Friday, December 11, 2015

On the difficulty of finding peer-reviewers

I have recently become an Associate Editor at PeerJ. I had several motivations for this:
  • I strongly believe in their mission, and am very happy with my three publishing experiences with them.
  • I mostly work alone and therefore my papers, in the long run, will not be a profitable for them. I felt that I should give them some extra support in exchange for their extremely low number-of-authors-based APC.
  • As a mid-career researcher at a little-known teaching-based institution, I reasoned that this opportunity might increase my visibility and improve my CV.

I am enjoying my run as an editor. So far, I have shepherded seven papers through the publishing process: one of them was published a week ago, I rejected one "on arrival",  and five of them are undergoing review.  I target my peer-review invitations to people who have recently published work using the same methods, or studied the same question, both for the obvious expertise and hoping that they will find the paper interesting. Still, I was quite surprised with how hard it is to get people to accept reviewing papers: for two papers, I managed to get two reviewers with around 6-8 invitations, but my latest assignments required more than 15 invitations each!  I understand that everybody is busy researching, writing papers, applying for funding, etc., but I never thought that the acceptance rate for peer-review requests would be < 15%. I do not get many peer-review request myself, but I do believe I have an obligation of accepting as many requests as possible (and reviewing them promptly), and I thought this was the "common" mindset... Maybe the people I target for my invitations are simply too senior and are therefore swamped with review requests, but the emails of "non-senior" members of a Lab are too often hard to find, due to the common practice of including only the the lab leader "corresponding author".

Any thoughts/suggestions/gripes?