Whether you’re an experienced editor or new to the game, an aspect of journal management that almost all editors want to improve on is peer review and, in particular, the timeliness of this practice. More often than not, a lot of the delays in the process can be avoided, or at least lessened, by growing and strengthening your pool of potential reviewers.
With this in mind, we recently assembled a panel of peer review whizzes for the second instalment of our Expert View webinar series: Taylor & Francis peer review guru, Gareth Meager; Dianne Dixon, Managing Editor on International Journal of Radiation Biology; Peter Gilroy, Executive Editor of International Journal of Education for Teaching; and Hervé Stolowy, Editor of European Accounting Review. In this latest episode, we asked them to share their pearls of wisdom on how best to recruit, retain and support reviewers on your journal.
Did you miss it? Don’t fret. Here you’ll find a recording of the webinar, along with our top takeaways from each of the presentations, and a full write-up of the Q&As the panel received during the session.
Overview of maintaining and retaining reviewers using our online submission systems – Gareth Meager, Electronic Editorial Systems Manager
- Offer reviewers clear instructions and guidelines. For example, make it clear what the journal’s blinding policy is, as well as any ethical considerations they must adhere to.
- Taylor & Francis has a range of resources for reviewers explaining every aspect of peer review. Click here to view the peer review resources that are available to you on Editor Resources.
- When reviewers are clear in what is being asked of them, the reviews will be more effective.
- Provide realistic timeframes. It will allow reviewers respond more accurately, saving you time in the long run.
- Send a thank you letter. Using your online submission system, you can set these to go out automatically once the completed review has been submitted by the reviewer.
- Not only is this good common courtesy, but it can also be used to offer certain incentives: such as vouchers for money off Taylor & Francis books, or a month’s free access to Taylor & Francis online content. Click here to find out about the other ways we’re thanking reviewers.
- Prompt reviewers to update their details/keywords. Accurate and updated keywords can ensure that the keyword match tool in the system is as effective as possible.
- This reduces the chance of a reviewer declining due to the nature of the paper, or if they are currently too busy to review.
- Consider using a list of pre-defined keywords, as this can help. This also applies for when an author submits a paper.
- Send reviewers information about the decision reached. It gives them a much fuller sense of the comments made, which helps them to develop their own skills as a reviewer.
- Set up automatic reminders for reviewers. It helps to keep things moving and reduce unnecessary delays.
- Speak to your EES contact or contact our PRS Helpdesk for help setting these up.
A peer review timeline strategy – Dianne Dixon, Managing Editor, International Journal of Radiation Biology
On my journal’s board is one Editor-in-Chief, 15 Associate Editors and 20 Advisory Board members. The Associate Editors are generally responsible for selecting the reviewers. This is an overview of the original workflow on my journal before we tightened it last October:
- Day 1: The reviewer is invited. Hopefully, the review accepts, but if they don’t a reminder is sent after 5 days.
- Day 4: If the reviewer doesn’t accept after the first reminder, a further reminder is sent out 4 days after the first reminder.
- Day 9: If the reviewer still hasn’t accepted after the 9th or 10th day, the reviewer is removed from the list and another reviewer is invited.
Using this method, the average days to find two reviewers was 47.2. At last year’s board meeting in October, we decided this figure was still too high, and so the timeline has been made stricter:
- Day 1: The reviewer is invited.
- Day 4: If they haven’t accepted after 4 days, we send them a reminder.
- Day 7: If the reviewer hasn’t responded 3 days after the reminder, we remove them from the list.
- What Is key, is that we then send them an email to say that we acknowledge they may be busy, or may have missed the original email.
- We include the abstract of the paper and add a note to say that if they are interested in reviewer then to get in contact with the journal.
- In a few cases, reviewers have come back to us after this and explained that they’ve been away from their emails and that they are interested in reviewing the paper.
- By keeping to this tight process and not waiting a lengthy amount of time for a reviewer to respond, we’ve been able to keep going down the list and focusing on people who are available to review.
- Thanks to this new method, the average number of days to find 2 or more reviewers has reduced to 39. While this is still longer than we want, we hope it will continue to drop.
Tips on recruiting & retaining reviewers – Peter Gilroy, Executive Editor, International Journal of Education for Teaching
We have a very committed review panel on our journal – some even ask for more papers to review! Following our method, detailed below, very few of our reviewers are late or need reminding. That said, it is a very time consuming approach – though worthwhile in the long run.
- Recruiting is the easy part. We tend to ask those who have written for us, as they’re familiar with the journal’s process.
- Every three or four months, we email our authors to ask them if they would like to review.
- Explain carefully what is expected of them, especially ethical considerations. This is especially important in smaller fields, such as mine, where the reviewers/authors are more likely to know each other.
- Encourage guest editors of special issues to identify their own reviewers and add them to the journal’s database.
- Use networking events and conferences to recruit reviewers. Conference presenters are often useful to approach as potential reviewers or authors.
- Ask existing reviewers for alternatives, particularly when getting someone to replace them if they’re retiring.
- Send a formal invitation to join the review panel. We always send formal invitations to reviewers inviting them to join the journal’s ‘International Review Panel’ – including the word ‘international’ seems to work very well.
- This is the more difficult part, as reviewers are incredibly busy people.
- Utilize your editorial board. It helps if the editorial board filter out the papers that are immediately inappropriate, either quality or topic. This helps to reduce the time considerably.
- Explain why you have sent the paper, and also that they will never have more than 2 papers per year to review, if that.
- Support new reviewers. If they’re a new reviewer, then we will always let them know the decision of the second reviewer (they will always be an experienced reviewer), and also the overall decision.
- Tell them about the Taylor & Francis reviewer rewards. More details on this can be found here.
- Make the most of keywords. We use a contact data base to match reviewers’ profiles to papers, but Taylor & Francis also offers a similar keywords matching service in their electronic editorial systems.
- Use a personal touch in correspondence with reviewers.
- Check that reviewers are happy to continue reviewing, and whether their interests have changed. (We do this once a year).
The choice of reviewers at the beginning of the review process – Hervé Stolowy, Editor, European Accounting Review
How to find reviewers for a specific paper:
- Keep board details up-to-date. When I started my term as editor, I immediately surveyed the editorial board (83 board members):
- I created a list of ten topics and 102 keywords and asked the board to select their keywords.
- This then generated an Excel file with all the topics and keywords matched up with the board members. This was then shared with Associate Editors and board members.
- I assign papers to Associate Editors, who then assign the papers to the appropriate board members.
- Board members previously committed to review a few papers every year when they accepted their position on the board.
- Look at references cited in the submitted paper.
- Use the ScholarOne search tool.
Systematic use of ScholarOne:
- Use the reviewer ratings tool. The AEs/editor on our journal rates the reviewer for, 1) timeliness, and 2) relevance.
- Some AEs are reluctant to score colleagues, but I stress how important this is for future reviews.
- Don’t overload your reviewers. Be mindful about the number of papers currently under review, or manuscripts reviewed in the past.
- We try not to choose board members/reviewers with a paper already assigned to them, unless it is a specialist topic that requires a certain reviewer.
- As Peter said, a personal touch goes a long way. Before sending the invitation, I write a couple of lines before the template explaining why I’ve chosen them to review, e.g. they have previously published something on the same topic.
- I’ve noticed that I hear from reviewers much quicker than when a generic templated email is sent to the reviewer.
- Gareth Meager – Overview of maintaining and retaining reviewers using our online submission systems
- Dianne Dixon – A peer review timeline strategy
- Peter Gilroy – Tips on recruiting and retaining reviewers
- Hervé Stolowy – The choice of reviewers at the beginning of the review process