Best practices for peer reviewers
January 13, 2013 15 Comments
What is the matter with some reviewers? I understand that it is an uncomfortable job as it is not remunerated, it takes time to do it well and we are such a perfect scholars… So I think some guidelines are needed , it is our game:
- Integrity. Do a good review, spend time and care on it.
- Know your journal. Read the notes for authors, familiarize with the articles it publishes, look for its citation indexes, all these will help you to set the standards for the review.
- Align with the editor to set the quality criteria of your reviews. Editors usually need content for their journals, if you are too strict maybe you are not valid to them.
- There are many more options than accepted / rejected. You can leave it open for the author to improve it, without throwing it back completely. Leave the decision to the editor, there are still another reviewer. Sometimes the material is good but you have to help authors to adapt the paper to the journal’s editorial line.
- Be constructive with your comments. Think a bit of the author, who has devoted time and has tried to contribute to knowledge, it could be yours in the future. Use the journal form for reviews, it will make you easier the task of revision.
- Accept the articles which you feel able to review, though you should accept some papers a bit beyond your area of expertise and knowledge. Editors usually have trouble finding reviewers, if you only circunscribes to your specific field, neither you are you going to learn nor you are going to make the life easier to the editor.
- Confidenciality of information. Do not consult nor send to anyone the paper you are reviewing, especially to a professional who does not know anything about peer review or research. If it’s something you do not know, you can ask or investigate, but YOU have been requested to do it, stop thinking much about it, contribute as far as you can and full stop.
- Time management. If editors see that you are a good and efficient reviewer, you will be used a lot. So reviewing 1 or 2 articles every two months is fine, it keeps you fit: you read about your research field, you learn about paper structuring, you gain knowledge of journals’ procedures and you build relationships with editors for the future.
- Conflict of interest. If you’re not comfortable with the review task, either you think you know the author or it is a subject far beyond your knowledge, you have several options: withdraw as a reviewer, have deft touch or work harder on the review; it will depend on your level of compromise with the journal.
- Be agile. There is no reason to take 4 to 6 weeks to review a paper, do it within the next week. Spend a couple of hours at most (one to read and take notes, and another to do the review, with time in between to let your little brain to assimilate it).
In conclusion: easy, peer! Take it as a learning experience, a way to build yor network and an obligation to stay updated in your reserach field. If you are not a reviewer, sorry for your academic and publishing career!