Inviting external reviewers

Inviting external reviewers: how many? when?


Upon receiving a new manuscript, a chain reaction is set into motion. The editorial staff will typically contact an Editor-in-Chief, and either this editor or an Associate Editor will then be responsible for inviting external reviewers. Exactly how the process of inviting reviewers takes place is, of course, unique to each journal. How many external reviewers should be invited? When should the invitations go out? What exactly is the invitation workflow like and what features support that workflow? 

Time to publication and invites:

In an ideal world, perhaps a single external reviewer would be invited at a time, and perhaps there would be an abundance to time at the editor’s disposal to await the first invitees response… but in today’s fast paced academic publishing world, this may not be realistic. Today, almost every journal is challenged to reduce time to publication in order to stay competitive. The need to reduce time to publication then influences the peer review process, where there is a certain amount of pressure to be as efficient as possible. With this in mind, the modern editor must have a practical approach to both searching for and inviting reviewers.

Features of a modern invitation process:

When choosing your editorial management software, it will be a distinct advantage to select a system that has the features to support  modern invitation process workflows. For example, can your system compile and store a list of potential reviewers? If it is able to do so, an editor can save valuable time by selecting potential reviewers all at once, and then, later, with one click, send out the next meaningful invitation.  Alternatively, an editor could prefer to invite all on the “potentials” list at once, casting the net as widely as possible from the start, and cancelling the extraneous invites once the required reviews are in. For this purpose, it would be useful to know whether the platform can perform multiple simultaneous invitations.

Though multiple simultaneous invitations may sound like a chaotic approach to inviting reviewers, it is often practical as it can be quite normal a good percentage of invited reviewers will not respond. Though reasons for a lack of response vary, there are always some that do not wish to review, while others may not have received the invitation due to faulty contact information. Therefore, being able to send multiple invitations at once can be a valuable feature. In addition, it is even more valuable to have a system with the capability to follow-up on these non-responders; and to automatically invite the next on the list. Features such as these can minimize the loss of valuable time in the peer review process.


In the end, how many reviewers should be invited and what is the ideal process? While the number of reviewers is largely determined by the standard of the field or industry of your journal, it is normal for a research manuscript to require 2 external reviewers. A manuscript based on more abstract and theoretical research could require more reviewers depending upon subject matter and writing quality.

The all-purpose approach:

Regardless of the subject matter of the manuscript, perhaps the all-purpose approach would be to compile an initial list of at least 6 potential external reviewers for each manuscript, and from that list, invite 3-4 reviewers initially. This strategy will minimize a loss of valuable time in the review process by providing at least one response to begin with, and a few potential reviewers to be invited later.

Features and capabilities:

Remember to keep the process easy for your editorial staff by choosing an editorial management system that is modern enough to include the following capabilities/features:

  • Ability to save a list of good potential reviewers
  • Capable of sending multiple invites simultaneously
  • Able to follow up on non-responders
  • Invites the next reviewer on the “potentials” list automatically

An editorial management system with these capabilities will be able to support a variety of modern day invitation workflows and keep your editors happy while keeping the overall time to review at an ideal minimum.


“Remember that choosing a modern editorial management system will give you the features to support an efficient invitation process.”


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