How to find and reward reviewers

A case study from the Executive Editor of Regional Studies

We all know that finding reviewers can be one of the most difficult tasks for a journal editor. But journals with an interdisciplinary focus can pose particular challenges when it comes to choosing reviewers. At the Amsterdam Scholarly Summit, Dr. Madeleine Hatfield, Executive Editor of Regional Studies, shared her strategies for finding and rewarding qualified reviewers. Watch the video to see her full talk on how to find reviewers, or browse through her top tips below.

Download the ‘How to find and reward reviewers – a case study’ transcript here

How to find reviewers

Delegate to experts

Regional Studies has a large team of Associate Editors with different subject matter expertise, so every submission is assigned to the most relevant editor. Allocating submissions based on subject knowledge means there are less bounce-backs from unsuitable reviewers.

Regional Studies also desk-rejects a high proportion of papers which do not fit the Aims & Scope, or which do not meet the required quality standards. These stringent initial checks reduce the amount of time spent finding reviewers for papers which are likely to be rejected (and with 800 submissions per year, this is crucial!). Rejected submissions always receive constructive feedback which help the authors improve their work or find a more appropriate journal to publish in.

Divide reviewer responsibilities

It is rare to find a reviewer who has expertise which is relevant to every element of a manuscript, especially for interdisciplinary journals. Regional Studies needs reviewers who can comment on the methodology, the theory, and the geographical location itself. Sometimes one reviewer will be perfectly placed to assess all of these things in their report. But if not, consider using multiple referees to assess different elements of a manuscript.

Use your online and offline networks

There are various online networks, searches and tools available to help editors select reviewers, but it’s just as important to remember your real-life connections. People you know through work, or from networking at society events and conferences, are often well-placed to act as referees. They could even be more likely to accept an invitation to review because of the personal connection.

It can also help to look through the journal archive at previous authors. This is particularly useful for interdisciplinary journals like Regional Studies, as this process identifies researchers who are writing from the convergence of different disciplines within the journal’s scope.

How to thank reviewers

After following these tips on how to find reviewers, Dr. Hatfield recommends that you retain your reviewer pool by showing them how valued they are. Maintaining positive relationships with your referees will mean they’re happy to review for your journal again. This peer review guide for editors has more suggestions of how to thank reviewers for their time and expertise, or follow Dr. Hatfield’s top four suggestions:

Inform reviewers of the outcome

The first tip is a simple one: keep reviewers informed on what decision has been made on the paper. This is increasingly easy-to-do through peer review management software, but can make a big difference to reviewers as it helps show the impact their work has had.

Avoid ‘reviewer fatigue’

Reviewing a paper is time-consuming, and can be an added pressure for academics who are already time-poor. As global research output continues to grow, editors need to be realistic about how much to ask of peer reviewers. Avoid ‘reviewer fatigue’ by ensuring you don’t rely on the same referees too often (although this can be difficult, particularly in niche subject areas).

Give public recognition to reviewers

Regional Studies uses Publons, which provides an easy platform for public reviewer recognition. The journal also publishes an annual list of peer reviewers in the final issue of each volume.

Additionally, Regional Studies has awards for the three best reviewers every year. These referees attend a dinner in London to receive their award, and the journal publishes an announcement both in print and online.

Promote reviewers to the editorial board

For the very best reviewers in your pool, it might be appropriate to consider promoting them to your editorial board. The journal benefits from their increased involvement, and the referee benefits from formal recognition of their service.

So there you have it – tips from an expert on finding and rewarding peer reviewers. For more advice on managing the peer review process on your journal, don’t miss our handy guide for editors, right here on Editor Resources.

September 13, 2019

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