How Peer Review Experience helps ECRs – and how to get started
Journal editors often struggle to find researchers to review submitted manuscripts. With the rapidly increasing volumes of submissions today, timely peer review depends on a diverse and readily available reviewer pool. Early Career Researchers (ECRs) are a valuable resource to tap into for this. What’s more, ECRs stand to gain much from early peer review experience.
Benefits of peer review experience as an ECR
a. Helps your future research and papers
- Peer review experience gives you a privileged window into new advances in your field. Peer reviewing can help you glean tips on how to perform high-quality research and write well-supported arguments. It can keep you up to speed on the latest norms, standards and experimental techniques in your field.
- Reviewing papers is a great time multiplier (a practice or strategy that saves you time later) and teacher for your own research inquiries; you learn from mistakes other researchers make.
b. Helps you grow in your career
- Being an active peer reviewer enables you to build your reputation with journal editors and important researchers in your field. There is an increased movement towards recognising peer review reports as legitimate scholarly outputs, which can also boost a researcher’s CV.
- In ‘open peer review’, the identity of the reviewer appears alongside published papers. This process gives recognition to reviewers for their contributions to the field.
- Additionally, many journals offer their reviewers credits for completed reviews. For instance, on platforms such as Reviewer Credits, you can become a certified reviewer and register and track all your reviews. Some journals offer rewards like ‘continuing professional development’ credits and access to journal content not typically available to the public. (If interested, learn more about continuing education for academic researchers here.)
c. Helps you experience things from the ‘other side’
- It is difficult to accept negative feedback on your paper. But once you get a chance to review the submissions of others, you will understand what it is that most well-meaning reviewers are voicing their concerns about when they critique your paper. In other words, peer review experience makes an ECR value the efforts of those who review their manuscripts.
- Participation in peer review from the journal’s perspective, rather than the author’s perspective, helps ECRs better understand the academic publishing process in general. In this way, an ECR can appreciate the different responsibilities and expectations in peer review.
d. Helps you be a part of creating and supporting trust in research
Early experience with peer review will equip you with best practices to use not only as a reviewer but also as a researcher and author. In this way, you can become one of the many researchers who strive to uphold fair and high-quality peer review.
Tips for embarking on peer review as an ECR
a. Get some practice and training
- Ask your supervisor to familiarise you with the process they use in reviewing papers for journals. Eventually, you could request them to officially include you to co-review manuscripts with them.
- Get involved in post-publication review of papers and preprints.
- Participate in peer review training programmes for ECRs. There are numerous workshops, webinars and podcasts for you to make the most of. The journals for which you review will also be able to provide you with training as a reviewer.
- Utilise online resources. (For some from our site, refer to the resources at the end of this article.)
b. Increase your visibility
- Next, you must get noticed by editors for your research expertise. This can be done in several ways.
- Update your academic achievements, such as publications and peer review experience (if any), on your professional profiles, e.g. ORCiD, LinkedIn or even Twitter.
- Request your supervisor to recommend you as a reviewer to journals that they review for.
- At academic conferences, network with researchers, many of whom will be journal editors. Volunteer your services to them as a reviewer.
- Join Publons (a platform that recognises peer review contribution in a variety of ways), and express your interest in reviewing. Publons notifies journals when you indicate an interest in reviewing for them. You can also add and track your reviewing efforts using your Publons account.
As an ECR, you have much to offer in the peer review process, while gaining a lot as well. In fact, the involvement of researchers from all career stages can improve the peer review capacity of journals globally and make a vital contribution towards maintaining research integrity.
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