When do you review a paper for a scientific journal?

Gepubliceerd op 16 juni 2023 om 12:00

Once you have published scientific papers, you will likely start receiving requests to review other papers yourself as well. The editor of a journal will approach you with a request to review a paper that, if all goes well, matches your expertise. Let us make clear that the review process is incredibly important for scientific research. We therefore highly encourage you to act as a reviewer every now and then. After all, you want others to review your papers as well! However, you cannot do everything, so there is no shame in being critical about which requests you accept and which you decline. Nowadays there is a great shortage in reviewers, because there are so many papers being submitted to journals. So before you know it, you will be reviewing a new paper every week! Although most review requests are generally directed at professors and researchers who have already obtained their PhD, it is a great opportunity to learn how to review a paper during your PhD if the situation arises.


When do you accept a review request?

The most important thing is to check whether the topic of the paper matches your own expertise. Furthermore, it is wise to decide for yourself how often you would and could reasonably act as a reviewer. Reviewing papers for journals is not your day job and your own research will most likely keep you busy enough already. We would advise you to discuss this with your PhD supervisors. Agree on how many reviews you will do at most in one year, and discuss the reviewer invitations you receive with your supervisors. Together you can check each time whether or not you wish to accept that specific review request. Review requests regarding papers that are beyond your expertise, you can decline without a guilty conscience or any discussion. However, if you happen to know someone who does have the necessary expertise, you could recommend this colleague as a potential reviewer when you decline the request. This is also a way you can contribute to the review process!



What do you get out of reviewing papers?

Reviewing a paper can also gain you things. If it is a study related to your PhD topic, there might be brand new, relevant information in there that you did not have. You are not allowed to use it right away, but you can keep an eye out for the official publication and in the meantime already incorporate this knowledge in your own paper. It can also be useful to write down the names of the first and last authors (if these are listed, because sometimes the review process is blind). You could perhaps recommend these researchers as potential reviewers for your own papers in the future. And who knows, if your research projects have enough common ground, it might be interesting to exchange ideas or perhaps even work together at a later stage! As a rule you do not get paid for a review. Nowadays, many journals do offer a period of free access to their journal, in exchange for a reviewer contribution. We also recently saw that as a reviewer you could get a discount on the Article Processing Costs (APC) if you submit your own paper to the same journal. This is often not very relevant for a PhD-candidate affiliated to? a university. Through your university, you most likely have access to most scientific journals already. For an external PhD candidate without access to a university library this free access and/or APC discount could potentially be interesting. 


Are there other things you take into consideration when you decide whether or not to accept a review request? Let us know in the comments or send us a personal message through the contact page!

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