One of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks you will face as a researcher or a journal editor is finding qualified peer reviewers.
Added to that challenge is the increasing number of articles submitted globally, which means editors are sending out more invitations to peer reviewers. As a result, there has been a dramatic decrease in review acceptance rates due to growing ‘reviewers fatigue.’
Even so, peer review remains necessary for academic researchers and editors alike. The peer review process is critical for ensuring quality, relevant, and original works are being published. In fact, in a 2019 survey, 90% of researchers agree that the peer review process improves the quality of research published.
However, with it being more difficult than ever to accomplish this, many academic editors are struggling to meet the requirements set by the publications they work for. That’s why we’ve put together this article, where we’ll outline some steps to find a peer reviewer and how to do peer review from start to finish.
Criteria For Peer Reviewers
Not just anyone can be a peer reviewer. There are specific criteria that need to be met to qualify as one. And so, you have to make sure that your reviewer is suitable and capable enough to critique your manuscript.
Here are tips to keep in mind when looking for one:
- They must be an active researcher within the relevant field or methodology discussed in the paper.
- They should have time to do a peer review, based on your schedule, to prevent delays.
- Reviewers must also be free of any potential bias. To make sure no bias exists, you can:
- Check that they have published a number of articles in your field.
- Ensure they do not have extreme views or opinions on the same topic, unless other reviewers can balance it out.
- Make sure they have experience and know how to do peer review properly.
- Reviewers should also not be currently affiliated with the same institution as the author, to avoid conflict of interest
- Qualified reviewers typically hold a doctorate degree. If not, they should have proven industry experience.
However, you can be more flexible when choosing reviewers in some instances, such as:
- When a reviewer co-published with the author once or twice in the past in studies with an extensive author list.
- An expert junior reviewer, especially when their supervisors agree to review the article and include their name in the reviewer list.
These are common criteria to use when looking for someone who knows how to do peer review. However, you must also keep in mind that you have to do further research on an individual’s specific capabilities. Issues like conflicts of interest or time constraints can always arise, even after you vet them. That’s why peer review involves getting multiple reviewers for an article.
Where to Find Peer Reviewers
After a manuscript has been edited and proofread, it’s almost ready for submission. All you need now is a peer reviewer, but where can you find one, even with the current lack of available reviewers?
Here are some ways to find peer reviewers:
Look in your reference list
The authors of the references cited in your article is an excellent starting point when looking for peer reviewers. Your reference list includes authors that are credible authority figures in the field.
When looking at cited researchers, it is crucial that personal connections are not influencing your decisions to choose who to contact for peer review services. You shouldn’t only pick reviewers who you cited because they are colleagues.
Also, be sure they are familiar with your topic. Academic disciplines have many subdisciplines within them. For example, someone who studies personality psychology might not be the best choice to review your study on child developmental psychology, unless there is an overlap in the topics covered.
Once you have a list of names, you can send them cold emails to ask if they’d be interested in reviewing a paper for you. Maintain a database of all reviewers you’ve worked with in the past, that way you can easily reach out to them in the future if another similar topic comes across your desk.
Use Online Tools
If cold emailing other academics doesn’t work for you, then there are other options. Today, there are tons of online tools readily available that we recommend. Some of these include:
- Flowcite Author Services. Their premium author services include an integrated peer review service powered by Enago. You can have a professionally reviewed manuscript within at least a week.
- Publons Reviewer Connect. You can quickly find, screen, and connect with the appropriate reviewers through this tool.
- Taylor and Francis reviewer locator tool. After the tool receives a submission, the reviewer locator identifies keywords and searches the Web of Science to identify authors working in the same research area.
- JANE. This is a digital tool that allows you to search for researchers based on keywords.
Many other different search tools are readily available online to use. But, these are some of the best and most functional ones, in our opinion.
Ask for recommendations
Another reliable source for a list of reviewers is by getting recommendations from the editorial board of your university or journals. Working with them will help quicken the peer review process, while also expanding and increasing the diversity of your reviewer pool.
An editorial team can help connect you with qualified reviewers and experts in a specific field of research.
Ask for referrals
There will be a number of invited reviewers who will decline to participate for several reasons. However, even if they reject your invitation, they might be able to help you look for alternatives. In writing your invitation for review, include a statement that allows them to suggest appropriate alternatives you can contact, instead.
Use Academic Databases
Browsing through academic databases can help you look for reputable authors of articles who can be good peer reviewers of your research. Some academic databases you can look into are the following:
- Google Scholar – If you need experts across all disciplines and publishing formats
- PubMed – For finding qualified reviewers in the sciences and biomedical fields
- Scopus – Another database to find researchers across disciplines
- JStor – A multidisciplinary archive that will allow you to find various researchers
Place a Callout for Reviewers
For editors, it is vital to continuously grow your journal’s reviewer pool. Doing so helps you connect with reviewers from different fields faster, and also encourages diversity. Recruiting new peer reviewers also prevents you from sending out a review invitation to the same people over and over again.
On your journal’s homepage, posting a call for reviewers encourages more people to register as peer reviewers. This way, you will bring more traffic to your site and help other academics in need of peer review.
How to Avoid Peer Review Fraud
Unfortunately, there is an increase of fake reviewers out there trying to take advantage of researchers. Because of this startling problem, you need to be careful when searching for a fellow academic to review your study.
Here’s just one example of how serious this issue can be: In 2017, Tumor Biology experienced its third mass retraction. Its former publisher, Springer, retracted 107 papers all at once due to a compromised peer review process.
So, to keep your research safe, here are some red flags to look out for when talking to a potential reviewer:
- They ask you to avoid specific reviewers.
- When they give a recommendation for other reviewers, you can’t easily find them online.
- The reviewer uses a free email address instead of an institutional or business email.
- They send your review back too quickly, maybe even in just a few hours.
- The feedback is minimal and too positive. No criticisms or suggestions were provided on how to improve the study.
Learning to detect fraudulent peer reviewers helps ensure quality control of the peer review process. Moreso, it takes away the risk of your paper being retracted from publishers due to fake reviews.
You might think it won’t happen to you, but as of 2020, there are over 600 articles that have been withdrawn because of fake reviews.
Get Your Paper Ready for Peer Review with Flowcite
Peer review is what keeps academia honest. Therefore, maintaining the integrity of the peer review process is important. If not, all scholarly communication will be at risk. Partnering with the right reviewers and using reliable tools, such as Flowcite, allows you to ensure that you are not compromising the quality of your manuscript.
With Flowcite, you get access to a premium paper review service, powered by Enago. This platform provides professional and subject-specific reviews for your paper within a week.
Flowcite and Enago’s experts have experience reviewing manuscripts for top journals such as Science, Cell, and PNAS. They will evaluate each aspect of your manuscript, providing a comprehensive report and detailed check for journal compatibility to make your research stand out and reduce the risk of rejection.
At Flowcite, you will not only have access to paper review services, but you access an all-in-solution to academic research, writing, editing, publishing, and referencing. Some other powerful features include:
- A Reference and Citation Manager that helps you search, save, and organise your references easily with our intuitive interface
- Integrated Summary Generator using Scholarcy to reduce time spent in identifying relevant articles to include within your paper
- PDF Viewer and online reader for any research article allowing you to seamlessly collaborate with up to 10 individuals on the same research
- Academic Editing, Proofreading and Publishing services that help you polish your work and find the best journals to get published in
Flowcite helps in making your research process more straightforward. Our features empower you to spend more time doing your research, instead of doing more menial tasks like editing and finding people who actually know how to do peer review (rather than fraudsters).
Raise the chances of successfully publishing your manuscript. Sign up with Flowcite today!
Content Marketing Strategist
Brittany is a Content Marketing Strategist at Flowcite, and an outstanding academic writing expert. She holds a first-class Honours degree in Literae Humaniores from the University of Oxford and has been certified in Digital Marketing Analytics by the MIT Sloan School of Management.