How to Find Reviewers for Academic Journals

May 27, 2022 Ver este post en Español

So you put your heart and soul into your most recent paper or manuscript, and you want to submit it to a journal. But wait! You check your list of reviewers, and they don’t fit the journal reviewer criteria, or their contact information is no longer valid. What should you do?

In this article, you’ll learn how to find reviewers for your manuscript or paper and what you should avoid when looking for reviewers. To conclude, you’ll see how Orvium helps you have a solid list of reviewers to choose from.

How to Find Reviewers for Your Manuscript

Journals have the resources necessary and entire databases of reviewers ready to peer-review your manuscripts. However, with the large number of papers and manuscripts some journals receive, the need sometimes outnumbers the availability. In cases such as these, journal editors may ask you (the author) to suggest reviewers.

If you need to suggest reviewers when submitting a manuscript, choose colleagues in your field who you think would do a superior job evaluating your manuscript’s merit. For example, if your study includes new statistical methods or complex statistical analyses, ensure that at least one of your suggestions has a proven track record as a statistics expert. You may need to include additional subject matter experts as the peer review process progresses, should your chosen journal require them.

If you’re an editor for a journal, finding qualified reviewers takes time and effort. As more and more papers continue to be published, the following tips can apply to you too.

Some additional things to keep in mind while you’re searching for reviewers include:

  • Start with the reviewers referenced in your manuscript. Keep a database referencing their area of research or speciality, if and how many papers they peer-reviewed, etc.
  • Use databases and search tools to find researchers working on similar topics or those who regularly publish (more on this in a bit)
  • Keep your reviewer list diverse; include reviewers who reflect the diversity of the audience. Having international reviewers review your manuscript is especially helpful for the medical field, where diseases and treatments may vary.

Reviewer Criteria

Reviewers should meet at least the following criteria:

  • Reviewers must be qualified (should hold an MD, Ph.D., MBBS, or something equivalent)
  • Reviewers must be experts or have experience. Consider asking reviewers who published at least three papers as lead authors on a relevant topic, with the publication of at least one of those papers being in the last five years
  • Reviewers must be impartial. There can be no conflict of interest between you and the reviewer that affects the paper’s assessment
  • Reviewers must be global. Consider geographically diverse reviewers, or at least those from different institutions, to secure an international perspective on the paper.

How to Select Reviewers

Once you have a list of potential reviewers that abide by the above criteria, collect their contact information. Check the correspondence section of their most recent article for an email address or phone number. Sometimes, you may have to reach out by phone or use an email finder tool to find the most up-to-date contact information.

Double-check for any conflicts of interest (more on that below). Additionally, note that even though your list of potential reviewers abides by all of the above reviewer criteria, that is not a guarantee that the editorial team will approve some or all of them. Therefore, remember not to take any journal reviewer rejections personally.

Pro tip: If you invite a reviewer to review your manuscript and they decline, ask them for referrals and more suggestions to add to your list.

How to Exclude Reviewers

Some journals may ask you to include a list of reviewers you wish to exclude because of a conflict of interest or another reason. You’ll need to gather their contact details too. Include their name, primary institution or organization, and a statement explaining the reason for the exclusion. A separate database or list may be helpful here.

The following things count as conflicts of interest:

  • Recent publishing or any recent work with you (typically within the last three years)
  • Working within the same institution or research group as you (exceptions apply and include co-organizing a conference or event)
  • Any history of you supervising their work or them supervising yours
  • Any personal or professional relationship (including direct or indirect financial interests in the paper).

In some specialized or smaller fields of research, it may not be possible to suggest reviewers with which you haven’t collaborated. Contact the editorial team if this is the case to figure out how to proceed best. Keep in mind that your chosen journal’s editorial team will choose who they exclude (in the same manner they select a reviewer) to review your manuscript.

Where to Find Reviewers

You may consider contacting junior or early-career researchers, previous reviewers, or someone from your personal network for a review. Consider contacting the journal’s editorial team for reviews or reviewer suggestions. Try searching experts’ websites for potential reviewers, or reach out to the staff of prominent laboratories. You may also search for other qualified experts whose postdocs may be suitable to review.

If you’re still having trouble finding reviewers, there are many databases and search tools that can help, including:

*Subscription-based services.

Things to Avoid When Looking For Reviewers

You’ll want to avoid putting reviewers who don’t meet the previously mentioned minimum reviewer criteria on your list, as they can cause significant peer-review delays. Additionally, never contact the reviewers directly. Direct contact (unless you’re strictly asking for their contact information) with a reviewer affects the paper’s assessment and can dissuade the reviewer from reviewing it altogether.

If another author asks you for additional reviewer suggestions, use your best judgment to determine if the reviewers you’re suggesting fit the criteria and have the appropriate expertise to review the paper in question. In other words, don’t simply approve and send reviewer referrals without a proper and thorough assessment.

Orvium Makes it Simple For Reviewers

Now you have all the necessary tools to find reviewers for your manuscript or paper if a journal ever asks for your list. Peer review is such a crucial part of the publication process that it’s important to spend the time necessary to have a list of reviewers ready; for your benefit and the journals’. Don’t forget to start early in the process and refresh your list every couple of years for accuracy.

Orvium uses a modern web platform to help reviewers (and publishers and researchers) find other potential reviewers for their lists. Additionally, you can get rewarded for your reviews and even showcase your work as a peer reviewer to obtain recognition and increase your professional opportunities. Want to learn more? Check out our platform.

Also, don’t forget to check out our Full Guide to Planning an Academic Conference, where you can learn about finding reviewers at conferences and other events.

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Roberto Rabasco

+10 years’ experience working for Deutsche Telekom, Just Eat or Asos. Leading, designing and developing high-availability software solutions, he built his own software house in '16