Managing Peer Review

At Wiley we believe that peer review is the foundation for safeguarding the quality and integrity of scientific and scholarly research. In this section, you can learn more about your Peer Review duties as an editor.

The Peer-Review Process: Reviewers play an essential role in helping editors decide which papers to publish based on an evaluation of their topicality, rigor of argument, experimental design, and originality. The peer review process can be broadly summarized in 10 steps, found here: The Peer Review Process.
Reviewer Scoresheets: The reviewer scoresheet is the form sent to reviewers to structure their responses. Not all journals use a scoresheet, but we've found it's the best way to ensure all the key issues are addressed. Read our recommendations about how to customize the scoresheet to encourage the most helpful reviews.
Finding Reviewers: Journals often struggle to find a sufficient number of reviewers who are willing to review in a timely manner, particularly in niche areas. See our guide to strategies for finding additional reviewers.
Chasing Reviewers: Manuscripts need to be processed in a timely manner to ensure author satisfaction and to avoid publication delays, but the review process needs to remain robust and rigorous. See our advice for managing reviewer delays.
Reviewing Tips and Best Practice: We’ve pulled together some top tips for managing an efficient and speedy review process which works in the best interest of reviewers, authors and the editorial board. Consult our list of best practices.

 

The Reviewer Scoresheet

Recommendation Options

Ultimately, it is the editor who will decide whether to accept, reject, or ask for revisions on a manuscript. Therefore, it is useful for the reviewers to make a recommendation. Accept and reject are self-explanatory, but revision recommendations may need clarifying. Most commonly:

  • "Minor Revision" implies that publication is desirable, and a limited number of changes will bring the manuscript up to scratch.
  • "Major Revision" implies that the manuscript needs considerable reworking prior to reconsideration.

 

Finding the Line Between Revise and Reject

In many cases, a major revision recommendation can be interpreted as a reject. Some journals, therefore, give several revision options in an attempt to distinguish those with a high chance of success from those that, even after substantial revision, are unlikely to be worthy of publication. This problem can also be addressed with a priority ranking (see below).

 

Questionnaire

A number of journals include a questionnaire in the reviewer scoresheet, covering general issues such as originality, validity, and language. Relevant issues may be linked to the journal’s specialist concerns and publication issues, e.g. journals with page constraints may ask reviewers whether manuscripts could be shortened.

In addition to the questionnaire, some journals have added a Manuscript Structure section to the reviewer scoresheet asking for opinions on the length of article, the number of tables, and the number of figures. These might be ranked "too much", "adequate," or "too little". Tables or figures can be more informative than a lot of text, so reviewers may advise on how to make more efficient use of space.

 

Priority Ranking

A priority scale is a useful way for the reviewer to distinguish top-quality articles. This may be a numerical scale (1-10) but it may be more helpful to use a descriptive scale ("Top Priority", "Low Priority", etc.). A breakdown of criteria might prove helpful.

For example, a reviewer might be asked to rate the contribution that the paper makes to the field or its relevance to contemporary issues. Justification for publication consists not only of the quality of the paper, but also its originality and significance.

 

Guidance

Every journal should give reviewers guidance about completing a reviewer scoresheet. This guidance should not just relate to how to complete the form but also give advice about what reviewers should be looking for. You should add this kind of guidance to the reviewer scoresheet and/or the review center. Some journals have chosen to write a 'reviewer guide,' which is sent out to new reviewers.

You can also direct reviewers to Wiley's Reviewer Resource Center. A link to the journal's author guidelines can also be useful.

 

Chasing Reviewers

Reminders: Automatic or Manual?

When chasing reviewers, it's worth considering whether it is preferable to use automatic or manual reminders. For instance, it would be possible to set up automatic reminders to be sent at 7-day intervals until the review is submitted.

However, will this make reviewers more likely to respond? Are they likely to ignore auto-generated emails? Manual reminders can be tailored to specific circumstances, allowing the tone and content to be modified. This approach is probably more likely to provoke a helpful response. We recommend that a mixture of automatic and manual reminders be used. Most reviewers will respond in time and will appreciate a gentle reminder. Manual reminders can be saved for difficult cases.

If all this fails, the reviewer can be unassigned. This action sometimes provokes a response from the reviewer. If the reviewer then declares that they will complete the review they can be re-invited.

 

Difficult Situations

It is worth remembering that you will often be unaware of a reviewer's individual circumstances. Don't make assumptions about why a reviewer has not responded. It’s fine to be firm but keep it courteous and professional.

 

Sample Email When a Reviewer is Not Responding Promptly.

"We understand you may be very busy at present. However, we are relying on the report you have agreed to provide. We would appreciate it if you could let us know if you are now unable to review the paper. If this is the case, are you able to recommend someone who might be willing to act as a reviewer? I'm sure you can appreciate we need to provide the author with a decision as quickly as possible."

Some common situations and suggested approaches:

Invitation or reminder emails have gone astray: respond with apologies for any inconvenience caused. Assure the reviewer that his/her input would be appreciated and grant him/her an extension as appropriate.
Emails to reviewer bounce back/are undeliverable: search the internet for an up-to-date email address. Resend the invitation email and update the reviewer's account.
Reviewer responds with news of a personal nature: respond sympathetically and with condolences. Make it clear that the reviewer should feel no obligation to complete the review and consider unassigning him/her from the manuscript. Ensure that no further automatic reminders are sent.
Your decision is contrary to a reviewer's recommendation: Be sure to send the reviewer a personal email to let them know why.

 

In all of this, remember the importance of the personal touch.

 

Reviewing Tips and Best Practice

Tips to Expedite the Review Process

Ensure that the review deadline is clearly stated in the reviewer invitation, agreement email, and reminders. When sending reminders to reviewers, it may be helpful to mention how the delay is impacting the author(s).

If reviewers are not responding to email reminders, try sending a more personalized email, possibly from the journal editor instead of an EEO. If necessary, unassign the reviewer and select an alternative.

We've gathered the best advice on delivering efficient and effective peer review to your authors. Following are detailed guidelines to help you expedite the review process and keep your reviewers and authors happy. You can also download our Editor’s Quick Guide to a Happy Review Process for easy reference.

 

Tips for Happy Reviewers  
  If there are journal-specific reviewer guidelines, attach a copy to the invitation email or agreement email. Include a link to Wiley's Peer Review Resource Center.  
  Give reviewers the option to suggest alternates (this gives editors more options and speeds up the process).  
  Be flexible and understanding if reviewers ask for an extension to their deadline.  
  Inform them of the decision and share reports from other reviewers (anonymously, if a double-blind journal).  
  Recognize and reward reviewers for their contributions.  
  See the Wiley Peer Review Study for information on reviewer recognition and reward preferences.  
  Ensure that reviewers receive a thank you for their time. This could be in the form of an email, certificate, or annual published list of people who have contributed reviews over the year either online or in an issue.  
  Many Wiley journals are now integrated with Publons to provide official recognition for their contribution to peer review.  
     

 

Tips for Happy Authors  
  If the manuscript is delayed in the review process, contact the author to inform them of the situation. Most authors are understanding, especially if kept informed. Some EEOs allow for a "Longstanding Papers" queue, by which you can keep track of delayed manuscripts.  
  When acknowledging a new article submission, let authors know that they should expect to hear from you within a certain number of weeks/months.  
  Encourage reviewers to write detailed comments about articles. Authors appreciate being supplied with as much information as possible.  
     

 

General Tips  
  If you often use the same reviewers and need to add something new to the standard email, make sure the changes are highlighted. It's possible that reviewers don't look closely at the standard email after they've reviewed a few times.  
  Consider re-writing your standard emails now and again to keep reviewers alert and informed.  
  Quote the article number and title in all correspondence and encourage authors and reviewers to do the same.  
     
Previous Article
Monitoring Journal Performance
Monitoring Journal Performance

Understand all the metrics available to quantify and appreciate a journal’s performance.

Next Article
Editorial Office Guidelines Part 2
Editorial Office Guidelines Part 2

Learn about the Editorial Office essentials around the production process, managing the editorial board and...