The importance of peer review recognition

How Publons can help you find and reward peer reviewers

Finding and recognizing peer reviewers is one of the main challenges faced by journal editors. We recently extended our partnership with Publons to all our journal titles in order to help our editors to find and recognize peer reviewers.

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.

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 work?

Reviewers for participating journals can choose to have a record of their review added to their Publons profile. When they complete a review in a peer review submission system such as ScholarOne or Editorial Manager, they will see this option.

Reviewers need to opt-in. They’re not automatically signed up. Whether to join is their decision.

By default, only the journal name and year of the review show on the Publons site. This is because it’s important to maintain the anonymity of the peer review process.

You can also add reviews for non-partnered journals to Publons. To do this, the reviewer needs to send proof of the review such as the ‘Thank you for reviewing email’ to [email protected]. Publons then checks proof of the review and updates the profile.

How difficult is it for journal editors to find the right peer reviewers?

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

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 
  • use your Partner Dashboard to understand and grow your reviewing pool – there are many features are available from your journal’s Partner Dashboard. Register for free monthly webinars that explain the Partner Dashboard.
  • provide feedback to your reviewers to help them improve – use the editor feedback and excellent review feature to give confidential feedback to reviewers, and give recognition for reviews that show extra effort.
  • use Publons to track your work as an Editor – create a free profile to track your peer review and editorial work, then showcase this proof of your service and standing.

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 finding reviewers?

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.