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Tips to Become a Reviewer for Science Journals

Updated on January 3, 2013

Reviewing manuscripts for journals is an essential part of academic career. Peer review process is done to maintain certain standards to improve the quality of publications and journal. You are chosen to judge others work because you have knowledge, expertise and experience in the related field. Based on your comments and opinions that you submit as a reviewer, often, you will be invited to do more reviews.

When you do your Ph.D. and postdoctoral work, your supervisor/mentor may ask you to assist him/her to review papers for journals. Additionally, if you are a corresponding author for any of your publications, you may be contacted directly by the editor of the journal. However, it is less likely to have a corresponding auhorship during Ph.D. and Postdoctoral training period. So, the question is ……..

How can I be a reviewer for a journal?

So far, if you have not received any invitation to review a paper independently and wish to be one, here are some suggestions. This happens when you don’t have any corresponding authorship, and the journal editor will not be able to find you. One way is that you request your mentor to write to the journal editor recommending that you have the ability to review papers, and you have done so with him/her. The editor may agree to your mentor request and send you the paper to review.

Alternately, you can directly email the editor expressing your interest to be a reviewer. You should also send your CV and a brief note about your expertise and area of research interest to review. It works!

Benefits of being a reviewer

Science journals never offer you with monetary benefits for reviewing the paper. On the other hand, you will have the following advantages:

(1) If you receive an invitation to be a reviewer, that means, you are considered as an expert in your field. It is an honor for you.

(2) Editorial board of any journals consists of senior professors and well known scientists in the respective fields. As a good reviewer you will have a chance to get recognized by those editorial board members. This will also pay you when you apply for grants or for academic jobs. Since many of those members will be in selection panel.

(3) You can include reviewer experience in your CV/resume.

(4) By reviewing several papers in your field you will be growing professionally by updating your knowledge and expertise within the field.

(5) Additionally, you will become aware of how journal and publication's works in your field and how the editor makes a decision.

(6) Finally, you are making some significant contributions to the scientific world.

(7) If you are applying for a green card (permanent resident) in USA, being a reviewer is one of the criteria that you can meet.

How to be a good reviewer?

Rarely, your mentor offers formal training to review manuscripts. You can improve your reviewing skills only by practice. Although, many science journals have some common instructions and ethics of the review process, it is better you follow each journal’s guidelines in reviewing. This hub provides you with some advices but not a complete set of guidelines to review a paper.

Don’t accept to review a paper which falls outside your area of expertise. This is the first thing you should think about before you start to review the paper. Sometimes, by mistake, you may receive an invitation from the journal editor to review a paper that does not belong to your specialty. In such cases, you can reject the request by writing to the editor. It is unfair to authors, and to journal review process where you don’t have expertise to assess.

Provide constructive suggestions. Try to make honest and valuable comments by weighing the strengths and weakness of the paper. It is your job to assess the work critically without manipulating the author’s interests and their work. A good reviewer always provides suggestions to improve the quality of the work. Be selflessness and have the desire to contribute to maintain high-quality research work.

Maintain confidentiality. As a reviewer, it is your responsibility to maintain confidentiality about the contents of the manuscript, authors and source. Avoid discussing or sharing any part of the review process. If you want to take some opinion or suggestions from your colleague than that person also should maintain confidentiality.

Submit your comments before deadline. You should send your comments before the deadline. As a researcher you will be busy with your experiments and other research-related activities. Moreover, mentors will not encourage you to do the review process during regular lab hours. You should find some extra hours within your busy schedule to review a paper. If for some unforeseen reasons you cannot submit your comments on time, contact the editor immediately and request for additional time or inform about your inability to complete the review on-time.

Report unethical issues. Another important responsibility of a reviewer is to report editor about any suspected plagiarism, copying, or unethical use of animals or humans in their research work.

I hope the below hubs may be helpful for research scientists or postdoctoral fellows

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