Top 10 tips for successful peer review from Canadian journal Editors
Journal editors can have a tough time navigating the peer review process. There are no hard and fast rules but we wanted to share our insights into how to achieve successful peer review if you are a journal editor.
In October 2011, Taylor & Francis hosted round table meetings in Ottawa and Vancouver. The two sessions attracted representatives from the Editorial teams of more than 30 Canadian journals. We wanted to get to the bottom of how to foster effective peer review and this is what our editors said:
- Don’t waste time on rejections– Some journals operate a strict ‘front door policy’: any submission not meeting the journal’s criteria is immediately rejected. The plus side is that fewer papers are reviewed by the journal, reducing the load carried by each referee, and giving reviewers confidence that they are assessing a ‘good’ submission. Against this are concerns that young researchers and those for whom English is a second language may lose out. This is definitely a policy which works for some journals and not for others. Journals following it must be clear on what grounds they are rejecting a paper, to avoid resentment or creating a sense of arbitrary Editorial policy. Be clear on acceptance criteria making sure that these are consistent and fairly applied, and that they are communicated to authors.
- Work with your publisher’s marketing staff to attract relevant papers– encouraging prospective authors to submit to your journal with pre-emptive communication can help authors understand what your aims and scope are, and give the author a clear idea of what to expect once they submit their paper. Time spent preparing authors before they submit can doubly pay back when submissions are received.
- Induct new reviewers– which may involve simple measures like asking authors to review in future, or asking existing referees to suggest potential reviewers. Induction can also take the form of ‘capacity building’, such as workshops with PhD students on how to review and sharing anonymous examples of good, average and poor reviews as part of the referee ‘training’ process.
- Manage workloads realistically– by not overloading willing reviewers. One temptation is to send submissions to senior researchers first (and they feel swamped) when junior researchers may have more capacity for refereeing.
- Revise the geography of your board to match submissions– research is increasingly globalised, broadening the range of cultural and language issues contained in article submissions. Broadening out your Editorial Board so that it corresponds to authors can make it easier to manage these issues.
- Stack the odds in your favour– some journals, looking for two reviews on a submission, contact as many as six referees on receipt, assuming that most will decline. A risk is that potential referees become habituated to declining and are then less likely to accept when a paper of interest is offered.
- Maintain a personal touch– In an age of electronic online submission and review systems, researchers place great value on personal interaction during the review process – even if it is just one friendly line attached to a form e-mail. Showing a personal, approachable face is good business practice for a journal Editor. Referees may often be motivated by a sense of ‘giving something back’ to the community, and perhaps reciprocating a service they themselves have often benefited from. But they lend their time and refereeing expertise to Editors whom they trust and like. Make it easy for them to say ‘yes’ to you!
- Evaluate reviewers– one journal requires that Associate Editors rate reviewers on each paper refereed. These scores are held in ScholarOne Manuscripts and used to allocate future submissions for review. Reviewer ratings can only be seen by the Editors of this journal.
- Referees rule– whatever you choose to do, make sure you find ways to show appreciation for the work done by your referees. One participant fondly remembered a journal mug sent by a Finnish journal several years earlier as thanks for a review. Other Editors write letters of thanks, and publish lists of reviewers at year end. An interesting twist on this idea was to write to a referee’s department head (with their permission), showing wider recognition for the review. Yet other journals give Best Reviewer Awards. By universal consensus, attendees felt that incentives should NOT be monetary.
- Share the news – let reviewers know what happened to the paper they refereed. People want to know!
We didn’t just ask our editors for their tips on peer review – watch out for two more releases from our authors and reviewers and their tips!
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About Taylor & Francis Group
Taylor & Francis Group partners with researchers, scholarly societies, universities and libraries worldwide to bring knowledge to life. As one of the world’s leading publishers of scholarly journals, books, ebooks and reference works our content spans all areas of Humanities, Social Sciences, Behavioural Sciences, Science, and Technology and Medicine.
From our network of offices in Oxford, New York, Philadelphia, Boca Raton, Boston, Melbourne, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Stockholm, New Delhi and Johannesburg, Taylor & Francis staff provide local expertise and support to our editors, societies and authors and tailored, efficient customer service to our library colleagues.
For more information please contact:
Victoria Wright, Communications Manager, Taylor & Francis Group Journals