Bioethics Blogs

Peer Reviewing: Paying it Forward

by Kayhan Parsi, JD, PhD and Bela Fishbeyn, MS

As an associate editor and executive editor of the American Journal of Bioethics, we identify and recruit peer reviewers to review manuscripts that have been submitted for publication. These individuals are valued for their expertise and willingness to review others’ work and evaluate it for possible publication. Peer reviewing is part of the service academics do and are not compensated for this important work. We recognize that the people who provide anonymous peer review are the backbone of scholarship. Without them, we would not have scholarly journals or new knowledge. Of course, the peer review process is not flawless. Back in 2006, the journal Nature published an extensive set of articles that debated the merits and demerits of the peer review process. As interesting as this debate is, our goal here is more prosaic. As editors who depend upon the generous service of peer reviewers, we have some suggestions on how to improve the process for current and future reviewers (and for the editors who work with them):

  • When invited to review, read the abstract in the e-mail and then provide a response as soon as possible. If you can serve as a reviewer, wonderful. If you cannot, simply let the journal know immediately. (Our rule of thumb is to respond as soon as you get the email. Go with your initial thought. If you think you don’t have the time to do the review, decline the invitation, guilt-free. Don’t wait. This gives editors ample time to seek out other reviewers.)
  • If you cannot serve as a reviewer, providing names of alternative reviewers is always helpful and welcome.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.