It is a hard task for publishers to get submitted manuscripts reviewed. That is actually strange as the concept has the term peer in its name. Each researcher, at times, will want to publish his or her research. This means that the services of peers are required to be reviewed. So, each researcher should be willing to review a fair share of manuscripts. Even if every researcher would be willing to do so (they are not), there are still a few issues.
In order to be a decent reviewer, you, as a researcher, need to tick the following boxes:
- You need to have knowledge about the subject area.
- You need to have a pretty decent command of the English language.
- You need to know how to review.
- You need to know the journal and where in the ‘quality spectrum’ it lies. You don’t want to accept (relative to the journal) poor papers or reject (relative to the journal) good papers.
- You need to be willing to review
Now, for a publisher, points 1 and 2 are difficult to influence; that is a given. This just means that not all of those that submit a paper to your journal could be used as a reviewer. The rest of the issues can be solved, and dare I say; quite easily.
Not knowing how to review can be addressed through online training. There are plenty of video’s, webinars, guides out there on how to review. The people at ReviewerCredits for example have done a wonderful job. Brand such an online training towards your journal and add this to your reviewer-invitation. I know, this is not a panacea. What does help, and this is a combination with point 4 about the ‘quality spectrum’ is implementing ‘guided reviews’. Think of a ‘form’ through which the reviewer is guided. He or she will have to asses the submission on a number of points and give a valuation on these points. Say one of the points would be ‘quality of language’. In the form you would ask to rank language on a few subcriteria like grammar, ease of reading, consequent use of terminology etc. For each criteria the reviewer would have to highlight an example. This would not cost the reviewer much time and, by guiding the process you make the reviews fairer.
Now, IMHO, the simplest and most effective way of solving the peer-review problem is to ‘gently’ force the peer part of the review process. If you want to publish with our journal we kindly ask you to review a paper. We won’t judge you on whether you suggest ‘accept’ or ‘reject’, but on the speed, quality, and thoroughness of your review.
Currently the median paper has six authors. If each author does one review, and you need two authors per paper you could, in theory, review 3 papers with each submission. Now, as we argued that not all authors are able to review you might not get one review per corresponding author. You will get a long way towards solving your review problem.