This post is part of an online article I wrote for Publons. Publons is an online management system where you can keep track of your peer reviews, and compare your records to others. I wrote the article as a helpful guide for beginning peer reviewers. The article consists of four parts:
- How to critically read a manuscript
- Writing the peer review
- Submitting the peer review
- Managing peer review requests
Peer review is a great way to become a better scientist. By regularly doing peer reviews, you will start to think like the peer reviewer who will criticize your paper, so it will make you a better writer. It is an essential part of being a scientist. And, to be honest: it can feel really great to be in the power seat sometimes! But, remember to always stay friendly and polite.
4. Managing peer review requests
Which and how many peer reviews should you perform? Most junior scientists will start to get peer review requests after publishing their first paper as a first author. Often, you will get asked if one of your papers is listed in the references of the manuscript, so the new study will be in your field. You should only accept the peer review if you feel you have expertise in the topic of the paper, even if you are not an expert in all the techniques used. Typically, a manuscript will be sent out to about 3 reviewers, so as a rule-of –thumb you should perform 3 times more reviews than the amount of manuscripts you typically submit per year. More is better! Once you have peer-reviewed for a journal, the journal will ask you again, but usually only once or twice a year. The more papers you have published, the more requests you will get. You do not have to accept all of them, though. I’ll try to only have 2 ongoing peer reviews at the time; if I get more requests, I will turn them down until I have finished the previous ones. However, I will always accept requests to re-review a manuscript for the second time, and give priority to requests from journals where I serve in the editorial board.
Publons has been a great resource for me to keep track of all my peer reviews. It is a nice way to get recognition for all the work we peer reviewers do, mostly anonymously. In addition, it is great to compare my acceptance rate and length of peer reviews to that of others, and to have a feel for how many reviews other scientists perform, and for which journals. I can highly recommend signing up!