Tips for approaching reviewers
These are my tips to help anybody who is liaising with peer reviewers.
1. Be clear and concise
Be clear about what you want the reviewer to concentrate on but don’t bombard them with too much information in your first email. They should have enough information to make a judgement on whether or not they can help you but not so much they lose interest.
2. Provide context
Always provide plenty of background information. Explain why the research was conducted, the specific aims and purpose of the report, the intended audience and the message you’re trying to convey (remember to be clear and concise).
3. Give notice
Whether you’re liaising directly with potential reviewers or have a colleague who is responsible for this, make sure you give them as much advance notice as possible. Provide information on the subject area to help colleagues identify suitable professionals and help reviewers to identify if this is something they are interested in. Tell them when you anticipate the draft report to be ready and set a reasonable date for feedback to be provided. With this information they can make a sound judgement on whether it’s something they can fit into their schedule.
4. Prepare for seasonal dips
Many of your reviewers will be academics. There will be times of the year when they are particularly busy with marking or on annual leave: December and January or July and August tend to be particularly difficult months for academic reviewers to look at reports. Factor this into your publication timeline.
5. Manage relationships positively
It helps to set up a comprehensive customer relationship management system. If you don’t have funding to invest in dedicated software, Excel is a great tool to keep track of requests and correspondence. Always be friendly and polite with reviewers, spending time making sure the process is straightforward and enjoyable for them. Keep them updated with changes and send reminders when reports are due or feedback is expected.
6. Find the right professionals
When you’re looking for professionals make the most of your internal networks: is there a colleague who might be able to point you in the direction of an external expert willing to support a review? Once you have a reviewer in mind, look at their CV, academic profile and a list of work they’ve had published to get a clear idea of their area of expertise.
7. Consider project management training
Demands will change depending on the needs of your organisation, and you’ll usually need to manage the peer review process in conjunction with other responsibilities. It may be useful to have some project management training to manage the process as successfully as possible.