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Review Guidelines

Transparent Peer Review

  • Rigorous, constructive, efficient and transparent

  • Two phases: independent review & interactive, collaborative review

  • Reviewers and the handling Editor acknowledged on all published articles

  • Timely process, ensuring prompt decisions are shared with authors


Earth Science, Systems and Society (ES3) operates a transparent peer review model, whereby the identity of authors is known to the reviewers and reviewers are encouraged to share their identity with authors via the reviewer report.

The Geological Society of London and its chosen collaborator, Frontiers Media, have a dedicated in-house Editorial Office Team whose role is to collaborate with the Chief Editor and Editorial Board in overseeing and supporting the peer review process.

We believe peer review must be centered on objective criteria for the validity and quality of the work presented. At the same time, it should be rigorous, fair, constructive, accountable and transparent for everyone involved. Last, but not least, peer review needs to be efficient.

As part of the process, the journal utilises collaborative review forum that unites authors, reviewers and the handling Editor online and brings the highest quality service to all participants of the review process. All submissions, including those that are part of Special Issues, undergo the same rigorous review process.

General Principles

ES3 upholds strict quality standards for manuscripts and the peer-review process through clear criteria and a dedicated Editorial team.

Editorial Board members and selected reviewers judge the value and validity of presented work through rigorous quality checks. The Board is supported in its approach by the Editorial Office Team at the Geological Society and Frontiers Media.

Manuscripts are assessed on a number of criteria (detailed below). Those that meet these criteria can be accepted for publication, those that do not meet the criteria can be rejected.

Manuscripts are assigned to a member of the journal's Editorial Board, whose role as handling Editor is to collaborate with reviewers on providing reports and a decision for authors. The Chief Editor oversees the whole process and can be called upon to provide adjudication, where necessary.

The Editorial Office Team performs pre- and post-review quality screens and can reject articles that do not meet acceptance criteria. This model ensures rigorous peer review, rapid decisions and the publication of high-quality research.

  • Authors must submit a manuscript that has significant scholarly value and falls within the scope of the journal. They must comply with all editorial and ethical policies and take all reviewer and editor comments into consideration.

  • Reviewers are subject experts and evaluate manuscripts by using the quality assessment tool and designated review questionnaire that prioritize scientific quality, rigor and validity. They evaluate the methodology of a study for solidity and rigor, ensure the research provides valid conclusions, and is supported by sufficient data.

  • Editors are subject experts and assess the peer-review process and manuscripts meticulously. Editors are responsible for the final decision relating to the manuscript, based on the outcome of the review process.

The Chief Editor, Editors, reviewers and authors are guided and supported by the Editorial Office Team, a dedicated team that upholds and ensures high quality standards for manuscripts and the peer review itself, certifying the quality, scientific rigour and validity of research articles and promoting collaboration among authors, reviewers and editors.

If an editor, reviewer or author is in doubt on how to proceed during the peer-review process, the Editorial Office Team is the main point of contact for guidance, with two specialized sub-teams: the Research Integrity Team and the Editorial Review Operations Team.

Manuscript Quality Standards

The Editorial Office Team ensures that manuscripts adhere to high quality research and ethical standards and prevents the publication of any manuscripts that are below the journal's quality standards.

ES3 applies the following criteria for acceptance and rejection of manuscripts:

Acceptance Criteria

All submissions accepted for ES3 must be VALID:

  • Valid research question and hypothesis, with a relevant theory to which the research question is being posed

  • Applies correct and transparent methodology, and the study design and materials are clearly laid out

  • Language and presentation are clear and adequate, figures and tables are in line with scientific norms and standards

  • In line with author guidelines on editorial and ethical policies

  • Determined by grounding in existing literature through sufficient referencing and appropriate coverage of the relevant literature

Rejection Criteria

A submission may be rejected at any stage during initial validation, peer review or final validation for the following reasons:

  • The manuscript does not have a valid research question or hypothesis

  • There are clear objective errors in the methodology of the study design, data collection or analysis

  • The manuscript does not conform to our editorial policies as it is not original, is plagiarized, or is a duplication of previous work

  • The language and presentation of the manuscript is not of sufficient quality for a rigorous and efficient peer review to take place

  • The study violates our ethical policies by not complying with privacy protection guidelines, ethical review board approval guidelines and internationally recognized standards for research involving humans or animals

  • The authors have not adhered to our authorship guidelines or have fabricated, falsified data or manipulated images and figures in a deceitful manner

  • The references are clearly biased (geographical, self-citation, school of thought) and do not reflect the current status of knowledge in the field

  • Based on biased or faulty analyses, the study's conclusions are misleading and could even pose a public health threat

  • The study investigates a pseudoscientific research question

Peer Review Quality Standards

The Geological Society and its chosen collaborator, Frontiers Media, establish and uphold the peer-review guidelines for editors, reviewers and authors, which incorporate the best practices and editorial policies.

The journal's quality standards are as follows:

  • Editors and reviewers are experts in the subject of the manuscript, with necessary expertise to evaluate the research by having established a sufficient research work or publication record on the same or related research area;

  • Editors and reviewers have no relationship to the authors and/or research that would affect the objectivity of the peer-review process;

  • In case the peer review is ongoing, and it is discovered that editors or reviewers do not have the relevant expertise or have a conflict-of-interest, they can be revoked and replaced during review by the Peer Review Team and/or the editor;

  • Reviewers thoroughly complete the subject-specific questionnaire provided to assess the scientific rigour, quality and validity of the manuscript they are reviewing. Review reports are verified to ensure they provide a constructive assessment of the manuscripts' validity and quality to the authors;

  • Final editorial checks to verify that the peer-review process adhered to the quality standards, that the reviewers' and editor's concerns have been addressed and that the manuscript is ready for publication;

  • Only high-quality manuscripts that pass our acceptance criteria are published.

In accepting a peer-review assignment with ES3, editors and reviewers agree to:

1.   Have the necessary expertise to judge the manuscript's quality, rigour and validity;

2.   Submit thorough, high-quality review reports;

3.   Provide feedback in a timely manner, remaining responsive to collaborate with the authors;

4.   Behave in a professional, ethical way and be constructive during interactions with the editors, authors and editorial team.

In parallel, for manuscripts to remain under consideration for publication, the authors must:

1.   Remain engaged with the peer-review process and responsive for queries from the editors, reviewers or ES3 Editorial Office;

2.   Behave in a professional way, use constructive, respectful language when communicating with the editorial board members, reviewers or ES3 Editorial Office, and collaborate effectively during the peer-review process.

Participants in the peer review will be removed from their assignments if they do not adhere to and meet these review standards. Manuscripts can also be rejected should the authors be unresponsive for an extended period of time (30 days) or use inappropriate, offensive language when communicating with the Editorial Board members or Editorial Office.

Pillars of Peer Review

ES3's model of peer review provides and guarantees:

Collaborative Review

The Collaborative Review Forum unites authors, reviewers and the handling Editor - and if need be the Chief Editor - in a direct online dialogue, enabling quick iterations and facilitating consensus. Editors and reviewers work with the authors to improve their manuscript.

Objective Review

Editors and reviewers have the mandate to focus on objective criteria evaluating the quality, rigour and validity of the study and to ensure that the results are valid, the analysis is correct, and the quality high. Reviewers may recommend rejection based upon objective errors and the criteria for rejection. Judgements regarding the importance of a paper can be made through open post-publication reviews.

Rigorous Review

ES3 provides a review questionnaire template to make reviews systematic and convene the efforts of reviewers on objective issues. The review must focus solely on the quality of both the research and the manuscript, and must aim at providing constructive comments to bring the final paper to its best quality. This allows fair, rapid, comprehensive and comparable assessment of research.

Transparent Review

To guarantee the most rigorous and objective reviews, the identities of reviewers remain anonymous during the review period.

When a manuscript is accepted for publication, the Journal’s policy is for the names of the reviewers and their review reports to appear with the final published article.

Where reviewers have endorsed publication, this will happen without exceptions. If a reviewer recommends rejection or withdraws from the review after submitting their reviewer report, they will be named on publication and the handling Editor will check the report to determine its suitability for sharing. 

If a reviewer recommends rejection or withdraws from the review process before submitting a review report, their name will not be disclosed.

The handling Editor's name is also made public on the published article, acknowledging their contribution.

As a result of this process, reviews are conducted constructively, with editors and reviewers holding a level of accountability and responsibility for the paper by providing rigorous feedback that delivers the highest possible quality publication. Please also note that, as ES3 operates a single-blind peer review process, the authors' identities are known to the reviewers.

Efficient Review

The publisher's team supports authors, reviewers, and editors, encouraging timely action and clear communication during peer review, to ensure efficient completion of the process.

Full Peer Review Guidelines

The journal's peer review process consists of two phases.

  • Independent Review

During the Independent Review phase, the reviewers assess the manuscript independently from each other and from the authors, according to a standardized review template. These templates are adapted to each article type.

  • Interactive Review

During the Interactive Review phase, authors and reviewers can interact with each other through real-time comments in the discussion forum - with the aim of addressing all concerns about the manuscript. The handling Editor oversees the review process, and, if required, the Chief Editor can also enter the Review Forum.

Post-Submission Steps

Once a manuscript is submitted, the publisher's Editorial Office Team, in collaboration with the Chief Editor, conducts a pre-screening for validation of research integrity and quality standards.

Manuscripts may be rejected at the pre-screening review stage for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Objective errors in the methods, applications, or interpretations were identified in the manuscript that prevent further consideration

  • Ethical issues were identified in the manuscript that prevent further review or publication

  • The content of this manuscript does not meet the standards of rigor required by the journal to be considered for publication (see full rejection criteria above)

Manuscripts which pass the pre-screening stage will be sent for full review. An Editorial Board member will be invited to act as handling Editor to oversee the manuscript's peer review process. Handling Editors will invite experts to review the manuscript; most article types require at least two reviewers to complete a review.

Independent Review Phase

The reviewers are asked to submit their reports via the journal's online Collaborative Review Forum within 28 days after accepting the assignment. This is done independently by each reviewer. The handling Editor is automatically notified as soon as reports are submitted.

Once all reviewers have submitted a report, the Editor is responsible for activating the next phase, i.e. the Interactive Review, to release the review reports to the authors. If the Editor would like to recommend rejection during the Independent Review phase, they can do so by activating the Interactive Review phase with major concerns, providing the authors with the reports and a unique opportunity for rebuttal during a defined timeframe.

Interactive Review Phase

Once the Editor activates the Interactive Review phase, authors are immediately notified and granted access to the Collaborative Review Forum, where they are able to view the reviewers' comments. Authors are asked to respond and/or submit a revised manuscript within 21, 35 or 60 days, depending on the level of revisions requested by the editor. The journal's Editorial Office will make all reasonable endeavours to communicate with authors in a clear and timely manner. In cases where authors are unresponsive to repeated messaging and / or following a certain period, the Editorial Office reserves the right to withdraw the manuscript from the review process.

The Editor can access and post comments in the Collaborative Review Forum at any time. Additionally, the Editor monitors the discussions occurring between authors and reviewers within the Forum and ensures not only the timeliness, but also the constructiveness, of the participants' interactions.

Should a dispute arise at this stage, the Editor must act as a mediator, working with all parties involved to resolve the issues and even inviting new reviewers for further opinions if needed. If the disagreement persists, the Chief Editor is then invited to enter the Interactive Review phase, assess the situation, and take a final decision as to whether the review should be ended by rejecting the manuscript or continued - potentially, but not necessarily, with a new handling Editor and set of reviewers.

When a disagreement cannot be resolved to the satisfaction of a reviewer, he/she can choose to recommend rejection of the manuscript. The handling Editor is then informed of the rejection recommendation and the reason. A reviewer can also withdraw from the review at any time. In both cases of rejection recommendation and withdrawal, the reviewer will no longer participate in the Review Forum, but may continue to follow the manuscript status under their My Account page. The Editor is informed of the reviewer recommendations and may choose to further recommend rejection to the Chief Editor, or invite other reviewers to receive additional expert opinions. If a reviewer submitted an Independent Review Report prior to withdrawal or rejection recommendation, the report will be maintained in the Review Forum for participants to access throughout the review process. It is not removed or lost.

During this phase, a manuscript may be rejected at any point for the following reasons:

  • Objective errors in the methods, applications, or interpretations were identified in this manuscript that prevent further consideration;

  • Ethical issues were identified in this manuscript that prevent further review or publication;

  • The content of this manuscript does not meet the standards of rigor required by the journal to be considered for publication;

  • The manuscript could not be sufficiently revised by the authors to address the concerns raised by the reviewers or editor during the review process;

  • Other reasons that meet the rejection criteria.

The review is complete only once all reviewer and editor comments have been satisfactorily addressed by the authors.


Should a dispute arise that may result in the rejection of the manuscript, the authors may trigger an arbitration. In the first place, the handling Editor will mediate and involve all reviewers in a discussion aimed at resolving the dispute.

If a resolution cannot be agreed upon, the Chief Editor will be alerted for consultation. A manuscript must be rejected if the arbitration rules that any of the rejection criteria are met.

Reviewers are entitled to trigger an arbitration, too, if they judge that the authors are reluctant to make required changes. Reviewers may of course recommend rejection at any time or withdraw from the review process if they disagree with the arbitration ruling (in both cases their identity remains undisclosed). The withdrawal of a reviewer requires the recruitment of a new one, which slows down the process. Therefore, authors are encouraged to cooperate as much as possible in addressing the concerns of the reviewers involved with their manuscript. Should an arbitration rule in favour of the authors, then the manuscript can be accepted even if there was a previous rejection recommendation.

Manuscript Acceptance

If the reviewers endorse the publication of the manuscript in its current form, they can specify this decision via their report, submission of which automatically notifies the handling Editor. For acceptance to be considered, the manuscript must a) meet the VALID acceptance criteria, and b) undergo the peer review process and receive endorsement from the handling Editor and reviewers. Special exception may be granted at the Editor’s discretion to accept a manuscript with one reviewer endorsement.

The Editor can then either accept the final version of the manuscript or request further changes as necessary, typically within a few days. Acceptance of a manuscript can be decided by the handling Editor and does not require the approval of the Chief Editor.

Acceptance by the handling Editor moves the article into the Final Validation phase, during which the journal's Editorial Office Team performs final technical and quality checks, including whether the review was performed adequately. Should the manuscript fail the final checks, it can either be put back into review to address the identified issue(s) or else the provisional acceptance decision can be overridden and the manuscript will be rejected at this stage without publication.

The Article Processing Charge (APC) is payable within 30 days of acceptance and is required before final publication of the manuscript.

Manuscript Rejection

Manuscripts in receipt of two (or more) reviewer reports recommending a rejection will be considered for rejection by the handling Editor. The decision is usually made by the handling Editor with final approval from the Chief Editor. A rejection recommendation can also be made the Editorial Office Team, at the pre-screening stage, based on the rejection criteria.

If a manuscript is rejected, no Article Processing Charges or other fee is charged.

Short Peer Review Guidelines

The following articles types are attributed a shortened peer review:

Editorial, Letter to the Editor, and Special.

Short peer reviews differ from full peer reviews in two aspects: they are directly forwarded to the Interactive Review Phase and they may be reviewed by the handling Editor alone. It is up to the Editor's consideration if further reviewers are invited to the review process.

Interactive Review, manuscript acceptance and rejection follow the same rules as for full peer reviews.

Editorial Policies

Authors, reviewers, and editors involved with ES3 are expected to adhere to the Geological Society's code of publishing ethics, found here: