Publishers are seeking new ways to recognize busy peer reviewers

What is the key factor that motivates scholars to perform peer review on a voluntary basis? According to the 2015 Publishing Research Consortium Peer Review Survey the number 1 and 2 reasons scholars gave for peer reviewing were to play a part in the scholarly community (93% of respondents) and to reciprocate others reviewing their work (75%). Unsurprisingly the number 1 reason for declining peer review was “too busy.”

Journal publishers know that scholars have a ton of work to prioritize, and while reviewing is unquestionably a way for scholars to contribute to their discipline, unfortunately peer review offers limited value to reviewers who often go unrecognized. With the rate of articles published growing at 3% a year on average there’s more research to be vetted than before, putting more pressure on the peer review system. Many publishers are now wondering if giving back to the scholarly community will be enough to motivate peer reviewers or if additional incentives are needed. There’s little question that some form of reviewer recognition would be appreciated.

Reviewer recognition was the theme of Peer Review Week 2016, with publishers coming together to share thoughts and ideas. In this blog post we round up some reviewer reward and recognition programs publishers are implementing to give peer reviewers at their journals added value.

Recognizing reviewers via their ORCID profiles

One organization that’s been putting a lot of time and thought into peer reviewer recognition is ORCID. In April 2014 ORCID along with Faculty of 1000 (F1000), and CASRAI initiated a community working group to address how to reward peer reviewers. Using the group recommendations, ORCID launched new peer review functionality in 2015 to recognize various peer review activities including peer review of publications, conference abstracts, grants, promotion and tenure applications, and more. The system allows organizations to connect review information to a researcher’s ORCID record (with her/his permission), which can then be shared with other organizations if desired. Among early adopters of this functionality are American Geophysical Union and F1000.

By adding validated information about scholars’ peer review activities to their ORCID records ORCID hopes to enable more opportunities for scholars across disciplines to be recognized for their peer review work and even use it in furthering their careers. ORCID overviews how journal publishers can give peer reviewers the opportunity to link their review activity to their ORCID profile in its Peer Review Getting Started guide.

Publons peer reviewer profiles and awards

In addition to being able to build reviewer recognition into reviewers’ ORCID profiles, another relatively new peer review recognition option that many publishers are adopting is Publons. Publons gives publishers the ability to track, verify, and showcase their peer reviewer’s contributors. Reviewers who sign up for Publons get a Publons profile that includes verified proof of their peer review performance including peer reviews completed per week, average length of review, and more.

When publishers integrate with Publons they also get access to a “Partner Dashboard,” which aggregates information about their peer reviewers. It includes reviewer engagement with Publons for each journal they integrate with the platform, top reviewers and suggested reviewers, reviewer satisfaction with Publons and more. Among publishers using Publons are Cambridge University Press and the Royal Society.

In August 2016 Publons also announced that it would be launching the Sentinels of Science Awards, an award program to honor top peer reviewers in their fields. During Peer Review Week 2016 they announced the winners for five categories:

  • Top 10% of reviewers for each discipline
  • Top 3 overall contributors to peer review
  • Top 3 peer review contributors from the top five reviewing countries (by number)
  • Top 3 contributing editors (most manuscripts handled, by number)
  • Top 3 recognition advocates (top 3 editors that have invited reviewers to add a review record to Publons).

You can find the full list of this year’s winners on the Publon’s blog.

Homegrown programs and initiatives

In addition to reviewer recognition systems like the new ORCID integration and Publons, some journal publishers are also piloting their own reviewer recognition programs. One interesting example is the American Society of Plant Biologists’ new Journal Miles program in which reviewers accrue “journal miles” or points for each ASPB review they complete. ASPB journals award peer reviewers 10 “journal miles” for each review they complete in a timely manner. Reviewers can then apply their “journal miles” to redeem free merchandise such as journal posters, or a membership in the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Patti Lockhart, Managing Editor of The Plant Cell and Plant Physiology discussed the program at the 2016 North American ISMTE conference along with other steps ASPB is taking to motivate and incentivize peer reviewers.

Simply saying thanks

One old fashioned way to acknowledge peer reviewers that shouldn’t be left out is simply saying thank you. For many scholars it means a lot when journals take the time to send letters or certificates thanking them for their contributions. Many journals also post annual lists of all peer reviewers and feature top peer reviewers on their websites to offer public acknowledgment.

These are just a few examples of ways journal publishers are trying to recognize and reward peer reviewers for their contributions to scholarly publishing. Are you taking any steps to recognize peer reviewers at one or multiple journals? We’d love to know! Please share the details in the comments section or tweet them to @scholasticahq.




Danielle Padula

This post was written by Danielle Padula,
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