|Year : 2018 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 1-2
Engaging and Retaining Reviewers
Department of Community Medicine, Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||8-May-2018|
Department of Community Medicine, Dr. D. Y. Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Banerjee A. Engaging and Retaining Reviewers. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2018;11:1-2
The most important aspect of editing a journal is to engage and retain good reviewers. The task is even more daunting for a multispecialty journal. Even within a specialty or subspecialty, there may be aspects in a submitted manuscript demanding specific core competency on the part of the reviewer. Original research demand reviewers who are abreast of current trends in their subject and then some, for example, able to appreciate innovation.
How does one find such a reviewer? One of the methods is looking up the references in the manuscript. Alternatively, the editorial software system searches PubMed using the keywords in the manuscript. Priority is given to authors of most recent articles so as to identify reviewers working at the frontiers in a given field. The authors in these references are shortlisted. A rapid check on their other publications is helpful. With these inputs, one can take a call whether a particular reviewer is appropriate for the manuscript.
This “ergonomics of peer review” or fitting the manuscript to the reviewer, a concept from occupational medicine facilitates reviewer engagement. It also improves review quality which helps the authors. The reviewer whose work has been cited is likely to be favorably inclined to improve the quality of the paper by offering constructive comments. The editor and reviewer's goal should be to improve the papers if that is possible. Even if the paper is not accepted in the journal, a revised version may find a place in a different journal. Therefore, even if the manuscript is poor, it is desirable that the review be good.
What is our success rate in engaging reviewers by this method? In our experience, about one-third of shortlisted reviewers do not respond; one-third decline, some suggesting alternative reviewers, and one-third accept the invitation to review. Using these probabilities, we usually send a new manuscript to about six shortlisted reviewers in the hope that we can enlist at least two reviewers for the paper.
Once engaged, how to retain good reviewers? Reviewing, particularly the double-blind peer review being followed by the journal is a thankless job, carried out behind the scenes. The lack of public appreciation and recognition has to be compensated by editorial appreciation. Once the reviewer submits the review, a letter of appreciation is sent. Yearly, the first issue of the journal publishes the name of the reviewers. Reviewers are also given an option to write invited commentaries in their topics of interest which are published on priority.
The editor is not bound by the recommendation of the reviewer whether to accept or reject a paper. The final decision rests with the editorial board and the journal editor. To retain reviewers, it is good practice that the final decision on the manuscript should be communicated to the concerned reviewer. In case the editorial board has taken a call which is contrary to the recommendation of the reviewer conveying the reason is good etiquette. Repeatedly disregarding a particular reviewer's recommendation without giving adequate reason will not retain the reviewer in the long run.
The editor also should keep both the author and the reviewer in good humor. This is vital when sometimes the authors' replies to a reviewer's comments are abrasive particularly when a particular reviewer has not couched critical comments in a polite manner. In such situations without editorial moderation, the exchanges can escalate antagonizing both authors and more importantly the reviewer.
The editorial board members should also not miss any opportunity to personally meet and thank the reviewers for their efforts. This can be proactively done for instance when visiting any institution for a national or international conference in India or abroad.
By these methods, a pool of diligent reviewers in each specialty and subspecialty can be established. This can be relied upon to provide reviews quickly in case a new manuscript gets delayed due to nonresponse from newly identified reviewers as sometimes happens. However, care should be taken to resort to this practice sparingly so that the diligent reviewers are not overworked lest they lose interest in reviewing for the journal. Most journals make this mistake of overburdening sincere reviewers with more assignments. Both the quality and commitment can be adversely affected as a result of this temptation.
We are happy to state that by our strategy of engaging and retaining peer reviewers outlined above over the last 5 years we have been able to reach out to more than 3600 reviewers from over 80 countries. The list keeps expanding with very new manuscript submitted. We dedicate this issue to these sentinels protecting the integrity and accuracy of published research in their field.
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