Reviewing for the Royal Society
The Royal Society’s Philosophical Transactions, launched in 1665, was the world’s first scientific journal which established the fundamental principles of scientific priority and peer review. Our publishing has always been underpinned by the support and expertise of peer reviewers.
Today, the Royal Society publishes ten peer reviewed journals covering the full breadth of the biological, physical and cross-disciplinary sciences and the history of science. Each journal has specific reviewer guidelines available via the 'information for...reviewers' menu.
Our Editors select reviewers based on relevant expertise from as diverse a pool of researchers as possible. If you are invited to review and are suitability qualified please say 'yes'. If declining an invitation to review, we would particularly appreciate suggestions of suitably qualified researchers from underrepresented groups (including women, ethnic minority scientists, scientists with disabilities and other underrepresented groups), early career researchers, and researchers from the global South.
Surveys show that the highest rated reasons for reviewing a paper are social, as such ‘playing my part as a member of the academic community’ and ‘reciprocating the benefit gained when others review my papers’. It can be a rewarding experience that can help in your own research, your professional development and in furthering your career.
More widely there is a growing recognition that researchers should be assessed on a broader range of research outputs (beyond the Impact Factor of the journal they publish in) such as peer review activity. Receiving credit is another great reason to review.
A Co-reviewer is defined as a researcher - often early in their career - who reviews a manuscript together with a more senior (invited) reviewer. When used appropriately it is a valuable learning experience that we are happy to support. The senior reviewer is limited to one appropriately qualified co-reviewer per review.
The review process is strictly confidential and must be treated as such by reviewers during the review process and subsequently. To provide accountability and appropriate credit, the name and status (e.g. PhD student) of the co-reviewer should be disclosed on submission of the review.
The senior reviewer should be the main point of contact and is ultimately accountable for the review. The senior reviewer and co-reviewer should agree on the wording of the review, and the same principles relating to confidentiality and competing interests apply to both reviewers.
For journals where we publish peer review information, there is the option for the senior reviewer to disclose their name to obtain credit. In addition, there is the opportunity to include the co-reviewer’s name too, provided they have given consent.
Credit for reviewers
The Royal Society has partnered with Publons to give each reviewer official recognition for their peer review work. Publons records, verifies, and showcases peer review contributions, which can be used in promotion and grant applications. The reviewer gets credit even if the reviews are anonymous and the manuscript is never published.
Simply opt-in to get credit through Publons when reporting via ScholarOne to add the review to the reviewer profile.
Our surveys have also highlighted that credit by the journal is important to reviewers. Further to this, six of our journals publish an annual citable article containing the list of reviewers who have opted to receive this recognition.
Tips for reviewers
What makes a good review? Our editors provide tips in blog posts What makes a good report? and What makes a good review?. You can also check out Top tips for peer reviewers (with kind permission of Wiley) and Tips from top reviewers (source Publons).
Publishing peer review reports
Four of the Royal Society journals offer transparency by publishing peer review information (such as reviewer reports, decision letter and response) alongside published articles. Reviewing in these journals is anonymous by default but reviewers have the option to sign their names. The option of signing reports allows reviewers to claim credit. We have found that the opportunity of publishing reports leads to better peer review. Reviewers’ suggestions to improve the paper are available to everyone as examples of what makes a good review. In summary, the whole peer review process becomes more trusted because of transparency.
Improving the reviewer experience
The editorial team are currently evaluating practices and the online processes to find ways to improve the reviewers’ experience, including:
- Ensuring data supporting articles is easy to access
- Making the reviewer report forms as concise as possible
- Providing email and telephone support to all reviewers
- Providing the decision outcome for the paper they reviewed; reviewers claiming reviews on Publons will also receive a link to the published article