What It’s Like to Be an ACS Publications Reviewer

Reviewers are essential to the success of any scientific journal. During Peer Review Week each year, we set aside a little time to thank those who make important contributions to chemistry research by reviewing papers for ACS Publications journals. As part of our Peer Review Week celebration, we reached out to three of our most prolific reviewers for a short interview on their experiences.

What do you like most about being a reviewer?

Katsuhiko Ariga: Some anonymous scientists review our papers and we anonymously review papers for others. We can help each other without ever knowing each others’ names. I am very happy to participate in this link.

Shannon Boettcher: Peer review is one of the most critical components of science. I enjoy helping researchers around the world improve the quality and impact of their work. It is particularly rewarding when it is clear the authors genuinely appreciate thoughtful comments.

Sarah Petrosko: It is extremely rewarding to be able to offer my peers constructive feedback about their research.  This feedback can provide the extra polish needed for a good paper to become a great paper that has a positive impact on the field.

What is your advice to those looking to become a reviewer?

Katsuhiko Ariga: The review process is an opportunity for you to learn and improve your skills as well. Please do not hesitate to review papers that are outside of your comfort zone.

Shannon Boettcher: E-mail any editor and ask—reviewers are always needed. When writing your review, don’t hesitate to be critical and push the authors to improve the work; but be reasonable and think carefully about the type of experiments suggested.

Sarah Petrosko: Some of the best reviewers are those researchers that are also active in the publication process themselves as authors. They have the knowledge to recognize if the work represents an advance in the field and the expertise to understand if that work is scientifically sound. Those looking to become reviewers should try to become more prolific authors and also engaged readers of the literature.

What have you learned from the peer review process?

Katsuhiko Ariga: I’ve learned so much about writing, research innovations, changes to the research journal systems, etc. Reviewing gives me a chance to interact with many different aspects of science.

Shannon Boettcher: It has helped me see the flaws in our own work and thus better educate my own students and postdocs to address them before we submit our work.

Sarah Petrosko: By participating in the peer review process, I have learned the importance of presenting my research with the intended audience in mind.

What is your most memorable reviewing experience?

Katsuhiko Ariga: I found an illustration I created was later used in the publication of a manuscript I reviewed, without giving me any credit. It was presented as their own illustration. I wasn’t too upset, but still had to tell it to the editor. However, I enjoyed realizing my illustration was useful!

Shannon Boettcher: There have been several publications I reviewed where I was critical, made key suggestions, and asked the authors to really address key issues, which have now been published are turning out to be very high-impact pieces of science. I take pride in my anonymous contributions to such work.

Sarah Petrosko: I was involved with reviewing a paper that went through four rounds of review (which is highly unusual) before eventually being published in JACS. Although a tedious process, the manuscript was improved with each round!


Katsuhiko Ariga is currently the Director of Supermolecules Group and Principal Investigator of World Premier International (WPI) Research Centre for Materials Nanoarchitectonics (MANA), the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS). His research is oriented to supramolecular chemistry, surface science, and functional nanomaterials (Langmuir-Blodgett film, layer-by-layer assembly, self-organized materials, sensing and drug delivery, molecular recognition, mesoporous material, etc.) He is now trying to combine them into a unified field: nanoarchitectonics. He is an Editorial Board Member of AACS Applied Materials & Interfaces and Chemistry of Materials, as well as a former EAB member of Langmuir. Learn more about his research.


Shannon Boettcher is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Oregon and, since 2016, a Senior Editor at ACS Energy Letters. He received his B.A. in Chemistry at the University of Oregon in 2003 where he was a Barry M. Goldwater Scholar. He received his Ph.D. in Inorganic Chemistry with Galen Stucky at UC Santa Barbara in 2008 where he was an NSF Graduate Research and UC Chancellor’s Fellow. As a Kavli Nanoscience Institute Prize Postdoctoral Scholar, he studied three-dimensional Si electrode structures at the California Institute of Technology working with Nathan Lewis and Harry Atwater. His research is at the intersection of materials science and electrochemistry, with a focus on fundamental aspects of solar energy conversion and storage. In 2011 he was named one of 18 DuPont Young Professors worldwide, in 2014 a Cottrell Scholar, and in 2015 both a Sloan and a Dreyfus awardee. Learn more about his research.


Sarah Petrosko earned two B.S. degrees (Chemistry and Physics) from the University of Florida in 2002, and her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Northwestern in 2009 under the guidance of Professor Chad Mirkin. After a two-year stint as a Director’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Argonne National Laboratory’s Center for Nanoscale Materials (Advisor: Dr. Tijana Rajh), Sarah came back to Northwestern, where she is currently a Research Assistant Professor and Assistant Director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology. Sarah has published over 25 articles and book chapters, authored numerous patents, and edited three books on topics in nanobiomedicine as well as an ACS Select virtual issue. She worked with Professor Mirkin and a professional animator to produce a scientific animation that won the 2013 People’s Choice Award from the International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge (hosted by Science and the National Science Foundation). Learn more about her research.