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The role of a reviewer

Reviewers are vital to a high quality manuscript evaluation process, and serve an indispensable role in preserving the integrity of the scientific record. Effective reviewing requires the investment of time and a certain skill set. Before you decide to accept a request to review, we recommend that you become familiar with the peer review process and how to conduct a review. You can also check out some of the free e-learning modules, tools and resources on Elsevier Researcher Academyopens in new tab/window.

At Elsevier, we strive to minimize bias and to achieve a more equitable and impactful peer review process. Crucial to this effort is consulting a diverse community of reviewers. You can read more about efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) here.

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What do reviewers do?

Reviewers evaluate article submissions to journals and advise editors as to the articles' suitability for publication. This combines thorough technical review of the quality, completeness and accuracy of the research presented, with a broader perspective on the potential interest the results may or may not hold for the journal's readership, depending on the journal's criteria for publication.

Good reviewers collaborate with authors to improve their work. They provide feedback on the paper, suggest improvements, and make a recommendation to the editor about whether to accept, reject or request changes to the article. The ultimate decision always rests with the editor, but reviewers play a significant role in determining the outcome. Find out more about the process and what is involved here.

Reviewing is a time-intensive process, but it is worthwhile for the reviewer as well as for the community. Reviewers:

  • enforce the rigorous standards of the scientific process by taking part in the peer-review system.

  • uphold the integrity of the scientific record by identifying invalid research, and helping to maintain the quality of the academic literature.

  • fulfil a sense of obligation to the community and their own area of research.

  • establish relationships with reputable colleagues, and participate in the global social network of their field.

  • build a reputation with editors and their affiliated journals, with the potential to serve as editors.

  • can help prevent ethical breaches by identifying potential plagiarism, research misconduct, and other problems through their familiarity with the subject area.

  • reciprocate professional courtesy, as authors and reviewers are often interchangeable roles – as reviewers, researchers return the same consideration they receive as authors.

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Volunteer to review

Typically, reviewers are invited to conduct a review by a journal editor. Editors usually select researchers that are experts in the same subject area as the paper. However, if you think you would be a good referee for a specific journal you can volunteer to review on our Reviewer Hubopens in new tab/window or by contacting the journal office directly. On the “Volunteer to reviewopens in new tab/window” section of the Reviewer Hub, you can search for the journal(s) of your choosing and click on “Review for journal” to indicate your interest. Please note that you should first complete your reviewer profile.

Other ways to volunteer to review

  1. Keep an eye on the journal homepage of your choice for a “volunteer to review” section.

  2. Alternatively, visit the journal homepage and “view full editorial board”, then contact any relevant editors by email to offer your reviewing services.

  3. Please be aware that the choice of whether or not to choose a particular referee for a paper is entirely at the discretion of the editor and Elsevier plays no part in this decision.

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Recognizing reviewers

Elsevier acknowledges reviewers’ invaluable contribution to the progress of science. Elsevier’s reviewer recognition program aims to engage reviewers and reward them for the work they do. The program features several projects and experiments as detailed below.

Public acknowledgement of reviewers

Many Elsevier journals publish the names of their reviewers in an editorial each year, and may note particularly outstanding reviewers, as can be seen in this exampleopens in new tab/window.

Review certificates via Reviewer Hub

The time, energy and expertise that referees contribute to validating the work of their peers is vital to the advancement of the academic community. Elsevier’s Reviewer Hub provides reviewers with a means of showcasing their efforts and receiving credit for their work.

The platform offers reviewers a personalized profile page, documenting their reviewing history and review certificates.

Complementary access to Elsevier products

To thank our reviewers and help facilitate effective peer review, we offer 30 days of complimentary access to Scopus, ScienceDirect, and Reaxys for every review invitation accepted.

Discounts on Elsevier services

We offer reviewers discounts for several Elsevier services, including Elsevier’s WebShopopens in new tab/window, which offers professional English language editing, translation and illustration services for researchers preparing their articles, and the Elsevier Book Store. These can be redeemed via Reviewer Hub.

Access the Elsevier Reviewer Hubopens in new tab/window

Peer review reports as articles

Between 2014–2017, the publication of peer review reports pilotopens in new tab/window publicly recognized reviewers’ intellectual contribution to accepted articles through the formal publication of their reports. Review reports for five participating journals were attributed a separate DOI and published next to the accepted paper on ScienceDirect.

As described in the full reportopens in new tab/window, this initiative did not appear to have any significant negative effects on the review process. Reviewers appeared to value the veil of anonymity, with only 8.1% opting to reveal their identities. Furthermore some reviewers provided reports that were less negative and less subjective.

Reviewer feedback program

We regularly survey reviewers to get a better understanding of their needs and how we’re doing when it comes to meeting them. Findings from the reviewer feedback program help us to improve the reviewing experience. For example, 90% of reviewers said they would like to be able to see the final decision and other reviewers’ comments on a paper, so we added this functionality to the electronic submission system.

The reviewer feedback program monitors Elsevier’s performance from the perspective of reviewers on Elsevier journals. We’ll ask you about various aspects of the reviewing system and other aspects of reviewing via an online survey. Areas of interaction and support are measured and reported regularly. Elsevier’s performance is benchmarked against that of other publishers.

If you have been asked to complete our reviewer feedback program online survey, we recommend you complete it to make sure your voice is heard.

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