Interview with Publons - Editor Resources

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The importance of peer review recognition: talking to Publons

How Publons can help you find and reward peer reviewers

We recently extended our partnership with Publons to 250 journal titles. Now even more of our reviewers can receive recognition for their input into academic research.

Andrew Preston and Daniel Johnston are the co-founders of Publons. They aim to speed up research by improving peer review. We caught up with Daniel to find out more about Publons. He explains what he sees for the future of peer review recognition.

How difficult is it for editors to find reviewers and manage the peer review process?

Editors tell us that getting quality reviews is the hardest part of their job.

They’re always looking for better ways to:

  • find reviewers
  • screen them for qualifications and conflicts of interest
  • contact them directly
  • motivate them to review

Everyone does this on an ad hoc basis. And it can slow down communication.

The problem is, there’s a huge difference in the incentives and recognition researchers get for publishing compared with reviewing. Everything compels you to publish as much as possible. Little is on offer, however, for reviewers.

Editors are getting more submissions. But they find that fewer experts are willing to review this work, preventing it from getting out into the world. That’s one of the reasons we developed Publons.

We want to make reviewing a rewarding activity. And, as a result, get more peer-reviewed research out into the world faster.

Why do you think peer review recognition is so vital?

It’s the right thing to do for the experts who peer review. It’s also the right thing to do for science and research.

Peer review is a valuable aspect of research. The review process improves work and ensures trust and integrity are present in what gets published.

If we don’t give contributors the credit they’re due, we face several problems:

  • it weakens the quality control part of the system
  • we slow down the process when it’s already difficult to find experts willing to review
  • editors get more poor-quality reviews, and this can lead to the misleading research slipping through the gaps

What is Publons?

Publons is a website that turns peer review and editorial contributions into measurable and rewarding activities. Experts use Publons to keep a record of their peer review and editorial work. All their contributions across the world’s journals are there in one place.

We work with publishers and journals to ensure recognition for reviewers and editors for every submission. This happens even if the reviews are anonymous or editors decide not to publish an article.

My co-founder Andrew Preston and I started Publons in 2013 in New Zealand. We now have offices in London, United Kingdom and Wellington, New Zealand.

How does Publons support editors through the peer review process?

We help editors recognize the efforts of their reviewers. Publons also provides a range of tools to help editors better understand, manage, and improve the review process.

Editors can use Publons to:

  • find, screen, contact, and recruit new reviewers
  • dive into analytics and insights about their reviewer pool and processes
  • provide feedback to their reviewers to help them improve

All of this helps editors boost their links with reviewers and convert them into readers, authors, and repeat reviewers.

What do you see as the future of peer review recognition?

By turning peer review into a measurable research output, we create the foundation for more exciting things.

For example, we can help institutions and funders to take peer review and editorial work into account. It can therefore become a factor in career progression and funding decisions.

If you can advance science and develop your career through reviewing, there’s more incentive for researchers. They have more reason to want to improve and protect research through peer review.

And  if experts the world over are committed to discussing and evaluating the world’s research, things get really interesting.

Any top tip for editors managing the peer review process?

Early career researchers can be reliable and high-quality reviewers. They’re willing to get into peer review to build their profile and contribute. Also, they’re often the most responsive and timely reviewers. So don’t dismiss them.

You can look for Publons Academy graduates to source these up-and-coming reviewers.

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