Many journals ask authors to suggest a list of three to six peer reviewers during journal submission. And then, the journal editors use those peer reviewers to review the paper before publishing it.
The process is simple for journal editors and authors. But doing it perfectly is really tough if you don’t know your way around. To find peer reviewers for your journal submission, you need to follow the rules and guidelines as generally made by top journals.
Why Peer Review?
Peer review in all its form plays an important role in ensuring the integrity of the research papers. Reviewing papers as peer reviewers depends largely on trust and require everyone to behave responsibly and ethically. Peer reviewers play a critical role in the review process but often come to the role without guidance and may be unaware of their ethical obligations.
The rules for peer reviewers are distinct, and you must follow those. For example, these reviewers must belong to a different institution but should be from the same research group as the author and must not have published together.
Finding Peer Reviewers
Finding peer reviewers is one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks you will ever face as a journal editor or a researcher.
You must choose reviewers with enough expertise to evaluate the given manuscript and write the comments by a particular deadline.
Moreover, the number of globally submitted articles to peer reviewers is increasing dramatically and making things even more difficult.
I noticed a decrease in review acceptance rates due to an ever-growing “reviewer’s fatigue.”
Nevertheless, the peer review process remains crucial for academic researchers and editors. It is vital to ensure that original, relevant, and quality works are published.
A 2019 survey shows that 90% of researchers agree that the peer review process improves the quality of published research.
However, with the process becoming increasingly complex with time, several academic editors need help to meet the requirements set by the publications they work for.
That’s precisely what this article is meant for; here, I will show you how to find peer reviewers for journal submission more easily and hey, this works for both the journal editors and research paper authors.
Criteria for peer reviewers
Before we learn how to find peer reviewers, let’s look at the criteria for being a peer reviewer.
Remember, everyone is eligible to become a peer reviewer, but you cannot have just anyone as a peer reviewer.
There are precise criteria one needs to meet to qualify as one. Thus, you must ensure that your reviewer is appropriate and capable enough to critique your work.
Given below are some essential tips to keep in mind when looking for a peer reviewer:
- They must be an active researcher within the relevant field or methodology discussed in your paper.
- They should have enough time to do a peer review, based on your schedule, to avoid potential delays.
- They should not harbor any potential bias.
To ensure that your reviewer is not biased, you can do the following:
- Ascertain that they have published a number of articles in your field.
- Make sure they do not have extreme views or opinions on the same topic unless other reviewers can sufficiently balance them.
- Ensure that they have ample experience and are familiar with peer reviewing.
Also, to avoid conflict of interest, reviewers must not be currently affiliated with the same institution as you. Qualified reviewers generally hold a doctorate or have proven industry experience.
Nevertheless, you can be a bit more flexible when choosing reviewers in some cases, such as:
- If a reviewer co-published with you a few times in the past, along with a number of authors but not just you.
- In the case of an expert junior reviewer, especially if their supervisors agree to review the article and include their name in the list of reviewers.
Apart from these standard criteria, it would help if you also remembered that you need to do more research on every individual’s specific capabilities. In addition, you can face issues such as conflicts of interest and time constraints, even after you vet them. Therefore, the peer review process requires you to get multiple reviewers for an article.
How to find peer reviewers for journal submissions?
Once an author finishes editing and proofreading a manuscript, you can say that it is nearly ready for submission. The only thing they need now is a peer reviewer. However, as we already discussed, finding one can be pretty tricky, especially with the current lack of available reviewers.
In this section, you will find some practical ways of finding peer reviewers.
Go through your reference list
When looking for peer reviewers, the authors of the references cited in your article serve as an excellent starting point. After all, your reference list includes well-known authors with significant authority positions in the field.
When looking at cited researchers, you must ensure that personal connections are independent of your decisions in choosing who to contact for peer review services. In other words, you must never pick reviewers you cited because they are colleagues.
Also, you must always ensure they are familiar with your topic. Academic disciplines usually have several sub-disciplines within them. For example, someone who studies inorganic chemistry is not the best choice to review your study on biochemistry unless there is an overlap in the topics covered in your work.
After you have a list of names, you can send them cold emails to ask whether they would be interested in reviewing a paper for you. Always keep a database of all reviewers you’ve worked with in the past so that you can easily reach out to them in the future if another similar topic happens to come by.
Make use of online tools
If you don’t find cold emailing other academics helpful, there are other options for you. There are tons of readily available online tools out there that you can use. I have described some of them below.
Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations.
Getting recommendations from the editorial board of your university or journals is another effective way of getting a list of reviewers. By working with them, you will be able to quicken the peer review process while simultaneously expanding and increasing the diversity of your reviewer pool.
A good editorial team will help you connect with qualified reviewers and experts in a particular field of research.
Ask for referrals
No matter how hard you try, many invited reviewers will invariably refuse to participate for various reasons. However, don’t be disheartened even if they reject your invitation because they may still be able to help you look for alternatives. Therefore, while writing your invitation for review, always make a statement requesting them to suggest appropriate alternatives you can contact, just in case.
Make use of academic databases
You can browse through academic databases to look for reputable authors of articles who can be good peer reviewers of your research. Some of these academic databases are:
- Google Scholar – For authors who need experts across all disciplines and publishing formats.
- JStor – A diverse, multidisciplinary archive that allows authors to find various researchers.
- PubMed – For authors wishing to find qualified biomedical and natural science reviewers.
- Scopus – A valuable database for finding researchers across various disciplines.
Place a callout for reviewers
As an editor, you must grow your journal’s reviewer pool continuously. By doing so, you will be able to gain more diversity and connect with reviewers from different fields faster.
By recruiting new peer reviewers, you can also avoid repeatedly sending review invitations to the same people.
You can post a call for reviewers on your journal’s homepage to encourage more people to register as peer reviewers. Thus, you will drive more traffic to your website and help other academics who need peer review.
Participate in national and international conferences or workshops
Always try to participate in national and international conferences, seminars, and workshops to connect with other peer research groups working in your field of research across the globe. These experts are suitable for you to approach as potential reviewers for your manuscript assessment and examiners for your thesis evaluation. Don’t forget to get their contact information for future collaborations as well.
How to avoid peer review fraud?
There are rising cases of fake reviewers trying to take advantage of researchers.
For example, in 2017, Tumor Biology experienced its third mass retraction because its former publisher, Springer, had to retract 107 papers simultaneously due to a compromised peer review process.
Until 2020, there were reports of over 600 articles being withdrawn because of fake reviews.
Due to this unfortunate problem, you must be on guard when searching for fellow academics to review your study. Whenever you talk to a potential reviewer, you must grow concerned if they:
- Asks you to avoid specific reviewers
- Gives a recommendation for other reviewers who you cannot easily find online
- Uses a free email address instead of an institutional or business email
- Sends your review back way too fast (maybe even in just a few hours)
- Provides minimal and overly positive feedback without any criticisms or suggestions to improve the study
By learning to detect fraudulent peer reviewers, you can ensure quality control of the peer review process and avoid your paper being retracted from publishers due to fake reviews.
Finding reviewers can be a challenging process, especially if it isn’t something you do very frequently. I hope this guide gives you some valuable ideas for how to find peer reviewers in your field.