Finding and Selecting Reviewers

Reviewers play such an important role in scholarly publishing that finding the right reviewer for any given submission naturally can be challenging. Fortunately, editors have a team of editorial board members available. In addition, Editorial Manager includes a reviewer locator with keyword matching, linking editors directly to reviewer profiles.

When selecting reviewers, editors should keep in mind that good reviewers:

  • Want to review and indicate their availability in Editorial Manager
  • Will put in the time and effort
  • Are not wishy-washy
  • Provide reasons for their recommendations
  • Can render criticism in a diplomatic way
  • Write well (good writing is good editing)

Reviewers who are doing research in a related area are more likely to find the paper relevant and interesting and so respond promptly. They are also the most likely to spot missing references and to offer constructive feedback.  The ideal reviewer is likely to be an established researcher in the field who has recently published in the field and has a good knowledge of the area.  The editor should select someone who has a good track record of fair reviews returned promptly, who can review the manuscript without professional or personal bias, and without potential conflict of interest.

The editor should never invite someone who is at the same institution as the submitting author and should avoid inviting a former co-author of the submitting author to serve as a reviewer. When possible, editors should avoid inviting a reviewer who is already overloaded with manuscripts or has a poor record of completing reviews in a timely manner.  They may also want to think twice before using reviewers who have not been active in research in the last five years.

Whenever possible, editors should make use of editorial board members (EBM) for reviewing. If an EBM is not regularly refereeing, then the editor may want to consider rotating them off the board.

In general, editors should invite only as many reviewers as you will need. Inviting more reviewers than are needed and using only the first reviews to be returned can cause reviewers to feel unappreciated, and conflicting reviews can come in after the author has already been informed of your decision.

In addition to EBMs, editors will also on occasion need to make use of ad hoc reviewers.  There are numerous strategies for identifying new reviewers, including the following:

  • Keyword searches in the Editorial Manager database of reviewers;
  • Keyword searches in Pubmed/Medline, Google Scholar, Publons, or other databases;
  • Recommendations from editorial board members and colleagues;
  • References in the article itself;
  • Authors from ASHA journals and from competing titles.

Supporting Reviewers

There is much competition for good reviewers in communication sciences and disorders, so it is important to keep them engaged. Reviewers appreciate clear and courteous communications containing all the information necessary to allow them to evaluate the request to review promptly. In addition, editors can adopt the following strategies

  • Immediately reject inappropriate papers outright without sending them to a reviewer. Reviewers can lose interest in serving if they receive too many bad papers from a journal.
  • Provide sufficient information in the reviewer invitation: authors’ names and affiliations, the title of the paper, the abstract, time frame within which the review would need to be completed, and the deadline by which they should accept or decline the invitation to review
  • If the potential reviewer does respond by the deadline, then the editor should let them know that someone else will be invited to review that manuscript. This helps avoid confusion about who will complete the review and also provides an opportunity for the editor to let them know they will be contacted again to review another manuscript in the future.
  • If the reviewer declines, thenask whether they can suggest another appropriate reviewer
  • If reviewers agree to review a paper, then provide a clear and realistic target for the completion and return of their comments
  • Customize the template letters within Editorial Manager when possible to give the request a personal touch
  • Share links to the Reviewer Resources on the ASHA Journals Academy

Reviewers also appreciate when editors blind copy them on the decision letter sent to the authors. If the editor did not follow their recommendations, then reviewers often appreciate being told why.  Whenever possible, editors should thank reviewers who are doing a good job. Reviewers, especially if they are relatively new to the role, often welcome feedback–both positive and constructive–to help improve their skills. In mentoring and developing relationships with a cadre of reviewers, the editor lays the foundation for building their own effective editorial board.

Rating Reviewers

Editors are encouraged to rate reviewers on timeliness and quality. The timeliness rating is based on whether a review was delayed or not returned after a reviewer agreed to participate. The quality assessment rates whether the review was highly relevant, sufficient, below average, or not returned. Reviewer ratings are neither communicated to the author nor stored in the reviewer’s ASHA account, if applicable. Only editors-in-chief, editors, National Office staff, and Editorial Manager employees can access reviews and rating results.

Ratings in either timeliness or quality that are below our expectations may factor into whether a reviewer receives future invitations to participate in peer review, since it becomes a part of the reviewer’s Editorial Manager account. However, ad hoc reviewers with high ratings may be offered opportunities for additional involvement. These individuals often form the pipeline for editorial board positions.