By Vivek Agrahari
Peer review is an integral part of the scientific process and ensures the validity of scientific publications. Constructive feedback from peer reviewers greatly improves a manuscript. It is our professional responsibility to be part of the scientific process as a reviewer and/or author. Interest in becoming a reviewer is stimulated by keenness to become more visible in your field, advancing the science, and the need for improvement in knowledge, competence, and effectiveness.
Here are short-term and long-term benefits of being a peer reviewer:
Improve your critical thinking, writing, and data presentation: Quality reviewers attempt to articulate the strengths as well as the weaknesses of a manuscript. Reviewing requires you to really evaluate the work and then present your evaluation in a clear, concise way.
Improve your understanding of the peer review and publication process: This is important, especially for younger scientists, since career success will depend on publication evidence. Thus, understanding the peer review process is beneficial.
Build relationships with journals: Through frequent and quality review work, a reviewer can build a professional relationship with the editors. This can increase the reviewer’s prospect of being invited to join the editorial board or submit an article. Not to mention that, in general, if you want to become an editor, it is essential that you become a reviewer first for that journal.
Career advancement: Serving as a peer reviewer can make a significant difference when it comes to employment, research, and funding opportunities. This honorary position can be added to your credentials and shows that your expertise is recognized by other scientists. Being identified as a peer reviewer can add significant value to an early career researcher’s standing.
Leadership opportunity in your research community: By reviewing manuscripts, you will be applying your critical skills to the latest cutting-edge research before it has been published. This offers you a position of leadership and an opportunity to develop expertise in your research community. This may lead to invitations to speak at conferences and/or invitations to collaborate on research in your area of expertise.
As a reviewer, you should ensure the standards of the scientific process to maintain the quality of the journal or conference. It is unlikely you will be invited to review content that’s exactly in your area of research, so you should choose to review only the content within your research expertise. Doing a poor review may not only let scientifically deficient research get published, but it would prevent important research from getting accepted. Moreover, providing low-quality and unfair reviews can decrease the editor’s trust in you and negatively affect your career.
One of the easiest ways to get involved in the peer review process is to express your interest to your adviser, mentor, or senior colleagues. They will not only provide you guidance on how to review, but help by connecting you with journal editors. Also, network with scientists working in your research area and let them know that you are willing to serve as a reviewer. This can easily be done by attending meetings and professional conferences. Engaging in scientific conversations with your colleagues and by sharing constructive comments also offers an excellent platform to practice your reviewing skills.
Another excellent way to hone your reviewing proficiency is by reviewing conference abstracts and writing blogs about scientific innovations/works. Screening conference abstracts is very helpful in the same perspective that most of the works are either not published or recently published, which can keep you informed of current research trends.
Be proactive in approaching editors of your target journal and expressing an interest in reviewing. In any communication, always provide some background about yourself, research interest, publication record, and information about the reviewer activity you have already performed for other journals.
Overall, serving as a reviewer for a journal or reviewing conference abstracts is a key step in your scientific career development. In pursuit of success, early-career scientists are always on the lookout for opportunities to excel. It is critical for them to expand their network, and being a peer reviewer offers a great opportunity to interact with fellow researchers in the field. As your career advances, you are likely to be asked to serve as a peer reviewer. Receiving such invitations’ means you are considered an expert in your field of research.