For Reviewers

AGU's award-winning journals are widely respected because of the rigorous peer review by referees who volunteer their time, insight, and knowledge to improve the work of their colleagues and peers. Their contributions add value to the scientific enterprise and strengthen the quality of the research. Thank you to our reviewers!

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Review Criteria: All AGU Journals

Our volunteer reviewers contribute their time, insight, and knowledge, and are a big part of AGU’s long-standing success in publishing high-quality science to advance the Earth and space sciences. Thank you to our reviewers!

Reviewers for all AGU journals must evaluate the following criteria when reviewing submitted manuscripts. The criteria include questions on research significance, methods, data and its availability, appropriate referencing, presentation, and key points.

AGU’s journal reviewers are expected to follow the Ethical Obligations outlined in AGU’s Scientific Integrity and Professional Ethics Policy, which can be found in our Scientific Ethics and Integrity page.

A review will begin with these specific questions. We also ask reviewers to include a full formal review, which is explained further below. For more tips and guidance on writing a constructive peer review, visit our Reviewer Resources page.

Quick Links

Scientific Ethics and Integrity
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Reviewer Resources
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Data and Software guidance
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Review Questions

Is the paper significant and convincing?

Review responses:

  • Yes, the science is at the forefront of the discipline.
  • Yes, the paper is a significant contribution and worthy of prompt publication.
  • The paper has some unclear or incomplete reasoning but will likely be a significant contribution with revision and clarification; or there are major errors or gaps in the paper, but it could still become significant with major changes, revisions, and/or additional data.
  • No, the paper is not obviously a significant advance or contribution.
  • No, the paper is not strong and/or is not appropriate for this journal.

Do the methods, data, and analysis support the conclusions?
Review responses:

  • Yes.
  • Mostly yes, but some further information and/or data are needed.
  • No.

Is the referencing appropriate?
Review responses:

  • Yes.
  • Mostly yes, but some additions are necessary.
  • No.

Is the presentation of high quality?

Review responses:

  • Yes, it is well written and logically organized, and the figures and tables are appropriate.
  • The organization of the manuscript and presentation of the data and results need some improvement.
  • No, the writing, organization, and illustration make it too difficult to review.

Does the paper meet AGU's data and software guidance?
Reviewers must:

  • Read each Open Research (Availability Statement) section carefully to verify that ALL data and software necessary to understand, evaluate, replicate, and build upon the reported research have been preserved in a repository and cited in the Availability Statement and References.
  • Confirm that any supplemental data is also preserved in a repository and cited.
  • Check any hyperlinks (e.g., DOIs) that have been provided in the Open Research section to verify the accessibility of data.
  • Report any failure to meet the data and software guidance when submitting a review or making a recommendation to the editor.


Reviewer Resources
Visit our Resources and FAQs page to see answers to most common reviewer questions and various training and educational materials on how to perform excellent and constructive reviews.
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Writing your review

A useful review must address the main claims and methodology of the paper. The review should be uploaded or pasted in the Geophysical Electronic Manuscript Submission (GEMS) system. Reviewers are encouraged to consider these questions when writing a formal review.

  1. Is this paper appropriate for the journal? Is the paper clearly and concisely written? Are the key points written clearly, and do they accurately reflect the main points of the paper?
  2. Are the interpretations and conclusions supported by the evidence presented? That is, are the assumptions valid, is the methodology sound, is the evidence adequate, and do the conclusions logically follow?
  3. Does this paper put the progress it reports on in the context of existing published work? Is there adequate referencing and introductory discussion? 
  4. Are all parts of the text, references, graphics, and tables necessary for the new results and main points to be understood? Are the graphics and tables clear, and are their captions self-explanatory?
  5. Are the conclusions and potential impacts of the paper clear?
  6. Does the title adequately represent the content of the paper?
  7. Does the abstract clearly and concisely summarize the paper and state the main results? Can the abstract and main body of the paper each stand alone?

Reviewer tone table

Please be constructive in your feedback. Review the table below for suggestions on phrasing to avoid and ways to frame constructive comments.

Examples of Review Language
Not Constructive More Constructive Category Explanation
“This paper is unreadable. You didn’t proofread at all.” “This paper would benefit from a close reading, there are many errors that take away from the clarity of the argument.” Vague statement This statement is not constructive. A better statement would elaborate on what needs to change without making judgements about the authors’ effort.
“You need to. . .” “The authors should. . .” Command Reviews are best written in third person (e.g., “they” statements instead of “you”), as the tone in this example can be construed as accusatory.
“The writing is too emotional.” “The authors are encouraged to use more concise and focused language to underscore the importance of their conclusions.” Gendered This statement is derogatory and focuses on gender stereotypes instead of the science. It also does not offer any constructive guidance on how to adjust the language the reviewer finds problematic.
“The paper needs to be edited by a native English speaker.” This paper contains numerous grammatical and spelling errors throughout. The authors should consider having the paper reviewed by an editing service. [It is useful to highlight a few examples to illustrate your point, but you should not copyedit the entire paper.] Culturally insensitive The stage at which a language is learned does not indicate technical proficiency. Providing a few examples of the types of errors found in the paper will allow the authors to understand and address the errors. Please note that you are not expected to point out every error; providing a few (3-5) examples should be sufficient.
“The authors have no understanding of the literature (or X topic).” “I recommend reading the following papers, which could better inform the authors’ findings: [list citations].” Makes assumptions The statement calls the authors’ qualifications into question instead of elaborating on where the science or writing is lacking.
“This paper contributes nothing to the field.” “Although this paper's findings are relevant to the field, these findings have already been explored in previous work. The authors are encouraged to review [list citations] to determine a novel approach to their topic.” Inflammatory This statement makes assumptions about the paper instead of offering guidance to the authors on how they can broaden their research so it may contribute something to the field.
“You’re wrong [or any other negative adjective like stupid, useless, etc.]”

“This was a waste of my time”

“You’re making ridiculous claims.”
These types of comments should be withheld, as they are not constructive. Inflammatory These comments do not provide feedback authors can use to revise their work. Review comments should give the authors actionable feedback. Review comments should avoid inflammatory and personal attacks.
Bringing personal issues into a review: e.g., “These authors have a history of doing X, this study is useless just like their previous study on Y.” Personal attacks should always be withheld. Reviews must be objective and unbiased. If a reviewer cannot ensure this, then they should recuse themselves from the review. If any conflicts of interest are present that could impact a review, reviewers must disclose this to the Editor prior to accepting a review invitation. Personal attack Reviews should be unbiased, respectful, and constructive. Personal attacks that call an author’s character into question should never be included in a peer review.

Inclusive Practices

AGU is committed to reducing bias in peer review, and we ask our reviewers to minimize the influence that their unconscious biases have on their recommendations by:

  • Focusing on the research in the article, not on the author’s attributes such as their name, language, institutional affiliation, nationality, or gender
  • Being aware of potential unconscious biases that you may have
  • Carefully considering the reasons for your recommendation

If you received a review invitation and need to recommend an alternate reviewer, please consider suggesting reviewers that span all career stages, gender, geographic location, race, ethnicity, etc.

For more information on AGU Publications’ diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility efforts, visit our DEIA page.

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