Experiences of Peer Review: Everyone’s Under Pressure



“Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure – that burns a building down” (David Bowie & Queen)


Fun fact: Did you know that sometimes a journal editor needs to send out more than 10 emails to researchers all over the world just to secure one willing and able peer reviewer?

And this pressure is multiplied because each research article passing into a journal for publication needs at least two sets of peer review comments, sometimes more. Sometimes many more.

We’ve hit on the pressure that editors are under to find peer reviewers for papers. And, as we’ll discuss a little later, it’s no surprise that ReviewerCredits can help. This is one of the services we offer to publishers (and therefore to journal editors). Click here to learn more.

All of this means that journal editors are not just looking for peer reviewers who can do a decent and thorough job when working on articles, they are also searching for diversity and speed. Your network as a researcher is also very interesting to journals and publishers: Keep this in mind if you are ever asked to work as an editor or as an editorial board member. What publishers really want is for you to help them find suitably qualified peer reviewers. Finding enough peer reviewers is a huge issue for journals. And allowing Guest Editors to manage this process is also clearly not a good answer! Journals (= Publishers) need to very carefully police and manage peer review to ensure all articles are actually been assessed properly, carefully, and robustly.

That’s not all: Diversity in peer reviewers is also important. Studies have shown that even these days, an article submitted to an international journal is most often likely to be peer reviewed by someone from within a relatively narrow segment.

Drilling Down: The Pressure


Finding good peer reviewers can be a challenging task for journal editors due to several reasons:

  1. Limited pool of experts: Certain fields of research have a relatively small community of experts with specialized knowledge. This limited pool makes it difficult to find reviewers who have the necessary expertise and are available for reviewing manuscripts.
  2. Time constraints: Many researchers are already occupied with their own research, teaching, and other professional responsibilities. Finding time to review a manuscript within a tight deadline can be challenging, especially if the reviewer is already overloaded with other commitments.
  3. Competition for reviewers: Journals often compete with each other for the same pool of qualified reviewers. Esteemed researchers might receive numerous review requests, making it difficult for editors to secure their time and attention.
  4. Incentives and recognition: Reviewing manuscripts is typically a voluntary service provided by researchers. While it is an important aspect of academic work, it often receives less recognition and incentives compared to other activities such as publishing or obtaining research grants. This lack of tangible rewards can demotivate potential reviewers.
  5. Quality control: Editors aim to maintain a high standard of review quality, ensuring rigorous evaluation of manuscripts. However, not all potential reviewers possess the necessary skills or commitment to provide thorough and constructive feedback. Editors must carefully assess the suitability and reliability of potential reviewers.
  6. Conflict of interest: Journal editors need to consider potential conflicts of interest when selecting reviewers. They must avoid choosing reviewers who have personal or professional relationships with the authors that could bias their review.

To address these challenges, some journals have implemented strategies such as maintaining reviewer databases, incentivizing reviewers through recognition or rewards, providing clear guidelines to reviewers, and actively seeking out early-career researchers to expand the pool of potential reviewers.

The great thing about ReviewerCredits is that all of these aspects are brought together in one easy-to-use platform, and one which is already really popular with researchers.


What do researchers want to get out of peer review?


Have a listen to our most recent ReviewerCredits webinar. It’s clear that researchers have very mixed feelings about being asked to carry out peer review for journals. On the one hand, they feel that this is something they are ‘expected’ to do, while on the other there is a distinct sense of ‘duty’ to the research community and a desire to do the best job possible.

We always encourage researchers to take on peer review tasks if they feel they have the time, expertise, and feel able to do a good job. This is because (and one of the main reasons that researchers turn down peer review) it takes a lot of time to do a decent job as a peer review, especially if English is not a first language. Journals often forget that many peer reviewers are going to need to spend time just reading and understanding a paper in the first place, before they can get into the science and content.

Clearly then, a second issue that journals face when attracting peer reviewers is rewards. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, researchers very (very) often ask: Why can’t I just get paid for peer review? This does happen in some countries, but it’s not (yet?) international best practice. This is why ReviewerCredits has proved such a success.

Researchers can register on ReviewerCredits and then spend the credits they receive from journals after successfully completing a peer review on items in the Reward Center. It’s a great idea and one which has received considerable positive feedback from researchers globally.
So, what ReviewerCredits does is relieve the pressure on both journals and peer reviewers. Journals can engage with the platform and get access to the best peer reviewers out there who will perform in a timely, efficient and effective manner, while researchers actually get something back for the work they do.

What’s not to like?