Journals nowadays frequently request that authors suggest a couple of peer-reviewers when submitting their manuscripts. Not all journals follow this trend, but some do and make it clear. Before delving into why careful peer-reviewer selection is essential, we should first dispel the myth that the suggested reviewers are never invited to review the manuscript and that it is all a hoax1. It should be noted that the suggested reviewers are not always invited to review your manuscript, but it is in the author’s best interest to suggest relevant reviewers. Now coming to the why? What is the purpose of journals request for suggesting reviewers from authors?
One of the most common reasons for requesting reviewer suggestions is a lack of available reviewers for journals. Finding a suitable reviewer for a manuscript is a difficult task that frequently causes delays in the peer-review process. Journals request reviewer recommendations from authors to expedite this process because authors are aware of the active researchers in their field. Another important consideration is that journals want to avoid selecting reviewers who are inept in the subject matter of the manuscript and may provide negative comments due to a lack of expertise. As a result, it is in the authors’ best interests to recommend appropriate reviewers.
Now that we understand why journals request peer-reviewer recommendations, let’s look at some key points authors should consider before suggesting reviewers for journals2:
- Don’t be in a hurry: Authors must carefully select reviewers who are active in the field. They don’t have to be big names, because most high-h-index researchers have less time to accept peer-review requests due to other work obligations. The reviewers you choose must be knowledgeable about specific aspects of your research. The idea is to choose active researchers who can provide unbiased constructive feedback on your research; these researchers can sometimes also vouch for your subject knowledge, so choose wisely.
- Not every review is unbiased: Authors should not include any researchers who have a negative bias against them in any way; they could be competitors working on a similar topic, have a personal disagreement, or take a different approach to their work. When a journal requests opposing reviewers, these names can be entered into the opposing reviewer category to prevent editors from inadvertently inviting these researchers to review the manuscript.
- Keep conflicts of interest in mind: Authors should not recommend reviewers who have a conflict of interest (COI) due to academic competition, personal relationships, financial gains, rivalries, or simply different perspectives. In general, journals have guidelines that authors must follow in order to disclose any potential conflicts of interest. The authors are required to submit a statement to demonstrate that they have no conflicts of interest2.
- Expertise matters: As the author, you should suggest reviewers who are knowledgeable about the topic of your study. Check to see if the journal has any specific guidelines for the expertise criteria. If the study is multidisciplinary, the authors can select reviewers with expertise in some of the topics discussed in the manuscript to ensure an objective review.
- Choosing emeritus professors is risky business: This is because emeritus professors may or may not be interested in reviewing the manuscript. Because they are not engaged in research, it is possible that they will take longer to respond to such review requests or will decline them causing delay in the review process.
- Diversity is important even here: A perfect balance of tenured track professors and early career researchers is the best approach for your manuscript. Tenured track professors can suggest new dimensions and provide constructive feedback, and younger researchers are often more active and expressive, they may provide a detailed review that can offer insights and help improve the quality of your manuscript. Furthermore, you should not limit yourself to your home country; it is always preferable to include active researchers from other countries who can provide a fresh perspective.
- Don’t use the same reviewers: If you have previously published in a journal and chosen a set of reviewers, don’t use the same reviewers for every other manuscript in the same journal. Even if there is no conflict of interest, this is not a good sign because most editors prefer to work with new colleagues and are eager to expand their journal’s network of reviewers. Another reason is they want a new reviewer to provide a fresh perspective on the subject.
- Say No to co-authors, collaborators, previous mentors, and spouses: This may seem obvious, but authors frequently make this mistake. Don’t recommend a colleague from the same institute or a collaborator you have worked with before. Different journals have different requirements for determining when the collaborator you have worked with is allowed to serve as a reviewer.
The tips above will assist you in suggesting peer reviewers for manuscript submissions; however, it is also important to mention the reason for suggesting a specific researcher. With the increased use of journals requesting author recommendations for peer-reviewers, the incidences of this request being abused have skyrocketed in the past3. To combat this unethical practice, journals now request reasons for reviewer suggestions.
Here are some key points to remember when providing reasons for your reviewer selection: if the reason for choosing the reviewer is not obvious, authors must provide a valid reason, such as the said reviewer teaches classes on that specific topic, works on a similar area, has supervised or co-supervised master or PhD students working on similar topics, or has received a grant to conduct research in the concerned field. You should not choose reviewers solely to have your paper accepted; rather, you should choose someone who can provide objective feedback and is not biased either positively or negatively.
If you are not sure where to look for relevant reviewers, start with the authors you cited in your research manuscript; ideally, these reviewers work in the same field and have extensive knowledge and understanding of the subject. We hope you found these suggestions useful and insightful.
- Pavlovich, M. ‘The Art of Suggesting Reviewers’ [Accessed October 17, 2022] https://crosstalk.cell.com/blog/suggesting-peer-reviewers.
- Editage Insights. ‘Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest: What Do Journals Expect from Authors? July 9, 2014. https://www.editage.com/insights/disclosure-of-conflicts-of-interest-what-do-journals-expect-from-authors.
- Editage Insights. ‘What Should I Include When Writing the Reasons for Recommending Preferred Reviewers? July 28, 2017. https://www.editage.com/insights/what-should-i-include-when-writing-the-reasons-for-recommeding-preferred-reviewers.