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Handling Peer Review

What to Consider When Suggesting Peer Reviewers for Your Manuscript

 

Dr. Danny M. D’Amore, Publications and Marketing Specialist

October 2021


Although many international peer-reviewed journals have constructed a database of preferred reviewers, this is not a universal policy. As such, most journals request that authors submit a short list of suggested peer reviewers (3-5 recommendations) to help expediate the journal’s handling period and subsequent review process, in addition to your other manuscript-related submission materials. While this is a generally straightforward request, there are important considerations for authors, as your suggested reviewers can significantly impact the evaluation and decision regarding your submitted manuscript.

Best practices when recommending peer reviewers

1. DO remain unbiased. It is important to consider scientists from your entire research field, not just individuals you might know or have met personally. Your manuscript will be at its strongest if you receive unbiased comments (both critical and otherwise); thus, you want to remain impartial throughout the suggestion process.

2. DO suggest international researchers. To obtain a broader perspective, try to suggest peers from different institutions with diverse backgrounds. Recommending people from adjacent and related fields, not exactly within your discipline, will also increase the overall diversity.

3. DO include researchers from all stages of their careers. While it can be tempting or ‘easy’ to only suggest senior or well-known researchers, these individuals are likely extremely busy, and therefore very likely to decline a peer review request. We recommend suggesting one or two experienced or high-profile scientists, but it is also wise to suggest a few early-career researchers. Not only are these scientists more likely to accept a request to review your manuscript, but they might not yet be on the journal editor’s radar. Thus, not only will you be expediting your own manuscript review process, but you will also be assisting other scientists by offering valuable review experience.

4. DO select active members in the research community, particularly those who have published in the last three years. These individuals are likely to be the most knowledgeable of the current research landscape.

5. DO explain your choices! Do not assume the journal editor will know each and every selection (especially in the case of early career individuals). Justifications for peer reviewer recommendations may also be mandatory. Keep your explanations succinct (two to three sentences each), and include any relevant background required, so the editor understands why your suggestion should review your work.

The don’ts of recommending potential peer reviewers

1. DON’T recommend individuals you know extremely personally; this is most often because these individuals are likely conflicts of interest. Examples include your graduate advisor or committee members, as well as any researcher that you have co-authored a publication with in the past five years. Suggesting reviewers with potential conflicts of interest risks appearing biased to the journal editor and/or receiving biased reviews.

2. DON’T oppose reviewers unless your journal has explicitly requested this of you, or you can professionally justify your reasoning.

3. DON’T only recommend the highest profile scientists in your field. As mentioned above, these individuals receive many peer review requests.

4. DON’T suggest peer reviewers simply because they will agree with your scientific findings. We recommend suggesting reviewers based on their contributions to the field, their relevance to your submitted manuscript, and their ability to be objective.

5. DON’T limit your reviewers to a single geographic location, institution, or working group.

Most importantly, make sure you read and follow your journal’s author guidelines when making your peer reviewer suggestions. Not abiding by the guidelines may result in rejection of your submission or an increased workload for the handling editor. As a result, your manuscript will spend more time on the editor’s desk before being sent for peer review. By following the advice above, you can assist the journal editor and accelerate your manuscript’s review process.

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