How to become a peer reviewer: Tips for early career researchers

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How to become a peer reviewer: Tips for early career researchers

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in 2016 and is being recirculated as part of Peer Review Week 2021 resources.

In the pursuit of success in academia, early career researchers are always on the lookout for opportunities to showcase their knowledge, skills, and mettle. One of the key steps in the climb to academic success is that of becoming a peer reviewer. How can reviewing help a young researcher’s career progression? How can a researcher become a peer reviewer? This post will provide answers to these questions along with many helpful tips for those early career researchers who want to learn about how to become a reviewer.

Let us begin with the most important question: Why would a novice researcher want to become a peer reviewer? Being identified as a peer reviewer amounts to being accepted as an expert in the field, and this can add significant value to an early career researcher’s resume and reputation. To be invited to serve as a peer reviewer is a form of recognition in itself, and this can be a stepping stone for early career researchers. Apart from this, reviewers have the opportunity to be on top of the developments in their field and expand their knowledge. It is vital for an early career researcher to expand his/her network, and becoming a peer reviewer offers a great opportunity to interact with journal editors and fellow researchers in the field. As a result, many early career researchers and postdoctoral researchers look forward to receiving invitations for conducting peer review and seek insights on how to become a peer reviewer.

1. Publish papers

Publishing high quality papers is perhaps the most logical and obvious way of getting noticed as an accomplished researcher. Having a strong repertoire of well-written papers is likely to attract the attention of editors looking for reviewers. In fact, editors of the journals you frequently publish in are highly likely to consider you when they receive papers written on similar topics. Even researchers working in the same field as yours might recommend you as a suggested reviewer. When you keep publishing good papers, it conveys to the editors that you are familiar with the current trends and professional standards in your field. Also, having a good number of citations can add to your visibility and credibility. Remember to use good keywords and titles for your papers so that editors using indexing services of databases such as PubMed come across your publications.

2. Approach your mentor or supervisor

For early career researchers, support from mentors or supervisors can be of immense help to progress from being an author to a reviewer. Since they are in touch with editors, they can help by putting in a word for you or even put you in touch with the relevant people. Moreover, if your supervisor happens to be an editor, he/she may consider you for reviews if you show interest. Another benefit in this case is that your mentor might be able to provide you with tips and guidance on how to become a good reviewer, which can be of great help to budding reviewers in the absence of any formal training.

3. Be proactive in contacting journal editors

Rather than waiting for journal editors to find you, you can take the bold step of approaching editors and expressing an interest in reviewing. When attending conferences, you can talk to editors who are associated with journals in your field. Editors are interested in getting fresh perspectives; thus, showing them your willingness may land you the position of a co-reviewer or even an independent reviewer. Alternatively, you can write e-mails to editors explaining to them your intention of serving as a reviewer. Do not forget to provide some background about yourself and your publication record in this written communication. But before you do this, do go through the journal guidelines for peer reviewers to understand the basic requirements and expectations from peer reviewers.

4. Try other avenues of peer reviewing

Peer reviewing in journals is not the only way of entering this arena. Many journals such as F1000Research and platforms such as PubMed have adopted for post-publication peer review, which means registered users can freely comment on published articles. This could be a good avenue for early career researchers to practice their reviewing skills by sharing constructive comments. It could also be an excellent platform to engage in discussions with other junior or senior researchers. An important consideration here is that many reviewers on platforms such as these prefer to remain anonymous. Thus, you may have to decide whether you want to share your details or maintain anonymity. Another way of honing your reviewing skills is writing articles blogs or journals that critique published works.

Journal editors are always looking to expand their pool of reviewers. Moreover, many of them prefer to recruit early career researchers since they are more likely to accept invitations, are more thorough with their work since they are eager to prove themselves, and are more likely to provide honest opinions. So seize your chance at climbing up a step and becoming a peer reviewer, but also bear in mind the responsibilities that becoming a reviewer brings with it.     

You might also be interested in reading this series: Tips for first-time peer reviewers
Also, be sure to check out the Become a great peer reviewer - Basic and Advanced training program available through Researcher.Life.



Sneha’s interest in the communication of research led her to her current role of developing and designing content for researchers and authors.
See more from Sneha Kulkarni


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