the author(s), or those who might profit financially from this work. Because it is not possible for all such competing interests to be known by a particular editor, we request that reviewers who recognize a potential competing interest inform the editors or journal staff and recuse themselves if they feel that are unable to offer an impartial review.

On occasion, reviewers may be asked to offer their opinion on a manuscript that they may have reviewed for some other journal. This is not in itself a competing interest. That two journals have identified the same person as especially well qualified to judge the manuscript under consideration does not in any way decrease the validity of that opinion and may perhaps even enhance it.