Updating Reviewer Profile Info
How many reviewers does your journal have? Why is it important to periodically ask reviewers to update reviewer profile info? How does this serve both the journal and the reviewers?
The new normal
In the wake of COVID, as OA gains momentum and the worldwide research output continues to explode, it has become clear to all in scholarly publishing that there is no going back to the old days. Research journals are struggling to keep up with the increased number of submissions and in the race to the publish or perish, any obstacle that delays the peer review process is one obstacle too many. It is more important than ever to run an efficient peer review journal and keep manuscript processing times on target. That means that even a step as simple as selecting and inviting a reviewer needs to be smooth.
Smooth at first
Most peer review systems will perform an initial import of reviewer information when the journal is set up. This will include all the essentials such as institutional affiliation, contact email and areas of expertise. This profile info is then stored in the journal database so that editors can easily find and invite the relevant reviewer when a manuscript is submitted. What happens, then, when an editor selects a reviewer whose information is incorrect?
Then it gets rocky
Imagine the scenario: Associate Editor searches for and finds the desired reviewers in the database, clicks to invite and thinks the review process is underway for the manuscript, but one of the email addresses is outdated. A week later, one reviewer is underway with reviewing the manuscript, but the other is not. The system sends invitation number two to the same email address and the cycle of failed communication continues until either editor or administrator takes the initiative to cancel the invite. At this stage the manuscript is already slightly delayed, the first review is in, but the second is not… this doesn’t not speed up the time to publication. Now imagine that this is happening with more than one manuscript. Now imagine this happening with more than a few manuscripts each week or several per month.This not only means the peer review process is delayed for each of the manuscripts concerned, but it also means the workload of the editor and the journal administrator have increased and the reviewer has a stockpile of extraneous emails awaiting at the wrong email address or when returning from vacation.
And the solution is
Now imagine a slightly different scenario: Periodically, this journal reaches out to its reviewers, suggesting that they verify that their profile information is up to date. To do this, the journal administrator uses that often overlooked, but very useful ‘mass email’ feature built into their peer review software system. Features of this kind normally allow for a customized message, and here it is important to note that the well-written message presents the updating of profile info as a service, rather than a task. The request reminds reviewers that updating profile information serves them – that if their contact and expertise details are properly updated, in effect, they will be sure to receive invitations to review the research that most interests them, at their preferred email address and when they are open to reviewing. With the right message, the reviewer will be motivated to comply, and see the email as a benefit of reviewing for a well-run journal as opposed to an annoyance.
The moral of the story, folks?
Whether you have 35 reviewers or 350, it makes sense to periodically request that external reviewers update their profile information both for the journal and for the reviewers. The end result?
- The editor is happy: the invitation and review process works effortlessly, no time is wasted, no extra invitations are necessary.
- The administrator is happy: no need to follow up, sending reminders to the editor to cancel the non-responder and send another invitation or get permission to do so.
- The publisher is happy: the time to publication is on target.
- The reviewer is happy: contacted when available and via the preferred method, reviewing novel research in the field of choice, helping those wishing to share it and contributing to their field of specialty.
In the end, this simple practice will streamline the invitation process, reduce editorial staff workload, reduce the overall average time to publication for valuable articles and improve the peer reviewer experience.
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