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Five tips on how to get involved in peer review

An early career researcher shares advice on how to get started

Peer review is an essential step in the publishing process. It’s also one of the most challenging areas for journal editors.

Editors are always on the lookout for new reviewers. But finding the right reviewers for every submission is difficult. It’s important for editors to ensure they’re using a diverse and balanced pool of reviewers. This includes using academics at different stages of their career.

How can you get involved in peer review if you’ve never done it before?

We asked Nazira Albargothy, 2016 winner of the Vitae Three Minute Thesis ® (3MT) competition for tips on how early career researchers can get involved in peer review.

Here’s what she told us.

1. Identify the journal you want to review for

Pick a journal you’re interested in and do your research. Read up on their aims and scope. Browse recent issues to see what kind of papers they publish.

On the journal’s homepage, you should be able to find author and reviewer guidelines. Also, take a look at their editorial policy. You’ll be a better peer reviewer for them if you know the journal well.

2. Develop your skills and knowledge

Peer reviewers play a vital role. But it’s rare for journals to provide any formal training on reviewing.

Be proactive. Develop your skills and understanding of peer review by using online resources.

Here are some useful sites:

3. Get some practice

Platforms like PubMed and PubPeer allow its users to comment on published manuscripts as part of a post-publication peer review (PPPR) initiative.

This is a great way for early career researchers to practice reviewing. You can also engage in discussions with other researchers.

4. Use your academic and professional networks

Identify and research the journal you want to review for before you contact the editor. Then use your academic and professional networks to find a connection.

You might find a colleague, mentor, or supervisor who can put you in touch with the editor. Some journals have large editorial boards, so check the online board listing in case you know someone who could introduce you.

5. Contact the editor directly

And finally, don’t worry if you don’t have a connection to the journal. You can contact the editor directly. The journal homepage should list their email address.

When you contact an editor:

  • Let them know you’d like to get involved with peer review
  • Show your knowledge of the journal
  • And highlight any previous experience or qualifications that might be relevant

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