Peer Review and You: Managing the Process


How to select reviewers for your research papers: Ensure that your articles have the best chance of acceptance




In the first of our series of blogs for research authors (peer reviewers are research authors too!) we discuss HOW researchers can contribute to the selection of peer reviewers for their next paper.

Indeed, one of the most common questions our team at ReviewerCredits are often asked is ‘how can I select good reviewers when submitting my next research paper’? Should I do this? Am I allowed to do this? YES. You NEED some suggestions for peer reviewers (who are likely to give your article a favorable review) in your cover letter. Don’t miss out on this opportunity.

Anyone submitting a research article to an academic journal will be familiar with standard online systems through which manuscripts, figures, and table files are uploaded. Most online submission and manuscript handling systems include options for authors to both add ‘preferred’ and ‘non-preferred’ reviewer suggestions for their papers. Or at least they used to: It’s worth at this point bearing in mind that many of these systems have now removed the ‘preferred’ reviewer option because authors were abusing this option. Putting the names of their friends in, even making up email addresses in order to control the process. Now, these days, the main way in which authors are able to make suggestions for reviewers is via their covering letters: the document that is uploaded alongside all others when making an initial submission.

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It’s clear that the best way to ensure your articles have the highest possible chance of eventual acceptance is to suggest reviewers to editors (via your covering letter) whom you know are likely to act favorably towards your work. Editors are usually very happy to receive credible reviewer suggestions from authors as they are most often busy academics, working on their own research as well as managing reviews and making decisions for journals.

How can you do this? How can you ensure that you make good suggestions for peer reviewers when submitting your manuscripts?

You need to develop what’s called an ‘international mentorship network’. This is done by reaching out to people, writing to other researchers and talking to them at conferences about your work. It’s a very good idea to send emails about research projects you are working on to colleagues around the world in order to solicit comments and remarks in return. Why not send emails containing your titles and abstracts to other colleagues when getting close to submission and ask for feedback. Sure, some people will not reply but most will: this way you will develop relationships around the world, make colleagues aware of your work, and build up that network of people who know about you. Who know about your work.

Favorable comments will come back on your work and international colleagues will also appreciate the chance to make contacts with you. Such dialogues are never one-sided: other workers around the world will also appreciate the chance to develop a relationship with you! These are the people who you can then suggest to journal editors as possible peer reviewers and you know that they are likely to act favorably.


Secret peer review Tips and Tricks from the Reviewer Credits team

Of course, you can never be sure that a journal editor will use the suggestions you make. What happens if you receive unfavorable comments? What happens if your work is sent to a colleague who then acts negatively as a reviewer? This is human nature, of course: when asked to review the work of others, most people tend to think ‘how can I find problems with this paper?’ rather than ‘how can I help these authors to improve their study so that it can be accepted for publication?’ Peer review training is a key area: our courses and online materials can help. Young researchers, especially, are very often trained at all in how to perform this important service to the academic community. Being constructive about the work of others, commenting in a constructive and positive way, is a key transferable skill: providing constructive feedback on your colleagues’ work will be greatly appreciated whatever your future career path.

The possibility that you’ll receive negative comments on your work is also a fact of academic life. There will always be people who will respond in this way: perhaps because of conflicts of interest, competition, or just plain personality agreements. This happens all the time in academia. For these reasons, be careful to ‘deselect’ your ‘non-preferred’ reviewers when making your submissions; list people in this section of the submission system who are not likely to act favorably towards your work. Editors pay attention to these selections and, indeed, many journals specifically tell their teams not to use these selections. Online submissions systems actively block editors from sending papers to colleagues who have been ‘deselected’ in this way. These options are present within journal submission systems for good reason and, actually, authors do have a good deal of control over the process of who and who does not work on their articles.

Sadly, many authors are unaware of how these ‘back end’ systems work and consequently miss the huge opportunity they afford. Covering letters, in particular, are a very important part of this process, as we have discussed. Please make sure that your covering letters are eye-catching: these need to tell editors: (1) why your work is important and interesting; (2) what is the key take-home message; (3) why you have chosen this particular journal for your submission (editors are very interested in hearing this), and; (4) who are your suggestions for suitable peer reviewers (put down four or five colleagues, including their addresses and emails). Editors will greatly appreciate.

How many peer reviewers does it take to change a lightbulb?

The peer review process is the cornerstone of academic publishing, of course. The one thing that unites all academic authors is the desire to see their research, their work, published in a ‘recognized journal’. What makes a journal reputable and ‘recognized’ across the community? The fact that papers are peer reviewed. This process and the way it is managed by journal editors is also a huge opportunity for authors; you just need to know what to do, and when.
The number of peer reviewers required to review an academic paper can vary depending on several factors, including the journal or conference’s guidelines and the specific field of study. Generally, academic papers are reviewed by multiple reviewers to ensure a fair and comprehensive evaluation.

Most journals and conferences typically assign two or three reviewers to each paper. This number is considered sufficient to provide multiple perspectives and ensure a rigorous review process. However, some prestigious or specialized journals may employ more reviewers to maintain a higher standard of quality and expertise.
Ultimately, the decision regarding the number of reviewers rests with the editorial board or program committee overseeing the publication or conference. They assess the paper’s topic, complexity, and other relevant factors to determine the appropriate number of reviewers required for a thorough evaluation.


Mastering the Art and Science of Peer Review >>