Finding peer reviewers is one of the most challenging and time-consuming tasks you’ll face as a journal editor. The rapid growth in article submissions means editors are sending out more review invitations than ever before – and as a result, the review invitation acceptance rate for certain journals has dropped dramatically.
You need to find reviewers with the right expertise to assess a submitted article. They also need to be willing to write the review to a deadline. This can limit the pool immediately, particularly in niche research fields, but on top of that you also have to ask:
Editors now often have to find ten or more qualified potential reviewers to secure just a couple of reviews. The good news is that there are some simple steps you can take when looking for reviewers to speed up the process. Here, we’ll explain them all in detail.
The reference section of a submitted article is an excellent place to start when looking for peer reviewers. Here, you’re bound to find the names of other respected researchers working in the same field as the author of the article.
It’s worth bearing in mind that cited researchers could be particularly appropriate if their article is a broad review on that area of research. But beware of conflicts of interest, as authors may have cited colleagues or collaborators.
There are a number of different search tools and resources you can use to find reviewers. Here are the key ones:
This is being trialed at six Taylor & Francis journals. It’s a service that gives access to more than seven million expert researchers, drawing from a combination of Publons’ unique database of reviewers and the world’s premier article and citation index, Web of Science.
Our electronic peer review system has a tool you can use to find reviewers.
The Reviewer Locator tool on ScholarOne: When an author submits an article, the Reviewer Locator searches for reviewers based on the manuscript’s keywords and abstract. You can set your search preferences on ScholarOne to ensure that searches give you the information you need to efficiently select reviewers.
This tool allows you to search for researchers based on keywords. It works by trawling through the millions of articles and documents on PubMed to find the most relevant authors to fit your search.
This powerful tool allows you to view authors based on number of publications by subject, helping you to find potential reviewers with the right experience for the article you’re working on.
Your editorial board is a great source for both reviews and reviewer recommendations. Engaging them in the peer review process will help you improve the efficiency of peer review and expand your reviewer pool.
There are a few different ways you can use your editorial board:
Your journal is also an excellent source for potential reviewers. Authors of previously published articles and journal guest editors could be just what you’re looking for in a reviewer. So don’t forget to search the archives for the subject you’re interested in.
Invited reviewers decline to review for a number of reasons, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still help you find alternatives. You could even add a request to ‘suggest appropriate alternative reviewers’ into your initial invitation to review, to make it clear upfront how they can help you.
Predefined keywords are part of the article submission process. When submitting an article, authors select from a predefined list of keywords that describe their expertise areas. This saves you time on deciding which keywords to use when searching for peer reviewers.
Once you have the keywords for a newly submitted article, you can search using the journal’s own database, or the tools discussed above, to find appropriate reviewers.
It’s important to make sure the list of keywords you choose for your journal is as extensive as possible. And you’ll also need to decide if this should be a compulsory field during submission.
Previous reviewers are, of course, obvious people to go to when you need new reviews. You can find your best reviewers using the reviewer list tools in ScholarOne or Editorial Manager.
The main thing to be aware of when using this approach is ensuring that you don’t ask the same people too often – something that can happen all too easily, particularly in niche subject areas. Reviewer fatigue could prompt a previously engaged reviewer to switch off from your requests, so be mindful when approaching your existing reviewer pool.
Your personal network is bound to include researchers from relevant subject areas for your journal, who could make excellent reviewers. The added bonus with your personal network is that the people in it are likely to be more open to an approach – and more likely to suggest alternatives if they can’t help themselves. Think about who you work with now, previous co-authors, people you’ve met at academic conferences or industry events, old colleagues, or mentees/mentors.
Researchers who are earlier in their careers need to build their experience in reviewing articles. They’re also less likely to be inundated with requests, and therefore more likely to have the capacity to help. However, it’s important to bear in mind they might need mentoring or formal training – particularly if it’s their first time carrying out peer review.
It’s important to keep growing your journal’s reviewer pool. Not only will this help you find reviewers faster, it’ll also ensure you’re not always leaning on the same people. Some simple ways to do this include: