Getting started as a peer reviewer when you are at the early stages of your career can be a daunting task. Even if demand is high for peer reviewers in your specific area of research, it is not always easy to get these opportunities. This was the topic of discussion at a recent workshop on peer review, hosted by Sense about Science.
The panel discussed the process of peer review, how it works, what it does for science and how early career researchers can engage with the process. A mix of publishing experts including Nature Communications’ Editor in Chief Elisa De Ranieri and university professors formed the panel and shared their experiences with peer review from their respective fields, hearing the audience’s comments (mostly early career researchers) and offering constructive feedback on how the process can be improved.
Why bother? Early career researchers at the event did advocate for peer review, as they felt it improves research. Having experts see your work is similar to having a supervisor for your PhD thesis, and this scrutiny makes better scientists. It also improves the level of trust and credibility in research, as claims are based on evidence and therefore helps to uphold science to the highest standards, avoiding plagiarism, and filtering poor research.
Build your research profile: The best way to make yourself a viable candidate as a peer reviewer is to start the process of building your research profile. This may take some time but it will provide evidence that you are an expert in your field and therefore your contribution will be sought.
Reach out directly to relevant people such as editors, start networking and have conversations on why you should be considered as a peer reviewer. To that end every journal’s website has contact information for editors and others that can help you; reach out to them with your CV and express your interest while demonstrating how your contribution to the process will be valuable. Moreover, the industry hosts numerous conferences and events where you can attend and network.
Join a journal’s board: Joining a journal’s board can also be another way to ensure you gain more experience as a peer reviewer, as this will give you the opportunity to review a paper on a monthly basis. Your seat at the board lasts for three years and you will have to be nominated by someone. A good professional reputation will be a big factor on receiving a nomination.
Resources: There are a number of available resources that can help you get started. Most journals do provide information on how to peer review, we offer resources and insights to get you started as well as a specialised training programme brought to you by Nature, created specifically for early career researchers that want to start reviewing. You can find out more about this free course here. To get an introduction to peer review and the process of reviewing a paper, you can take this introductory tutorial, offered in English, Portuguese, Chinese and Spanish and test your knowledge once completed with our online quiz.
In conclusion, it is not one thing you can do to get started as a peer reviewer but rather a number of things you need to be doing concurrently; building your researcher profile, learning more about peer review through resources available and courses that can be added to your CV, reaching out to relevant contacts and attending industry events.