A Short Guide into Peer Review

by | Sep 6, 2022 | Career, Professional Skills, Side Hustle

An academic journal uses peer reviewers to ensure that an article’s content is scientifically and professionally appropriate based on what was studied and what was concluded from the study. Often, an article will have two reviewers. Several sources, including the Pharmacy Times, state that volunteering as a peer reviewer is a great way to gain practical experience and strengthen one’s own writing. The gained experience, such as how a piece fits into the scope of the journal, how the content of the research is expressed, and how articles follow a structure for publication in the journal is useful for someone wishing to transition into medical writing.

There are two primary ways people serve as peer reviewers: by volunteering or being invited. One can sign up on a journal’s or publisher’s website. Sometimes, journals will have a call for peer review volunteers, but otherwise registering with the editorial manager system on the website is the easiest way. Where the registration is located differs by journal, but most commonly it was found in the “Submit” link where authors would submit their research to the journal. Not all journals have an editorial system or an option to volunteer as peer reviewers. One can also email the editor. Most journals but not all have a link for the board of editors, and some have contact information for at least one editor. A journal may also include a link for the editors, including contact information, in the link where authors submit their work. 

Experts in a field, especially those who have previously submitted research to a journal, may be invited to peer review by an editor. Editors may also ask peer reviewers to recommend colleagues for invitation to peer review.

Academic journals are not the only sources that employ peer reviewers. Associations may create content where a peer reviewer is needed. It usually requires one to be an active member of the association and serve on a committee where one or two members focus on guidelines, statements, policy, etc. While this would be a great way to gain regulatory writing experience, it is also the most expensive option with the least opportunities. 

Despite several sources stating that there is a shortage of peer reviewers, it was not easy to volunteer as one. There is an overwhelming repertoire of academic journals, and a lot do not have a signup page. Furthermore, the editor’s contact information may not be easily found. Media and resources like the Pharmacy Times and TRC Healthcare may also create content where peer reviewers are needed, but there are fewer opportunities than academic journals. I was able to sign up for peer-reviewing at the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy (AJHP) and the Journal of the American Pharmacists Association (JAPhA).

While the benefit of peer review is good, it is not steady. Some journals even guarantee a maximum number of articles reviewed per year. Articles are recommended for reviewers based on their expertise, education, and interests. Meaning, that peer reviewers do not actively choose which articles they review; articles are instead chosen for them as the peer reviewers are needed. Peer-reviewing will not help someone transitioning into medical writing build a portfolio quickly. Creating a portfolio and gaining experience would be better served by blogging, editing, and creating scientific or health-related content. Instead, peer-reviewing acts as a great resume booster.

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