Journal cover Journal topic
Geoscientific Model Development An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

GMD editorial policy

In this publication guide, we concentrate on the points of the peer-review process most relevant to GMD editors, referees and authors. General guidance on the interactive public peer-review system is available elsewhere on the journal's website. All authors, referees, and editors should make themselves aware of the specific requirements for the different manuscript types, which are described on the manuscript types page.

Initial submission

Some features of the initial decision process followed by the editor are described below. In addition you are encouraged to download this flowchart to get an overview:

On initial submission, the editor first reads the manuscript to check that it is within scope and that it is of an appropriate quality to enter the peer-review process. Manuscripts must contain a tangible advance in the field of geoscientific modelling. Those which contain poorly supported scientific results should be rejected at this stage. Next, a few further checks need to be made:

  • Editors must check that the title of the paper includes the name and version number of the model or experiment discussed in the paper, where appropriate.
  • All papers must contain a code availability (or equivalent for model experiment description papers) paragraph, which states how the code may be obtained. For those cases where authors cannot or do not wish to make the code available once the manuscript is published, the reasons for this must be clearly stated in the manuscript.
  • In the case of a model or development description where code is not made publicly available for licensing or copyright restrictions reasons, the authors must grant access to the topical editor, who may reject the paper if this access is not given at some point during the peer-review process. In other cases the editors and referees are strongly encouraged to access the code through the means specified in the availability paragraph. The editor may need to liaise with the authors to make the model code available to the referees without compromising the referees' anonymity.

In the present system, finding the best solution to the points above is often reached via an amicable agreement in accord with GMD's aims through personal email exchange between editor and authors. Then, once a solution is agreed upon, the editor is able to enter their initial decision into the Copernicus system (e.g. technical corrections or minor revision).

At the initial stage the editor must also study the similarity report, if present. There are two points particular to GMD to consider here.

  • Some models and model developments are published as institutional internal documents or reports. For reasons of the traceability of model descriptions and code, GMD actively encourages authors to improve these "grey literature" documents so that they comply with GMD peer-review criteria and then to submit them for peer review at GMD. In the case where the internal document is available online, the similarity report metric may be very high. In such cases the editor does of course have to investigate the status of the earlier report, so, to avoid problems later on, it is helpful if the authors include information about any such other documents in their letter to the editor.
  • It is not uncommon to find in a model description submitted to GMD small paragraphs copied from another publication with only light editing. Often the other paper has a few authors in common with the authors of the submitted manuscript. While such self-plagiarism is not generally perceived as being as serious an offence as stealing someone else's results, it still needs to be remedied. If authors do not wish to rephrase the work in their own words, one obvious solution is for them to explicitly quote the other work with a citation.

Editors may, at their discretion, reject papers with a significant similarity report. If it is simply a matter of citing relevant texts or rephrasing some paragraphs, then resubmission can be encouraged. For a significant similarity report, the advantage of rejection with a request to resubmit is that there will be a new similarity check made on the resubmission. In the present system, this does not occur if the editor only asks for a revision.

If rejecting a paper on the grounds of quality at the initial decision phase, it is usually possible to do so positively. Quality is subjective but, by using the manuscript type descriptions, it should be possible to arrive at concrete reasons why the paper is inappropriate for GMD, and also to inform the authors of how a future submission of related work could be more successful. Bearing in mind the burden on referees it is important to refrain from sending very poorly written or seemingly unfinished work out for review. However, if in doubt, papers should be sent for peer review. Note that when rejecting as out of scope, it is now possible to specify other Copernicus/EGU journals which may be more appropriate.

If all the issues are dealt with adequately, the paper can be forwarded to the interactive public peer review.

Referee call

After accepting a paper for interactive public peer review, the editor is required to call referees.

The usual number of referees for a GMD paper is two. It is expected that these researchers should be from different institutions, and that they should both be independent from the editor. Editors are encouraged to use internet resources to find appropriate referees outside their usual circle of collaborators. In the case of multi-component models spanning more than one sub-field of geoscience, more referees may be called to review different components of the model. GMD covers the whole field of geoscience, so it is not uncommon for editors to edit papers somewhat out of their main field of expertise. In such cases, it is recommended that there should be three referees.

In the case where a paper is well within the field of interest of the editor, they may choose to review the paper themselves but should only do so when two other referees are already in place or when multiple referee calls have failed to find a second referee.

Interactive public peer-review period

The call to the referees goes out after the submitted manuscript is published online, after which the paper remains in open review for 8 weeks. During this time, the referees post their reviews which appear on the open-access GMD website for the paper and also fill in a checkpoint list indicating the quality of the paper. In addition, other scientists or members of the public may post comments, and the authors or editor may also add comments.

One idiosyncrasy with the system is that the second referee may read the first review and other comments before forming their own opinion, which can result in their review being largely a reaction to the discussion, rather than an independent view of the paper. This may be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage, but editors should be alert to the case of a purely reactive second review and at this point may call another referee, review the paper themselves or include additional comments in an editorial comment.

The review itself should focus on the clarity and rigour of the model description or development, and the extent to which it has been tested. It is not expected from a GMD paper that it contain novel scientific discoveries. If necessary, editors should be prepared to intervene and guide authors towards improved model description. The open-access format of the journal provides a useful way to issue that guidance in a constructive fashion. In particular, editorial comments published during the interactive discussion can be used to guide the discussion and indicate the progress through peer review. Editorial comments are particularly helpful at the start of the final response period and also when the final decision for acceptance or rejection for GMD is made.

Editors should make sure that someone (either a referee or the editor) has obtained the model or tool code. They may also attempt to compile the model, and run test cases where appropriate. In the case of other supplementary information, it should be downloaded and inspected with available software – e.g. the referees may open files in a NetCDF viewer.

In common with other journals, it is expected that editors will make their own comments on the manuscript and should guide the authors as to which parts of the reviews they should pay particular attention to.

Closed peer-review period

After the first revision is submitted, the review process is no longer visible to the public in real time. When a paper is accepted for GMD, the subsequent reviews and editor's comments will be published alongside the final paper, although the referees and editors also have the option to submit private comments. The paper may continue through any number of revisions, with or without calls to the same or new referees. When the paper is finally accepted or rejected for GMD, the editor should write a comment to that effect on the open-access review page, explaining their decision, especially in the case of a manuscript which has received conflicting reviews.

Responsibility for the final decision on the manuscript rests with the assigned topical editor, but any difficulties may be referred to the executive editors.

Special issues

GMD allows several papers to be collected together as a special issue. These can be used in the traditional sense to bring together a set of related papers over a defined time period. However, GMD special issues can be open-ended, and these allow papers describing incremental development of a model to be collected together indefinitely as the model develops. It is worth noting that due to their online nature, special issues can be created and added to retrospectively. It is also possible to create special issues in collaboration with other Copernicus/EGU journals. For example, this can be used to provide a home for MIP descriptions, with related model results published in other journals.

To propose a special issue, the authors should contact the Executive Editors in the first instance. The name of a contact person for the special issue is required. It is important to understand that manuscripts submitted to GMD special issues are handled the same way as other manuscripts: they are handled by the same topical editors (no "guest" editors for the special issue) and subject to the same editorial process.

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