Help for Aspiring Scientific Peer Reviewers

Peer Reviewers

Peer reviewers are critical to the advancement of science, but few researchers receive formalized education to sharpen their reviewing skills. In fact, a recent survey reported that up to 77% of researchers desire further training. This is astonishing when combined with another study which estimated that over 30 million hours were spent reviewing manuscripts within scientific journals in 2013 alone.

Since 2013, the number of scientific research articles has only increased. From 2013 to 2016, the total number of articles on Web of Science has increased 23%, and output of chemistry and related fields articles has increased about 13%.

There’s more and more content out there, which means quality peer reviewers are increasingly in demand. For all parties involved — researchers, publishers, editors — the peer review process can be tedious and exacting, especially if the same small pool of peer reviewers is being tapped again and again.

As noted above, the study conducted by Wiley emphasizes this need for educational resources on peer review. Among young/early career reviewers (with 5 or less years of experience), 89% of respondents said they would like more training in this area. Interestingly, the demand for training remains relatively high for experienced peer reviewers: 75% of those with 6-10 years experience and 64% of those respondents with 11-15 years experience. This wide range of interest makes it clear that current peer review training is not meeting the demands of the marketplace.

While there are currently some resources on the marketplace, there are none that address the specific needs of those working in the chemical and related sciences. Reviewing papers in this discipline often requires a particular technical skill set and a critical eye for reviewing supporting information.

This August, ACS Publications launched ACS Reviewer Lab™, a free online course designed to educate researchers on the fundamentals of peer review. The course features six interactive modules covering the basics of peer review and ethics as well as real-life guidance on how to write a high-quality referee report. Designed by ACS Editors, leading scientific researchers, and ACS Publications staff, this detailed course takes users through the entire peer review process, providing discerning examples along the way. Each module is accompanied by challenging exercises to test skill and knowledge. A certificate is awarded upon successful completion of the final assessment.

At ACS, we believe in equal accessibility for all people and have taken extra steps in our course design to make the course accessible to people with disabilities as outlined in the federal Section 508 guidelines.

Read what peer reviewers are saying about ACS Reviewer Lab:

“This is really good; when I started out I had no idea what to review on; this is the handbook.”

“Will definitely recommend all my students to take it. First of all, it teaches them how to write papers—not just how to review—it teaches them what will be assessed.”

“Initiative is great—there was a need for something like this…once the program is established, I’ll have all my post-docs and graduate students go through the course.”

For more information on ACS Reviewer Lab, or to enroll, please visit acsreviewerlab.org.

If you have comments or questions for the author of this post, please e-mail: Axial@acs.org.