(Not) recommending reviewers

Gepubliceerd op 23 februari 2024 om 12:00

Your article is ready to be submitted. You've uploaded all the files correctly and written a beautiful cover letter, and then suddenly you are asked to provide a list of potential reviewers. Why do journals do this? And how do you compile that list?

See it as an opportunity

Your first reaction might be: Uh ... isn't this actually your job, dear journal editors? The answer is: yes, actually it is. At the same time, finding reviewers is often a complicated, time-consuming job for an editor, who generally does the editorship in addition to his/her regular job. The difficulty is that journals tend to have more incoming copy than available reviewers these days. Which is great for science, but inconvenient for editors. So try to see this request as a great opportunity, to be able to pre-select reviewers who are likely to look at your paper with a positive outlook.

Who do you recommend?

In the bibliography of your paper, you will certainly find some studies that connect well with your article in terms of topic or audience. The authors of these published studies may be suitable reviewers for your article. The first author is often the PhD student, so this person may now be doing different work. The second author is often the co-promotor and the last authors are often the promoters, who may still be doing the same work. A quick Google search will tell you where they work nowadays and what their current e-mail addresses are, as you often have to provide those as well. In addition, it can be useful to look at technical aspects of your research. For example, if you have conducted a particular analysis, it could make sense to submit a reviewer with expertise in this area. You may also meet other (international) researchers from your field at conferences or symposia who are working on similar topics as you are. You could remember these people as possible reviewers for your next papers.

Who do you not recommend?

Sometimes you can also indicate whether you want to exclude reviewers. A practical reason to exclude reviewers is, for example, because you believe they have already reviewed your paper before. Someone you have previously specified as a reviewer, but whose comments may have caused your paper to be rejected, you would rather not have as a reviewer again. There is also an ethical component. You are expected to submit an independent reviewer, so no direct colleagues or researchers you have worked with or know well personally. Some journals also check that you have not co-authored on multiple articles together.

Anecdotal evidence

A small sample of the many anecdotes about the review process. There is a researcher from Australia doing research on the same topics as Jojanneke. They have never met or collaborated, but they regularly quote each other's work. Over the years, they have acted as reviewers for each other’s papers several times, and Jojanneke pretty much has her on her reviewer list by default. A PhD student had submitted an article with a fairly large group of co-authors. The journal had a lot of trouble finding reviewers and therefore apparently did not pay very close attention to the names of all the co-authors involved. In fact, one of the researchers involved was asked to act as a reviewer for this article, with himself as co-author! There was also a story going around several years ago that there was a researcher who signed himself up as a reviewer for his own articles, but using a Gmail address. It will not surprise you that most scientific journals these days only accept email addresses from accredited (academic) institutions for reviewers!

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