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Why should I select preferred reviewers and how should I do it?

My journal has asked me to provide the names of at least three preferred reviewers. What is this system? How should I select preferred reviewers?

Some journals make it mandatory for the authors to suggest reviewers, while for other journals, it is optional. Whatever be the case, suggesting reviewers generally works to your advantage. These are some of the reasons why journals ask for suggested reviewers:

1. Journals are always short of reviewers. Often, the review process is lengthened because journals do not find suitable reviewers.  Providing a list of suggested or preferred reviewers will definitely quicken the process.

2. Sometimes, the reviewers that journals assign may not be qualified in the particular subject area that your paper deals with, or may have biased views about your study. Such reviewers might give negative comments for your paper. So it is always better to give a list of preferred reviewers.

Your choice of preferred reviewers should never be random. When a journal wants you to suggest reviewers, they want a list of relevant people who would be able to provide objective and constructive criticism of your paper. Moreover, the reviewers that you suggest can sometimes give an indication of how well you know your field. Therefore, you should select your preferred reviewers only after careful consideration.

Preferred reviewers should not ideally be selected keeping only your paper’s acceptance in mind. Here are some pointers you should consider while selecting reviewers:

  • Do not choose anyone whom you personally know so well that their opinion could be biased in your favor. While keeping this in mind, you should also not select a person who might have a negative bias against you. It is always preferable to select someone who would be able to give an objective evaluation of your paper.
  • Do not select reviewers who might have conflicts of interest with your paper. The best you can do is choose reviewers who would be interested in your paper and have a good knowledge of the field, so that they can give their unbiased opinion and also suggest efficient ways of improving your paper.
  • For most young researchers, the natural choice for suggested reviewers would be authors who are on their reference list or whose works form the most important basis of their manuscript. It is definitely a good strategy to suggest names of authors whom you have cited, as they would have substantial knowledge of your field. However, that said, you should not randomly suggest names of authors from your reference list, as you are not clear about their peer review experience. Some authors might not be interested in peer reviweing, while some may be very harsh in their review of others' work. Hence, it is always better to suggest names recommended by your colleagues or seniors in the field. 

Since the practice of suggesting preferred reviewers has often been misused, it would be a good idea to include a note on why you have selected these people as it would put your choice in perspective. 

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