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SIAM Journal on Mathematics of Data Science

Instructions for Referees


SIAM Journal on Mathematics of Data Science (SIMODS) publishes papers that document significant advances on foundations and methods of mathematics, statistics, and computation that have applications to the data and information sciences. See the editorial policy for more details about the scope of the journal. We depend heavily on our referees and are greatly indebted to you for maintaining the quality and timeliness of our journal. Thank you for your help in assessing manuscripts.


Part I: Advice for Referees

Duties of a Referee

SIMODS seeks to publish papers that are novel, correct, and significant.

The task of a referee is to provide a professional opinion on a paper, including justification for the evaluation. In particular, the reviewer must make a recommendation on whether the paper should be accepted (perhaps after revision) or rejected from the journal.

A referee is expected to read the paper with sufficient care to be confident that it is mathematically sound. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to check every detail. The author has final responsibility for the content.

The referee must also be candid about his or her level of expertise on the topic of the paper, as well as the comprehensiveness of the review.


Schedule

In accepting an assignment, a referee commits to return a report within the timeframe specified by the editor.

If a paper is severely flawed, the referee should send a summary report to the editor as soon as possible. This report should explain briefly and concretely why the paper is unlikely to be publishable in SIMODS.

For most papers, SIMODS expects a detailed report within six weeks. If more time is required, the reviewer should communicate with the editor about the timeline for completing the review.

SIMODS always values thoughtful and careful reviews more than rapid reviews. In particular, papers that are long or difficult may merit extra attention.


Content of the Report

The referee should summarize the contributions of the paper and then comment on the major and minor shortcomings, if any. A list of corrections (spelling, grammar, or mathematics) is generally helpful. All criticism should be constructive and free from animus.

In compiling the review, please consider the following questions:

Scientific evaluation

  • Who would be interested in the results of this paper?
  • Is the paper technically sound?
  • Does the paper represent progress?
  • Are the results surprising?

Scientific context

  • Does the paper provide context for the research, including a treatment of related work?
  • Does the discussion illuminate the importance of the results/methods/experiments?
  • Is the bibliography complete?

Summary material

  • Is the title apropos?
  • Does the abstract give sufficient context and summarize the key contributions?

Presentation

  • Is the writing clear?
  • Is the notation clear?
  • Is the paper well organized?
  • Does the paper include appropriate tables, figures, algorithms, or code?

Mathematics

  • Are there any mathematical or technical errors?
  • Are theoretical claims properly justified?

Computation

  • Are algorithm statements sufficiently detailed?
  • Are the experimental results complete enough to support the claims?
  • Are the experimental results reproducible?
  • Are the methods compared to the state of the art?

Ethics

It is vital to the field, as well as to the reputation of SIAM and its journals, that conflicts of interest (COIs) be avoided. For all assigned papers, editors and referees are required to declare any conflict of interest or even the appearance of one. COIs include handling a paper authored by someone to whom the editor or reviewer has a close relationship (personal, mentoring, research, professional, or financial). COIs also include handling papers on a topic closely related to the editor's or referee's active research for which editorial delay or rejection of the paper could give the appearance of conflict.

Editors will do their utmost to avoid assigning papers that would present a COI, but self-reporting is also mandated due to the difficulty of tracking all affiliations of authors, referees, and editors. If there is a COI, it is SIAM policy that the manuscript be assigned to a different editor or referee. If there is an appearance of a COI but no actual conflict, then the situation should be referred to the editor-in-chief or the SIAM office for a final decision on how to proceed.

All manuscripts are submitted in confidence. Editors and referees are bound to confidentiality about manuscripts that they handle or are asked to handle. Neither the editor nor the reviewer may pulge the contents of a paper unless it is publicly available, e.g., on the arXiv. A reviewer may request the permission of the editor to discuss a paper with others in certain cases, e.g., a professor may ask a PhD student to assist with the review or vice versa. Editors and reviewers must never use the manuscript to advance their own research until the manuscript is made public by the authors.

Timeliness in reviews can also be an ethical matter. Not only does the career advancement of the members of the field depends on timely publication of their results, but the success of the field as a whole can be impacted. We strongly encourage referees to submit their reviews on time or to inform the editor of unavoidable delays.


What is a Conflict of Interest?

  • A situation in which an inpidual has competing interests or loyalties. In the context of your referee duties, please notify the editor if any of the authors falls into one of these groups, even if it's just the appearance of a conflict of interest:
    • Spouse or family member (lifetime)
    • Present or past PhD students and postdocs (lifetime)
    • Collaborators within the last 48 months
    • Authors from your home institution
    • Authors from institutions where you currently seek employment
    • Close personal or professional relationships
  • Most important: Would a reasonable person with all the relevant facts question your impartiality? Are there any other extenuating circumstances that might interfere with your ability to be impartial? If the answer to either of these is yes, notify the editor.

References

  • S. Krantz, "A Primer of Mathematical Writing," AMS, Providence, 1997.

Part II: General Information

Review Process

The manuscript submission and peer review process breaks down as follows:

  1. The author submits a manuscript.
  2. The editor-in-chief assigns a section editor.
  3. The section editor assigns an associate editor to act as review editor for the manuscript.
  4. The associate editor selects referees to review and report on the manuscript.
  5. The referees review the manuscript.
  6. The associate editor makes a decision and the author is contacted.

Navigating the System

All SIMODS papers go through review in the web-based Journal Submission & Tracking System. When invited to serve as a referee there are two ways to gain access to the manuscript.

  1. You'll receive email with basic information about the paper, and a link to view the manuscript. When you use the link to gain access to the web-based system and to see the paper, you are presented with a link to accept the assignment, and a link to decline the assignment.
    • Accept referee assignment: If you accept, the link will automatically log you into the system and take you directly to the files for the pertinent paper.
    • Decline referee assignment: If you are unable to review this manuscript and must decline we appreciate any suggestions of potential referees. You can suggest other reviewers or offer any observation on the paper by email. You can also enter your observations or suggest other referees directly into the system after you click the decline link.
  2. You can alternately access your files by logging into the system located here using your user name and password. You are then taken to your "Home" page. It will list your assignment via a manuscript link. After clicking this link, you will be presented with a screen containing:
    • Information about the specific manuscript and the paper in PDF format.
    • Links to Accept/Decline to serve as a referee.
    • A link to contact journal staff

Review Manuscript

Once in the system you will be presented with a "Manuscript" screen. At the bottom of this screen under "Manuscript Tasks" is a "Review Manuscript" link. Clicking on this link displays the "Review Manuscript" screen. This screen asks for a recommendation and for a report.

Note that in giving a recommendation, along with a free-form text box that allows you to copy and paste a report and/or comments, you must:

Select from a drop-down menu: What is the potential for this paper, supposing any current shortcomings are addressed?

  • Not appropriate: paper is out of scope for the journal
  • Marginal impact: Contribution of limited interest
  • Topical impact: Significant contribution, specific constituency
  • Major impact: Significant contribution, broad interest
  • Landmark: Opens new lines of inquiry for the field

Select from a drop-down menu: Recommendation based on the paper's current state:

  • Reject outright
  • Return to the author for major revisions, outlined in comments
  • Publish after minor revisions, outlined in comments
  • Publish as is

Other Notes

Text Box for Reports

If you prefer to work offline, you may find it faster and easier to download and print the manuscript, draft your review remarks in plain text or TeX, and copy and paste into the referee remarks text area on this screen.

NOTE: As a referee, SIMODS offers the option of attaching a file to deliver your report. It is recommended, however, that you instead use the text box on the Referee Recommendation Screen to type or paste plain text or TeX code. PDF and Word file attachments sometimes contain hidden information that reveal your identity. If you must send an attachment know that it may be forwarded to the author by the review editor, so please be sure to first edit the file for profile information that, if left in place, could disclose your identity as the owner/creator. Further information on finding and removing identity clues in referee reports is available here.


Private Note to Editor

There is also a text box available if you wish to include a private message to the editor. Comments entered here are not meant to be seen by the author(s).


Supplementary Materials

SIMODS authors are encouraged to submit Supplementary Materials to complement articles. They might include additional figures or examples, animations, data sets used in the paper, computer code used to generate figures or tables, or other materials that are necessary to fully document the research contained in the paper or to facilitate the readers' ability to understand and extend the work.

If you are refereeing a paper that does include Supplementary Materials, along with the manuscript, know that the Supplementary Materials are generally not refereed but are available to you, as a referee. As part of your review you are asked to give the materials at least a cursory look and verify that they are appropriate to accompany the article. You may suggest changes, including removing some extraneous Supplementary Materials or moving items from the main text to the Supplementary Materials.

The author is also asked to submit an index of the supplementary materials. You should find a listing of each item along with a brief description and a justification for why the item should be included. This should be helpful in judging the appropriateness of the materials. Full guidelines on the journal's Supplementary Materials policy are available here.


Author Rights to Unpublished Manuscripts

All manuscripts are privileged documents; an author retains the right to the unpublished work. A referee should not use results or ideas obtained exclusively through the refereeing process in his or her own research.

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