Peer reviewers are the heart of modern scientific publishing. They help journal editors evaluate the quality and technical validity of a paper, as well as assessing how novel the work is and whether it falls within a journal’s scope. Authors are often also reviewers. Editors may expect that chemists submitting to a journal will also be willing to review for it. But how do you become a peer reviewer?
How Do Editors Select Reviewers?
Quality peer reviewers are always in demand in the chemistry community. The review process is more arduous if journals must tap the same small pool of peer reviewers again and again.
Editors choose chemists to review from a pool of experts to independently assess a submission. You need broad knowledge and understanding of your field. Having the technical expertise to evaluate experiments, data, and interpretation is also essential to reviewing. You must also be able to offer constructive, fair, and unbiased opinions in your reviews.
Often an author will suggest specific chemists to evaluate their work. They should void suggesting friends, collaborators, and others with potential conflicts of interest. Editors will also invite chemists from an independent pool to ensure a fair review process.
How Do You Become a Reviewer?
Reviewers typically hold independent research positions, as it takes time to establish a reputation as an expert. If you publish high-quality work in reputable journals, this will improve your chances of being selected. It can also be useful to network at conferences to enhance your standing within the scientific community. Tell colleagues and advisors about your interest so that they can recommend you as a reviewer.
You could also go the direct route and express your interest in reviewing to your chosen journal, along with your CV and publication record. Once you’re given the chance to review, be sure to provide timely, thoughtful, and thorough responses, so the journal’s editorial team will be more likely to want you reviewing again.
Get Reviewer Training
One way to show you’re serious about becoming a reviewer is to get some training. Getting the right training can also demonstrate that you’d do a good job as reviewer. The free course ACS Reviewer Lab will teach you the finer points of reviewing, including ethical dilemmas, evaluating manuscripts, writing reviews, and more. ACS Publications developed this online course with help from ACS Editors. The course features six interactive modules you can complete on your schedule. It will help you learn the ropes of reviewing, and you will receive a certificate upon completion of the course. At the end of the course, you can select your areas of expertise as well as the journals you want to review for. This allows journals to track and enlist you for the appropriate manuscripts to review instead of shuffling through a pile of CVs.
Network at Professional Conferences and Events
Networking is as important as the sessions you attend at conferences. This is a great time to meet researchers in your field. It’s a chance to identify your interests, and express your desire to review for relevant journals. Even if you don’t run into an editor at the conference, building your network at these events can increase the likelihood of someone writing you down as a recommended reviewer for their manuscript. Have lots of business cards handy and make sure to include your personal website and up-to-date contact details.
Ask a Colleague Who Already Reviews to Recommend You
Do you know a prolific reviewer who works in your lab? Or maybe a colleague from a past job? Don’t be afraid to reach out to them and ask if they could recommend you as a reviewer. A trusted recommendation is always better than one coming from out of the blue.
Become an ACS Member and Network with Your Local Chapter
It’s not always about “what you know.” Sometimes, “who you know” matters more. Another easy way to build your network is to become an ACS member. Membership affords you many networking opportunities as well as discounts on ACS National Meeting registration and open access publishing fees. Local Sections help chemists stay active and involved in their communities by providing a forum for networking and collaboration and by supporting chemists’ efforts to involve their communities with science.
Seek Mentorship from More Senior Colleagues Who Review
Reviewing a manuscript can be an educational opportunity for a mentor and their mentees. This is an acceptable practice when reviewing as long as reviewers notify editors of all people who will be consulted during the review. The editors must approve this action before the manuscript is shared with those being mentored. So go ahead and ask your principal investigator; chances are they’ll appreciate you stepping up to take some reviews off their plate.
There are many benefits to becoming a reviewer. While reviewing you can further establish your expertise in your field. You will also get an early look at the potentially groundbreaking research, develop critical thinking skills, and gain experience writing and respond to constructive criticism. Even better, you will learn what mistakes to avoid as an author, and gain insight into what kinds of research the journal publishes. Serving as a peer reviewer is a considerable responsibility, but makes a lasting contribution to the publication process and science as a whole.
Want to learn more about advancing your chemistry career, including as an author and reviewer? Check out ACS on Campus.