5 ways to become an expert reviewer

By Katie Gibson

Many journals are facing a chronic shortage of experts willing to review submissions, and early-career researchers are often seen as an easy solution to this problem. But for researchers at the start of their careers, it can be difficult to know what journals expect from a reviewer.

If you are interested in reviewing but want to learn more before taking the plunge, here are some free resources to help you get started:

1.       Publons Academy

A free training course specifically aimed at early-career researchers, the Academy is a great way to work with a mentor to get hands-on practice of peer review and to find out what journals are looking for.

2.       Co-review with your supervisor or colleague

Many senior researchers are overwhelmed with requests to review. Ask your supervisor or a senior colleague if they are willing to recommend you for any assignments they don’t have time to complete. Senior researchers are often happy to supervise junior colleagues and it’s a great way for you to practice knowing your review will be checked by someone before it’s submitted. Just make sure you inform the journal that you will be co-reviewing. You can also get credit for your co-review on Publons.

3.       Practice with preprints

If you’re waiting to receive your first invitations from peer-reviewed journals, why not practise on preprints? Identify preprint servers that cover your field and pick a few papers to review. You can then ask a senior colleague to see if they agree with your assessment. If the server allows comments, you can even post your review to share your feedback with the authors. Check out Advance, SAGE’s preprints community.

4.       Read journals with an open peer review policy

An increasing number of journals (including Therapeutic Advances in Respiratory Disease) publish the reviewers’ comments alongside the final article. This is a great way to get a feel for what a review should look like and to compare your thoughts on a manuscript with the reviewers’ opinions.

5.       Attend a peer review workshop

Sense About Science, a charity that challenges the misrepresentation of science and evidence in public life, runs frequent peer review workshops that are free to attend. If you can’t attend a workshop in person, check out their guide to The Nuts and Bolts of Peer Review, specifically designed for early-career researchers. The next workshop will be held in Glasgow in October.