Who’s asked me to review recently, and how I’ve responded

In case you’re curious, here’s every review request I’ve received since July 2013, including those I declined. I haven’t counted counted mss I’ve handled as an editor for Axios Review or as a guest editor for Functional Ecology. First the list, in descending order of number of requests, then a few comments. Unless you have insomnia, you’ll probably just want to scroll to the comments.

Journal, # of requests, # agreed to

Ecol Letts, 17, 8

Am Nat, 14, 8

Oikos, 7, 3

ISME J, 6, 3

Plos One, 6, 0

Proc Roy Soc B, 4, 1

Ecosphere, 3, 0,

Ecosystems, 3, 0

JAE, 3, 0

Nature Commun, 3, 1

Nature Scientific Reports, 3, 1

Biol Rev, 2, 0

Ideas Ecol Evol, 2, 1

JTB, 2, 0

Pop Ecol, 2, 1

Roy Soc Open Sci, 2, 0

Theor Ecol, 2, 0

Methods Ecol Evol, 2, 0

Acta Oecologia, 1, 0

Bas Appl Ecol, 1, 0

Chaos, 1, 0

Ecol Evol, 1, 0

Ecology, 1, 0

Fresh Biol, 1, 0

Indus Biotech, 1, 0

J Ecol, 1, 0

J Plant Ecol, 1, 0

J Roy Soc Interface, 1, 1

J Veg Sci, 1, 0

Nature Plants, 1, 0

Oecologia, 1, 0

Plant Ecol, 1, 0

Plos Comput Biol, 1, 0

PNAS, 1, 0

QRB, 1, 0

Marine Envi Res, 1, 0

Molec Ecol, 1, 1

Nat Res Model, 1, 0

Syst Biol, 1, 0

TPB, 1, 0

Funding agency, # requests, # agreed to

NSF, 1, 1

NSERC, 1, 1

European Sci Found, 1, 1

Israel Sci Found, 1, 1

Nat Geog Soc, 1, 0

Hungarian Sci Rsrch Fund, 1, 0

Estonian Sci Found, 1, 0


  • If you’re scoring at home, that’s 115 review requests in the past 3 years, of which I’ve agreed to 33. I don’t know how typical those numbers are. I guess typical-ish for people at my career stage and employed at N. American research universities? Not sure; I bet there’s a lot of variation around what’s typical.
  • I continue to do more than two reviews for every ms I submit, even if I’m only a co-author. You should too (and many of you do).
  • I’m choosy; I only agree to review requests if the abstract sounds interesting to me. Conversely, I rarely decline a request to review an interesting-sounding paper or grant because I’m too busy or whatever (though I did just decline a couple for that reason). I’m fortunate to receive sufficient review requests that I can pick and choose while still doing my share of reviewing.
  • There are (loose) positive correlations between “odds that the paper’s abstract will sound interesting to me” and other variables, such as journal impact factor, frequency with which I submit to the journal, and what fraction of the journal’s papers I read.
  • I’m not sure why I get many requests to review from certain journals (Ecol Letts, Am Nat), but few from seemingly-similar journals (Ecology). Feel free to ask me to review, Ecology! 🙂
  • A decent fraction of the review requests I get from plant journals and low-impact journals are observational studies of diversity-disturbance relationships. I know why I get those requests, but I never agree to them. Those papers aren’t actually a good fit for my expertise and interests.
  • Speaking of why I get the review requests I do…I occasionally get asked to review papers on topics that I’ve blogged about but never published a peer-reviewed paper on. I leave it to you to decide if this is only natural, horrifying, or somewhere in between.
  • I’m a bit surprised I’ve only been asked to review one NSERC grant in the past three years, and only three or four in the twelve years I’ve been at Calgary. This may be because hardly anyone else in Canada does the sort of stuff I do? Or is it actually a pretty typical number?
  • I suppose I could sign up for Publons to keep track of some of this. But I can’t tell from their site if they track review requests that you decline, and if they also track how many mss you submit. If they don’t track those things, then their numbers will be hard to interpret. You won’t be able to tell if people are reviewing in appropriate proportion to how much they submit, and if not, whether it’s because of lack of invitations to review. But if you’re signed up with Publons, curious to hear more about it and what you think of it.

9 thoughts on “Who’s asked me to review recently, and how I’ve responded

  1. I was pleasantly surprised to see your numbers. While I haven’t compiled my own list, we are asked to review a similar amount and I agree to review about 1/3 to 1/2 of them, for the same reasons. I too try to review at least 2 manuscripts for every 1 I submit. Some years I fail, but most years I do more than this, so on average I am doing okay.

    What I was surprised by was the grant proposals, including NSERC. I am usually asked to review 1-2 NSERCs a year, so i am sitting at about 5 for the same time period. I am also asked to review more NSF proposals, but that may be because I lived in the US for so many years before moving back to Carleton 10 years ago. I keep getting asked to serve on NSF panels (but not NSERC).

    • Thanks for sharing your numbers; interesting. Can I ask why you find mine pleasantly surprising?

      I’ve also never served on an NSERC panel or been asked to do so. That’s not unusual–some people go their whole careers without ever serving on the panel. But I’d be interested to do it even though it’s a ton of work, so I hope I’m asked to do it at some point.

  2. I’m just getting started but I am deeply in peer review debt… I’ve reviewed only one paper in the last year but have received about 12 reviews. Someday I’ll catch up. I’ve spoken with a couple of handling editors at different meetings who mentioned that they were going to ask me to review but decided not to when they learned I was a graduate student. I suppose it’s natural to want to have a Ph.D. provide the review, but it’s great to be asked in the (rare) chance it does happen.

    • There are editors who will use experienced PhD students as reviewers. And sometimes, grad students will get to assist as reviewers if their PI is asked to do a review and asks the editor’s permission to do it with one of his or her grad students.

    • I was asked to do my first review as a 2nd year PhD student (my undergraduate honor’s thesis was on a similar topic and was published). I was up front with the editor about my lack of experience and asked if I could share the manuscript and my review with my PhD advisor and the editor was very accepting. I think its worth trying to review as PhD student as it gives some really great insight into the other side of the publishing system. That being said I think Jeremy’s advice is good for graduate students; students should ask their advisors if they can co-review a paper. Grad school is about training, right?

      • Great point–my current supervisor once asked me to co-review a paper with him but it never occurred to me that I could ask him to include me in more.

  3. I’m impressed by the request and the number accepted (as an Editor – THANK YOU). My thought, though, is that the rule of thumb for the rate of MSS reviews we should accept is two *per round of review* for each one of our MSS submitted, since each of our MSS gets 3-6 reviews total, no?

    • I more or less do as you suggest. So for instance, if an ms is rejected and resubmitted elsewhere, I count that as two mss for purposes of calculating how much reviewing I need to do in return.

      I don’t count invited revisions, taking the view that reviewing them is part of reviewing the original submission. After all, I do the same as a reviewer–if invited to review an invited revision, I always do it.

      Mss rejected with invitation to resubmit as a new ms are an intermediate case. In practice, in my experience, they’re not really new mss in most cases–they’re just garden-variety revisions of the original ms.

      In any case, I find that if I just agree to do the reviews I feel like doing, I end up reviewing well more than twice as many papers as I submit by any reasonable accounting. If that ever were to change, whether because I started submitting more or receiving fewer invitations, I’d probably have to be more precise and formal in how I account for things like mss rejected with invitation to resubmit.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.