Scholars’ tips on how to be a good peer reviewer
Peer review is lauded in principle as the guarantor of quality in academic publishing and grant distribution. But its practice is often loathed by those on the receiving end. Here, seven academics offer their tips on good refereeing, and reflect on how it may change in the years to come
Every academic wants their papers and grant applications to be reviewed fairly, competently, promptly and courteously. So why is it that, when asked to take their own turn to review, so many academics turn into the infamous reviewer #2 (or, in the sciences, reviewer #3): the tardy, abusive and self-serving misanthrope hiding behind the cloak of anonymity to put a rival down regardless of merit?
Here, scholars from a range of disciplines and countries set down their thoughts on the dos and don’ts of peer reviewing. Issues addressed include how many reviewing requests to accept, when to recuse yourself, and whether it is ever appropriate to reveal yourself to the author, or to request citations to your own papers.
But whatever the failings of individuals, several contributors believe that, above all, it is the system itself that needs to up its game, with the profit motive, the restriction of reviewing to before publication and the lack of institutional rewards for undertaking it all coming in for scrutiny. Peer review may be the gold standard, but it clearly needs some attention if its currency is not to be devalued.