Peer review is an essential step in the publishing process, but also one of the most challenging for journal editors. Finding the right reviewers for every submission is difficult, so editors are always looking for new reviewers to reach out to. It’s particularly important for editors to ensure they're using a diverse and balanced pool of reviewers, including academics at different career stages. But how can you get involved in peer review if you’ve never done it before?
1. Identify the journal you want to review for
Pick a specific journal you’re interested in reviewing for, then do your research. Read up on their aims and scope, and browse recent issues to see what kind of papers they publish. On the journal’s homepage you should be able to find author and reviewer guidelines, as well as their editorial policy. You’ll be a better peer reviewer for them if you know the journal well.
2. Develop your skills and understanding
Despite the important role that peer reviewers play, it’s rare for journals to provide any formal training on reviewing. Be proactive – develop your skills and understanding of peer review by taking advantage of the online resources available to you. Taylor & Francis have produced their own best practice on how to write a review, but there’s also the Publons Academy, a free online course designed specifically for early career researchers. For more information on the roles and responsibilities of peer reviewers, take a look at the Council of Science Editors’ 2006 white paper.
3. Get some practise
Platforms like PubMed and PubPeer allow registered users to comment freely on published manuscripts as part of a post-publication peer review (PPPR) initiative. This is a great way for early career researchers to practise reviewing and engage in discussions with other researchers.
4. Use your academic and professional networks
Once you’ve identified and researched the journal you want to review for, it's time to reach out to the editor. Use your academic and professional networks to find a connection. You never know, your colleague, mentor or supervisor may be able to put you in touch with the editor. Some journals have extensive editorial boards, so don’t forget to check the online board listing in case you know anyone who could introduce you.
5. Contact the editor directly
And finally, don’t worry if you don’t have a connection to the journal already. You can always contact the editor directly (the journal homepage will normally list a contact email address). Let them know you’d like to get involved with peer review, demonstrate your knowledge of the journal, and highlight any previous experience or qualifications that might be relevant.
Do you have any more tips for early career researchers who want to get into peer reviewing? Share your advice on Twitter using #TFReviewerTips.