Want to peer review but never invited?

There are many benefits to peer reviewing articles for journals. Reading cutting-edge research can inform your own research, help you keep up to date with current trends in your field, improve your writing skills, and expose you to new ways of presenting your work to the scientific community. Peer reviewing is also a great way to develop relationships with editors, which may be of benefit when you are looking to publish. A record of papers you have reviewed can be added to your CV. Finally, reviewing papers is expected of you as a researcher and being labelled as someone who doesn’t review may impact your reputation among your peers.

You must be invited to peer review a paper by a journal editor (traditionally; however, see below). It can be difficult to be noticed by an editor if you are an early-stage researcher or do not have a large publication record. In this blog, we discuss potential ways to solicit peer review invitations and gain reviewing experience.

Write papers.

This is the best way to get noticed. Journal editors find reviewers by searching for authors of similar papers, for example, on PubMed. If your name appears multiple times during an editor’s search, it may increase your chances of being asked to review. If possible, ask to be made the corresponding author, as this will increase your one-on-one contact with the editor. Also, editors typically expect corresponding authors to review at least one paper shortly after publication in their journal (within 6 months), in the spirit of quid pro quo.

Talk to your supervisor.

Tell your supervisor you want to review. Ask him/her if you could co-review a paper with them. Your supervisor will have to get permission from the editor to do this, thus introducing you (and your background and experience) to the editor. In addition, your supervisor may have contacts they can put you in touch with.

Sign up to journal databases.

Editors can search for reviewers on their own journal’s database, which typically contain the information of every author and reviewer that has interacted with the journal. You can easily add your information to a journal’s database by clicking “Submit paper” and creating an account. Add a short biography and appropriate keywords. Make sure you have checked “Available to be a reviewer”. Accounts can be created without having to actually submit a paper. Sign up to all the journals that interest you.

Email associate editors.

Directly email associate editors of journals you are interested in reviewing for. Do not email editors-in-chief as they are very rarely involved in selecting peer reviewers. Tailor your email to each associate editor, mentioning any common interests. Be frank – mention if you have limited experience peer reviewing, but indicate your desire to gain experience and willingness to provide a thorough review. Early-stage researchers are often sought by editors to review. This is because they often have more time available compared to senior researchers and thus typically produce thorough reports. Time-keeping is crucial to editors, so make sure you mention your ability to keep to deadlines.

Talk to your colleagues and co-authors.

Typically, editors ask invitees to recommend alternative reviewers if they are unavailable. Let your colleagues know you are interested in reviewing and to recommend you if they receive an invite that they are unable to accept.

Peerage of Science.

Anyone who “has published a peer reviewed scientific article in an established international journal, as first or corresponding author” can review any article submitted to Peerage of Science. However, currently only papers related to ecology, evolutionary biology or conservation biology are submitted. All reports are cross peer reviewed, i.e., other reviewers will evaluate your report and vice versa. You have the option to waive your anonymity, thus introducing yourself to the editors of any journal the author submits to.

Further reading

Qinjie Zhou C. 6 tips to secure a peer review invitation. Publons. 2018 6 Sept. Available from https://publons.com/blog/6-tips-to-secure-a-peer-review-invitation/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2019].