Step-by-Step Workflow

  1. Manuscript Assignment.
  2. Initial Evaluation.
  3. Finding & Assigning Reviewers.
  4. Decisions.
  5. Letters to the Editor.
  6. Appeals.


Jump to:
Workflow and Timeline
Decision Options
Drafting the Decision Letter


Workflow and Timeline

  1. Decisions pre-review: editor should send a decision to the author in 4-5 business days.
  2. Decisions post review: editors should aim to send a decision to the author within 30 days.
    1. 14 business days: timeline for reviewers to complete their review. (We send automated reminder emails).
    2. 2 business days: once 2 reviews are received, the editor gets an email notifying them to make a decision: reject or invite a revision.
      • Send a decision to the author.
      • Rank reviewers (optional, but strongly encouraged).
    3. 60 days of revision request: authors address modifications.


Decision Options

Editorial Reject (Reject Without Review)

This is a pre-peer review decision made after the initial evaluation. An article may be editorially rejected for the following reasons:

  • Manuscripts that are too flawed to warrant peer review.
  • Manuscripts that are outside the scope of Microbiology Spectrum (i.e., not related to the microbial sciences).
  • Article types that we do not publish (i.e., Case Reports, Reviews, Perspectives, Opinions).

Reject: No Resubmission

This post-peer review decision applies to manuscripts in which the reviewers found significant conceptual, experimental or analytical flaws such that the core conclusions of the manuscript are undermined and which will require more than a standard 2-month revision to address.

Rejection decision are considered final; authors should not be asked to resubmit. Please note that manuscripts that are rejected from Microbiology Spectrum cannot be submitted to other ASM journals.


This post-peer review decision applies to manuscripts for which we are inviting revision (either major or minor). Authors have 2 months to revise their manuscript.

For invitations to revise, editors should explain precisely what is expected of the authors, highlighting the major concerns of the reviewers that the editor perceives are necessary to ensure that the study is well controlled and documented.


No further modifications are necessary.


Drafting the Decision Letter

After you choose a decision term, you will see the available template(s) for this decision in the dropdown list.

Don't make changes to the template unless necessary. However, please make sure to check and edit the reviewer comments for any inappropriate, derogatory or unnecessary language.

For Editorial Rejections, the decision letter will bear the EiC’s signature. For decisions post-review, the editor’s signature appears on the decision letter and the reviewers are notified.

For most decision terms, there is only 1 available letter template option except for the following terms:

  • Editorial Reject (Reject without review)

    • Editorial Reject (reject without review): Use this template to editorially reject papers that are too flawed to warrant peer review or that do not provide any insight into a community within the microbial sciences.
    • Out of Scope—Editorial Reject (reject without review): Use this template to editorially reject papers that fall outside of the scope of the Journal due to their subject matter or article type.
  • Modifications

    • Text-Only Revision: Use this template if the manuscript requires only minor changes to the text or files.
    • Modifications: Use this template to share reviewer comments with the author and request appropriate revisions. There are 2 "snippets" that you can use for particular situations. To the right of the letter text, click on the “Show Snippets” link, and you will be able to view and select the snippet to add to the letter.
      • In cases in which further language editing is needed, please use the snippet starting "While we are willing to consider a revised version of this paper..."
      • For transferred manuscripts with reviews that can be accepted as is, please use the snippet starting "I am pleased to inform you that your manuscript has been editorially accepted..."

Screen grab showing the "Regenerate with selected comments"

Rating Reviewers

At the bottom of the decision form, you have the option to rank each reviewer.

We strongly encourage you to provide a ranking, especially if one of the reviewers is a reviewing editor, as this will help us measure their performance and provide them with ongoing feedback.

Screen grab showing reviewer ranking screen

The ratings go from 5 to 1, with 5 being the highest rating and 1 being the lowest rating:

Score Description
5 An exceptional review that is comprehensive, objective and insightful. Evaluates the purpose of the study, study design, scientific validity and conclusions with clear questions and constructive suggestions to be addressed by the author.
4 Very good review indicating that the paper was carefully evaluated. Helpful comments to the author and editor with well-documented reasons for editorial decision-making.
3 Overall, the review is good and provides sufficient information to make an editorial decision but has issues with organization and/or completeness of the evaluation.
2 Brief, superficial evaluation and comments are lacking in detail and/or direction to help make an editorial decision or improve the manuscript.
1 Very brief review (1–2 sentences) providing little to no evaluation of the study itself. Review was of little to no use and an additional reviewer had to be recruited.



Revised manuscripts are assigned to the original editor.

Our goal is to limit rounds of peer review to give a better experience to our authors and our reviewers. Try to make final decisions on revised manuscripts without further external peer review when possible.

Please note that Microbiology Spectrum offers 3 decisions following the first round of review:

  • Accept.

  • Reject: No Resubmission.

  • Modification.

Only papers that are returned for modification can be resubmitted to the journal.


Once a manuscript is ready to be accepted, you will be asked to double check that the author has complied with ASM's Data Policy.

If the authors are reporting new sequence data, protein structures, etc., they should provide the data in a “Data Availability” paragraph at the end of the Materials and Methods section of full-length articles (or at the end of the text in shorter article types).

If the Data Availability statement is missing, please note this on the decision form, and our production staff will follow up with the authors about this.

Accept vs Minor Modification

Having trouble telling whether to accept a manuscript or to ask the author for minor modifications? Please see the decision matrix below.

Screen grab showing decision matrix of whether to accept or return for modification.