Peer review is a fundamental part of the scholarly publishing process, and preserves the quality and the integrity of academic research. The editor, as well as the authors and reviewers, plays a crucial role in this process.
Editors oversee the peer review process from start to finish. When they receive a manuscript, they carry out initial checks before sending it to review. This first evaluation should be based on the following questions:
- Is the manuscript good enough for peer review?
- Does it conform to Aims & Scope, style guidelines, and Instructions for Authors?
- Does it make a significant contribution to the existing literature?
Unsuitable manuscripts may be rejected without peer review at the editor’s discretion. If suitable, editors will send manuscripts out for peer review. They then assign the manuscript to the right associate editor, and find appropriate reviewers. It is also the editor’s responsibility to ensure ethical integrity during the process. After the peer review, the editor will recommend a decision based on the reports they receive. The author will be informed of the decision and may then revise the paper until it’s suitable for publication.
After the initial acceptance the Editor must engage an appropriate number of reviewers for the evaluation of the manuscripts. Journals often struggle to find a sufficient number of reviewers who are willing to review in a timely manner, particularly in niche areas. For this reason FUP suggest some simple strategies to overcome this obstacle.
- Ask authors to list potential reviewers on submission: they may suggest reviewers from different locations and specialties, who will widen your referee database. Nevertheless, consider that authors may recommend favourable reviewers, so don’t rely solely on their recommendation.
- Involve members of the Editorial Board to act as reviewers or suggest ones: this makes your board an active part of the journal, creating positive engagement.
- Find reviewers from your journal database: an up-to-date database allows you to find and track reviewers easily, selecting them by area of expertise and reviewing performances.
Other options include asking reviewers who decline to suggest alternative reviewers, contacting cited authors or search in faculty pages of key institutions.
Managing the review process
The review process is generally the slowest part of the publication process. Focusing on good time management and high-quality reviews can make it more effective and efficient.
Peer reviewers can delay the process if they don’t respond promptly. You can send reviewers automatic reminders or add a personal touch with an email. Remind them of the importance of their review report and check if they are still able to provide one.
These inconveniencies can be avoided by adopting some simple actions and best practices:
- Clearly state the deadline in reviewer correspondence
- Personalize your reviewer invitations and reminders. Remember that manual reminders can be tailored to specific circumstances, allowing the tone and content to be modified. This approach is probably more likely to provoke a helpful response.
- Give reviewers the option to suggest alternative ones
- Be flexible and understanding if reviewers ask for a deadline extension
- Recognize and reward reviewer contributions. We’ve recently extended our partnership with ReviewerCredits to all FUP journals. Now, our reviewers can get recognition for their valuable contributions to academic research. Through ReviewerCredits, researchers can showcase a complete record of their reviewing activity as evidence of their subject-area expertise. They can also earn “merit” points for their contributions.
- Inform them of the decision and share reports from other reviewers
- Ensure that reviewers receive a thank you for their time. This could be in the form of an email, certificate or annual published list of people who have contributed reviews over the year either online or in an issue.