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Publish with us

Our reviewer volunteer journey

24 September 2020 | 5 min read

By Varun Bhatia, Bahar Mehmani, PhD, Senthil Ramakrishnan

Our reviewer volunteer journey

Volunteering to review takes another step forward onto Reviewer Hub

Ask any editor about their biggest struggle and chances are, they’ll tell you it’s finding good reviewers. And while many submissions come from young researchers and / or developing countries, most journal reviewer pools consist of a relatively small group of established researchers from developed countries. Now imagine a process which enables editors to leverage the power of junior but enthusiastic and qualified researchers by having them volunteer to review their first manuscripts. The new reviewers get on the radar of the editor and gain valuable review experience, whereas editors see their reviewer pool growing with a more diverse group of eager new members. If you think that that all sounds too good to be true and why didn’t we think of this before, well, we did! And as it turned out to be such a successful initiative, we are now releasing the volunteer-to-review feature on our brand-new Reviewer Hub which is connected to nearly all our journals using Editorial Manager (EM). More on that later, but for now, let us show you how we got to this point...

Our volunteer-to-review journey

So how did we develop this review volunteer concept? The idea of peer review volunteers dates back to 2015, when we rolled out the option to volunteer to review on our newly launched Reviewer Recognition Platform. Through the platform, researchers could indicate their research areas and their interest to review. This turned out to be a great success: tens of thousands of enthusiastic researchers registered, which helped editors to expand their peer review pools.


The Volunpeers pilot, which launched on the Journal of Molecular Biology in 2018 (and is still running), took this concept one step furtherAfter registering, these “Volunpeers” are alerted to new manuscripts matching their expertise. If they see something they like, a Volunpeer can “reserve” the article for their review. After submitting their referee report, the editor provides personalized feedback to the Volunpeer, thereby turning it into a learning experience. The Volunpeers pilot not only attracted a lot of positive attention, it also proved to be very successful. In just 12 months, the number of reviewers registering via the journal’s homepage grew seven-fold, and many of these registrations led to editor invitations and successfully submitted referee reports. What’s more, the reports were also submitted significantly faster than is the case for usual review reports and were rated better than average by the handling editors. Since then several other journal editors have adopted this pilot - despite the manual steps involved - convinced as they were of the major benefits on offer.

Peer review volunteers through Editorial Manager

This positive experience gave us plenty of justification to continue the peer review volunteer journey on Editorial Manager. In January this year we therefore enabled a “Volunteer Reviewer” option in EM for 65 journals. Again, the results were staggering. Five months into the pilot, over 28,000 researchers have signed up as Volunpeers. An added refinement means that editors can easily distinguish volunteers from “regular” referees in their reviewer database. And data show that editors indeed find and invite these volunteers on an increasing rate. What’s more Volunpeers have higher than average invitation acceptance rates.

Introducing “volunteer to review” on Reviewer Hub

Given the positive results of our journey so far, we recently took the next step in peer review volunteering and launched the volunteer to review feature on our Reviewer Hubopens in new tab/window earlier this month. This feature allows researchers to volunteer to review for any Elsevier journal on Editorial Manager. Would-be referees will also be able to add additional information such as a link to their professional webpage or their motivation to review for a journal, so that editors receive a bit more context and the match between volunteer and journal is optimized. We will stay in close contact with both volunteers and participating journals to find out what features they deem most important so we can continuously improve the program. We will also work on a quality-feedback loop process, aimed to help reviewers improve the quality of their review reports.


… in volunteering to review? Just go to the Reviewer Hub volunteer pageopens in new tab/window, find the journal(s) for which you are interested to review and complete your reviewer profile.

… in providing feedback on this and other peer review initiatives that we are developing? Visit the Elsevier Publishing Lab, our platform to collaborate with the research community in order to innovate publishing.

In any case, thanks to all of you who’ve been part of our Volunpeer journey; we look forward to the next step together!

Introducing Reviewer Hub

Reviewer Hub is our new Editorial Manager-based reviewer engagement platform which brings together all the information that a reviewer could wish for.

Reviewer Hub currently has the following functionalities:

  • Complimentary access to ScienceDirect and Scopus: The Hub enables reviewers to claim their 30 day complimentary access with a single click commencing at any time convenient for them.

  • Pending invitations: The Hub will display all current review invitations, allowing reviewers to access EM and accept or decline invitations from there.

  • Reviews in progress: The Hub displays all the reviewer’s pending reviews, including reviewing deadlines and further action points.

  • Review history and acknowledgments: The Hub will show the reviewer’s complete review history and enables reviewers to claim their acknowledgments such as certificates.

In future releases, Reviewer Hub will be further enriched with functionalities to onboard new reviewers and diversify the reviewer pool so stay tuned!


Portrait photo of Varun Bhatia


Varun Bhatia

Portrait photo of Bahar Mehmani, PhD


Bahar Mehmani, PhD

Reviewer Experience Lead


Senthil Ramakrishnan


Senthil Ramakrishnan