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How to Successfully Become a Journal Reviewer and Editor

By Currents Editor posted 09-18-2018 14:55

  
Jennifer_Kim_Headshot_2.jpgMichael_Diringer_Headshot.jpgBy Jennifer Kim, MD, PhD (left); and Michael Diringer, MD (right)

Publishing is often a major part of advancement in an academic career. Clinicianscientists, including nursing and pharmacy, work throughout their careers to bring their research to the world through publications such as the Neurocritical Care journal. The peerreview process often seems daunting and clouded in mystery. However, as one begins to advance in their career, they may find they are now asked to serve as a reviewer themselves. Most do not undergo any formal training to take on this new responsibility. To help us understand the process of how to become a successful reviewer and what reviewers should consider when completing a review, we interviewed Neurocritical Care journal Editor-in-Chief Michael Diringer, MD, professor of neurology, neurosurgery and anesthesiology at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Jennifer Kim (JK): How do you go about finding reviewers for the Neurocritical Care journal?

Michael Diringer (MD): When I started my position as the editorin- chief, I inherited a database of reviewers with areas of expertise. However, we also actively search for people, usually within NCS, who have shown they understand a field and can tell whether a paper makes sense. For trainees and young attendings, my advice is that publishing often helps one to then be asked to become a reviewer. It is also easier for young faculty to become involved as a reviewer, or even an editor, if they carry expertise in newer areas of research, such as big data computation. If you do get asked to review a paper and accept, then being a timely and thorough reviewer will often encourage the journal to continue asking you in the future. If trainees are particularly interested in learning to review manuscripts, I would encourage them to reach out to their senior attendings to ask for opportunities to jointly review manuscripts.

JK: For those who are asked to become reviewers, what advice to you have on how to review a manuscript successfully?

MD: There are some videos and websites about fundamentals on how to do a review. I would begin with these steps. Most importantly, reviewers are obligated to conduct reviews in an ethical and accountable manner. It is important that the reviewer and journal communicate clearly to ensure a fair review. A reviewer must disclose if they have competing interests and respect the confidentiality of the process. Finally, timeliness is a courtesy that any reviewer should apply when agreeing (or declining) to review a manuscript. Regarding the review process itself, the initial step is to read the manuscript, supplementary data and ancillary material thoroughly. There is an online guide and checklist for young reviewers on how to approach each section of a manuscript (see links). Have an understanding of what the particular journal’s mission is regarding the articles they are most interested in publishing. Follow the journal instruction format for writing the review, and be specific in your critiques whenever possible, but refrain from being hostile, derogatory or inflammatory. Most journals allow reviewers to provide confidential comments to the editor in addition to the comments provided to the authors. Often journals will ask the reviewer to make a recommendation to accept, revise or reject the manuscript. This recommendation should not be stated in the comments to authors; however, the comments to the authors should be consistent with the recommendation. Overall, I recommend that reviewers step back and figure out if the question the authors are asking makes sense and whether that question is important. Then, you can use that framework to shape your thoughts as you delve into the details of the paper.

https://publicationethics.org/resources/guidelines-new/cope-ethical-guidelines-peer-reviewers

https://violentmetaphors.com/2013/12/13/how-to-become-good-at-peer-review-a-guide-for-young-scientists/

https://www.elsevier.com/connect/how-to-review-manuscripts-your-ultimate-checklist

JK: Is there any formal training available for those who would like to become better versed in the review process?

MD: This is an interesting question. Currently, there is no formal training process on how to review a manuscript. Often, if a senior attending is willing, they offer opportunities for trainees and junior faculty to review a manuscript with them and provide feedback on the comments they construct for the editors and authors. However, I am interested in starting a more formal reviewer mentoring program. Please keep your eye out for details! Through this program, I hope to identify mentors who are willing to give feedback to the trainee or young faculty who is doing their first review(s). I also think that conferences, such as the NCS Annual Meeting, are great forums in which to provide advice. I held a reviewer’s boot camp at the last meeting, and this year we will have a session on how to get your paper published in Boca Raton, Florida.

JK: Beyond being a reviewer, how does one get selected to serve on an editorial board?

MD: Editorial boards are often a combination of big names in the field with those who have an established record of reviewing for the journal. Thus, the best way for young clinicians to get involved is to continue seeking out reviewer opportunities and then showing a willingness to complete thoughtful, timely reviews.

JK: What are some responsibilities and challenges you have faced in becoming the editor-in-chief?

MD: The process of being an editor is complicated. Additionally, medical publishing in general (like most other publishing) is going through a transition from print to electronic format. While there are cost savings associated with not printing issues of a journal, a lot of the traditional advertising revenue disappears, so there is less resource support to generate future issues. Also in this transition of becoming solely electronic, it is hard to maintain the sense of “wholeness” of a print journal, for instance, tying together an editorial with a research paper and a clinical review. As editor, I must also keep in mind the importance of the impact factor, but balance that with the importance of allowing young people to publish in the journal. For instance, the impact factor is defined the number of citations an article receives, and trainees often publish case reports or small articles that do not lead to a large number of citations. However, I think it is important to allow junior clinicians the opportunity to publish and contribute to the journal, so trying to optimize ways of doing that can be a challenge.

#NCSRoundup #JenniferKim #MichaelDiringer #September2018
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