Registering areas of expertise

Registering Areas of Expertise


External reviewers all have specific areas of expertise, but how they are registered can have a big impact on both the journal and the reviewer experience.



Valuable contributors

The peer review process is full of pitfalls that can waste valuable time-to-publication and also discourage valuable contributors. Take the external reviewer. This person is a busy expert in their field taking the time to read novel work and give meaningful feedback ad honorem. The last thing a journal wants to do when dealing with such a valued contributor is to make their process irritating. Yet it is necessary to keep the reviewer profile updated, including contact information and areas of expertise.

When reviewers open their profile to begin evaluating a manuscript, most systems will present a pop up box of sorts, requesting verification that the information is current. Making it easy to do this is key. How can we make the registration of areas of expertise smooth and easy so that reviewers can focus on the manuscript at hand and also return to review the next submission?  And in addition, how can the journal make the selection of reviewers more efficient in the future, saving overall time to publication by starting with good matches between reviewer and manuscript?


Indicating area of expertise


Keywording is a popular way of registering areas of expertise for external reviewers for many journals, and also quite manageable for reviewers when done in the “right” way. Usually the journal will present its own list of keywords to the reviewer for selection. Whether the keywords be presented in a drop down list menu or typed manually, they can be used to specify area of expertise quickly and easily, and have the added advantage of being highly searchable. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when creating keyword lists. Remember, your external reviewers are volunteers, so make this an easy task and limit the number of keywords where possible! Scrolling through hundreds of keywords is tedious and more time than they have. It may become a frustrating task for the reviewer and discourage them from reviewing in the future. The apt number of keywords covers main topics areas within the discipline of your journal and covers the typical the range of submission topics. Thought it is difficult to specify the ‘just right’ number for each discipline, it is one which will both allow reviewers to select quickly, and allow co-editors to easily identify relevant experts in the database for future manuscript reviews. If you can keep the keywords list manageable, your external experts will save energy and patience for one more small, yet very important, task…


Adding a short description:

In addition to selecting expertise keywords, it can be a great advantage to allow space for your external reviewers to write a short description of an area of expertise in paragraph form. This more detailed description of research interests or recent work will be an invaluable complement to the concise keywords chosen, and will give future editors additional information to compare in the case of two very similar reviewers appearing in a keyword search.


Emailing reviewers:

While you generally do not want to bother your reviewers, it is good practice to send the occasional email requesting the update of profile information. Most peer review / journal management systems now offer a bulk email feature exactly for this purpose. Depending on the information your system allows to be stored in the reviewer profile, you might want to tailor the email to request an update of basics such as institutional affiliation and email address, as well as the ever so valuable dates of availability and areas of expertise.


Success in simplicity:

In short, registering an of area of expertise through a combination of keywords and a brief written description can be manageable for the reviewer and provide excellent information for your peer review journal database. Gathering the correct information will aid in the future selection of reviewers, decrease the likelihood of irritating contributors and improve the overall efficient match of manuscript to expert.  All of this contributes to the overall efficient operation of your journal. Read more on the following links about how keeping your reviewer information updated fits into overall best practices for the efficient peer review journal.

“A combination of keywords and a brief description is both manageable for the external reviewer and provides excellent information for your database.”

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