5 Tips for Editors: How to Source Great Reviewers

By Holly Shore

Securing a good quality review is now a huge challenge for Editors. With the rise in manuscript submissions, academics are receiving more invitations to review than ever before. As such, it can sometimes take 10 or more invites to even secure one quality review for a manuscript. It can begin to feel like a never-ending cycle of rejection.

Quality in peer review begins with sourcing great reviewers. How can we find peer reviewers who are verified, qualified and reliable? These tips will help Editors to spot reviewers and avoid peer review fraud in the process.


1.      Verify your reviewers

Peer review fraud has become a major editorial challenge, damaging the reputation of publishers and undermining the integrity of the peer review process. Vetting potential reviewers is crucial to filter out the fakes.

So, what can Editors do when sourcing reviewers to help reduce the risk of peer review fraud?

-        Ensure the reviewer has an institutional email address before inviting them to review a paper. It is far more difficult to fabricate an institutional email address.

-        Check if the reviewer has an online presence: A reviewer can usually be identified by a quick Google search of their email address. Look to see if they are connected to other published journal articles, institutions’ directories, hospital directories, or other reputable sources.

-        Use caution with recommended reviewers! Editors need to be aware of the possibility of authors attempting to act as reviewers on their own papers and should avoid relying solely on author suggestions.


2.     Ensure the reviewer has expertise in the topic of the manuscript

This may sound obvious, but an overdependence on automation and the ease of selecting the first suggestions on the journal database means reviewers are often invited to review papers outside of their scope. Searching for reviewers manually may be more time consuming initially, but it will avoid a high number of invitation declines.

It’s important to check if the reviewer is familiar with all aspects of the manuscript to secure a quality review. When searching for the reviewer in their institution’s directory, there is usually a section about their field of study and focus. Similarities between the reviewer’s previous work and the manuscript should overlap significantly.


3.     Check reviewer activity

Sourcing an available and qualified reviewer is becoming increasingly difficult. To increase your chances choose someone active and contactable.  Editors should check:

-        Has the reviewer been active in the last 5 years? Reviewers move from one institution to another or retire, so make sure to find their current institution.

-        Have they declined to review multiple manuscripts? This indicates they have no time/are inactive.

-        Is the reviewer’s information in the online peer review system up to date?

-        Check if the reviewer has multiple accounts and merge wherever possible.


4.     Build a reliable database

As experts in the field, Editors will already have contacts in certain areas they can invite to review. However, building a reliable reviewer pool will help to keep up with the demand for quality reviews in a timely manner. Rate reviewers on the time it took to respond and the quality of their comments submitted. This process takes time and will need frequent updates, however, it will help to avoid inviting slow and unreliable reviewers in the future.


5.     Don’t lose hope

Whilst finding reviewers who are qualified and willing to review papers is becoming increasingly frustrating – it is important not to lose hope. The work of Editors in sourcing experts is invaluable for ensuring academic integrity and quality in peer review.