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« How Long Does It Take to Peer Review a Paper? | Main | Drawbacks to multiple publications in the same journal? »

07/09/2024

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Elizabeth

I’ve only ever been asked (and infrequently) if there are any particular people I DON’T want to review the paper. This isn’t an issue for me but on some controversial topics it’s helpful to be able to exclude people you know won’t give it a fair hearing.

I have been asked to suggest reviewers for book proposals however.

ref

It is common in some other fields. I publish in another field and it is commonplace there. They also do not use double blind reviewing - only single blind. They are counting on you having some sort of integrity. Further, I would not recommend names unless you are asked explicitly. Sometimes you can even specify people you do not want as referees (that is useful ;)).
If you are looking for the sort of person you might recommend, look at the authors whose work you cite in the paper - obviously they will have some of the relevant background.

interest matching

I've started suggesting at least two reviewers, along with a very brief statement of why I think they'd be good. (And if I've been in touch about the paper with obvious reviewer candidates, I state that in my cover letter, too, in the hopes that it will save editors some time.)

I don't know how often editors take those suggestions, or even if they ever have, but based on my super small non-representative sample, I feel like the quality of the reviews I've gotten back has sharply improved since I started suggesting potential reviewers.

I started making suggestions because I had a string of totally useless reviews from people who obviously had no interest in my topic. They usually took ages, often made embarrassingly obvious misreadings, and often suggested heaps of literature that had nothing to do with my project. The kind of reviews that couldn't make any meaningful contribution to revision.

If editors contact any of my suggestions, at least I can be confident my paper will land in the hands of someone I know is interested in the topic. If editors don't want to take any of my suggestions, at least I've seeded them with an idea of where to start looking for people who write on the topic. (As opposed to starting with someone who once dabbled in a distantly related topic, but is already known to the editor.) Since I started making suggestions, only rarely do I get a review, positive or negative, that contributes nothing to the development of my paper.

I can definitely see the potential for corrupting the process, and I don't know what rules or norms might help with that. (I have never recommended anyone I've ever met or communicated with, but that would be a tough standard for better known and/or gregarious philosophers to adopt as a norm.)

But non-corruptly suggesting reviewers has the potential to help match reviewers with papers that interest them, which is good for author and reviewer. And it has the potential for expanding and diversifying reviewer pools, which is good for the discipline.

Assistant Professor

I publish in philosophy and adjacent fields so have had some experience being explicitly asked to provide suggested reviewers and I find if done well then it can be really effective for getting a quality and efficient review. One reason to include suggested reviewers is to provide names of potential experts who do not have prior familiarity with or your paper. It can actually help avoid conflicts of interest and enhance publication integrity (and avoid a bunch of reviewers having to say no since they already know the paper). So if there are people you think would be a good fit saying something in a cover letter like "If the editors are seeking suggested reviewers, Dr. Y and Dr. Z publish in this area and are in no way connected to me or this paper."

Michel

I do this fairly regularly, for (1) generalist journals, or (2) papers on oddball topics. I don't try to anticipate who will be friendly to my argument; rather, I just suggest a few people whom I know are knowledgeable about the paper's topic.

As interest matching says upthread, I've found that this dramatically increases the quality of the reviews, and it seems to cut down on time to review as well.

Especially for generalist journals, given the frequency with which they publish in my AOS, I have to confess that I'm not super confident in their ability to find a dependable referee--and there are _lots_ out there, they're just not at the spiffy R1s which might be the first place someone unfamiliar with the field looks.

AnonyJohns

I don't think someone should be suggesting reviewers to editors of your papers unless the journal explicitly asks for them. What goes on in other disciplines or with other journals doesn't really matter. The norms in our field are different from other fields sometimes and that's not a bad thing. Also imagine students in someone's class saying, "I want to pick the TA who's going to grade my paper." Do we think that that would be a good idea for how the grading of papers should work? For myself I don't think so.

Anon

How does one get from suggesting referees to the editor to "I want to pick the TA who's going to grade my paper."? The editors are free to contact the suggested referees, and they are free to ignore them. What the author suggests is in no way binding on the editor.

As a journal editor, it is hard for me to see a problem with the practice of making suggestions of referees on submission. If the suggestions aren't accompanied by some explanation, they are unlikely to be followed, but they can be very useful.

Tom

Only want to weigh in by saying that I’ve been in the profession for a while and never even heard of this being a thing. A bit flabbergasted honestly. How do you even do this? In the cover letter to the editor?

Michel

Tom: yes, in a cover letter. Or, for journals that require it, in the window that pops up.

AnonyJohns

This is a reply to Anon. Perhaps "pick" is the wrong word but the idea is the same if we use "suggest," as in, "I want to suggest the TA who's going to grade my paper." I don't think this would be a good idea for the reason that students shouldn't have influence over who the graders are. That's the point being made and I think is related to the journal case. The reason it seems problematic to suggest reviewers in journals that don't ask for this is that it implies the author is having some influence over who's reviewing their work, and this seems (or seems potentially) in tension with the independence of the reviewer, no?

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