Ever awkwardly listened to your colleagues complain about too many peer review requests? Do you desperately nod your head in agreement despite the fact no journal editor has ever approached you?
It’s ok. You’re not alone: There’s a paradox in peer review and you’re probably caught up in it.
Academic journal editors say that getting reviewers to accept review invitations is the hardest part of their job. At the same time, there is an abundance of researchers like you, who have the motivation and determination to break into the world of peer review, but aren't given the opportunity.
This isn’t an ideal or sustainable scenario, and it’s causing a bottleneck in scientific research. One that, according to our Global State of Peer Review report, researchers believe can be solved with more training and better recognition for peer review.
Recognition is something we focus on a lot here at Publons -- but we also offer free, on-demand peer review training, too.
Find out more about gaining practical experience in peer review with the Publons Academy. You'll write real reviews with one-to-one guidance from your mentor, and gain exclusive access to our Review Template and examples. Also, upon graduation from the course, you’ll be a certified peer reviewer, ready to connect with top journal editors in your field.
Why learn to peer review?
We’ve interviewed numerous award-winning peer reviewers about what they get out of the process. Here are a few stand out quotes:
“I do remember that it was my reviewing work that allowed me to develop really good working relationships with editors. Reviewing helped me position myself as a researcher.” - Tourism expert and top reviewer Sara Dolnicar (University of Queensland) https://t.co/Y8pbJfwhjF pic.twitter.com/F91ohdFTs4— Publons (@Publons) January 9, 2020
“Individual thinking becomes sharper and more focused when we have to convince others of our opinion and when we have to evaluate the argument of others” - @ronald_fischer, Behavioral Scientist at @VicUniWgtn https://t.co/Y8pbJfwhjF #peerreview pic.twitter.com/I8OmuDBBV2— Publons (@Publons) January 9, 2020
"Reviewing is a privilege. It’s something I enjoy because it’s a unique way to keep up to date on cutting edge research in the field, while also critically appraising the writing and findings." - Jennifer Villwock, otolaryngologist and top reviewer https://t.co/HV2rlc1vxZ pic.twitter.com/l8gYha8ucO— Publons (@Publons) January 12, 2020
Those involved in peer review recognize how important the process is to maintain the quality and integrity of scientific literature. It can be daunting -- but it comes with huge benefits.
The benefits of peer review include staying abreast of the latest research trends in your field, improving your own writing skills and learning how to better present your own research to journal editors. Peer review also helps you to forge those critically important relationships with editors at the elite journals in your field, which can work in your favor when you submit your own work for publication.
So with all of these benefits on offer, what can new academics do to get onto an editor’s peer review database? Check out our top 10 tips.
Top tips to become a peer reviewer
1. Contact editors directly: Email the managing editor of journals that interest you, describe your area of expertise and ask to be added to their reviewer database. You can also do this directly on Publons. Register for a free account and volunteer to review for any journal that partners with us. We’ll let the editors know and they will contact you when your skills match their needs.
2. Join researcher networks: Sign up to the online networks associated with your field and reach out to editors on there. For example, there’s ResearchGate for connecting with researchers, ORCiD so you have a unique researcher identifier and, of course, Publons - the home of peer review - to build your profile as an expert peer reviewer and be discovered by editors from elite journals.
3. Attend conferences: Go to conferences related to your field and seek out editors in the panel or audience to volunteer in person. Better yet, accept discussant roles for conference papers.
4. Complete Peer Review training: Attend in-person workshops to learn from and network with experienced reviewers and editors. You can also join the Publons Academy - our free, on-demand, practical peer review training course to master peer review. You’ll use our review template and example reviews to write real peer reviews, and you’ll have one-to-one support from a mentor of your choice. You’ll be a certified peer reviewer once you finish the course, and we’ll help you get break into the world of review by putting you in front of editors in your field.
5. Get recommendations: Similar to the above, talk with senior colleagues in your institution and ask if they can recommend you to editors in your field.
6. Try it out: Work with your colleague on their next peer review or, subject to the editor’s approval, do it for them. You can even get an independently verified record for helping with the review on Publons, and start building your profile as an expert reviewer.
7. Publish, publish, publish: Submitting your research to journals is a good way to get noticed. Once your paper is accepted take the opportunity to ask the editor about peer review.
8. Talk to other authors: Increase your academic visibility in a general sense. Journals often ask authors to suggest reviewers, and so if you make yourself known to authors you’ll eventually make yourself known to editors.
9. Follow up with editors: Follow up with any editors you’ve had contact with in the past and let them know your availability. Ask them to extend your offer to their co-editors.
10. Don’t give up: Timing is key to getting noticed. If your skills don’t match the immediate skills required by the editor, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t in the future so try again in a few months.
Let us know how you get on - we’re keen to hear your feedback. And if you’re an editor looking for more peer reviewers - check out our guide to help you just that!
Want to learn more? Become a master of peer review and connect with top journal editors as a graduate of the Publons Academy -- your free online course designed by expert reviewers, editors and Nobel Prize winners.