A few tips for Associate Editors

Finding reviewers
Finding reviewers that are both available and qualified is not easy task. After a few years of service as AE and TE of different journals, I thought it might be worth sharing my experience, hoping that it might be useful for novice AEs.
Below, a few tips to recruit valid reviewers.
  • If the authors suggest a few preferred reviewers, you can invite them (preferably, no more than one, to avoid any bias in the review process. Also, check whether there are previous collaborations with the authors).
  • To find other reviewers, you can check Sec. References in the manuscript and pick the papers that are more relevant and more recent. Try to invite the first authors of such papers, since there is a good probability that they are qualified and interested in doing the review, in particular if they are still working on the same topic, but please check in scholar.google if they have enough seniority to provide a fair review (e.g., at least h-index >=10).
  • If the manuscript cites some papers of the prospective reviewer, you can personalize the invitation email to reflect this: usually, researchers are curious to check papers that refer to their own work.
  • Search on scholar.google.com the most important papers listed in the References section of the manuscript, and check the recent citations received by such papers to see who is now active in the area.
  • Also search for keywords related to the manuscript under review and find other relevant papers not listed in the References section. Limit your search to the last few years, to have recent papers, and try to invite some of the authors.
  • If some of the invited reviewers decline their invitation, you can reach them by email and kindly ask to recommend or suggest the name of colleagues/phd-students that they believe can be qualified for and interested to the review.
  • If after a couple of weeks you have not found a sufficient number of confirmed reviewers, you can resort to your network of professional contacts and ask some qualified and trusted acquaintance of yours to review the paper.
  • The very last option is that you provide the review by your own, as AE. This is always possible and, actually, welcome if you have other two independent opinions, but you are required to explicitly mentioned that one review is provided by you (that is, you can't invite yourself as an anonymous reviewer).
  • As a rule of thumb, you should have 1-2 pending review requests for each review you still need. This means that you can start inviting 5 - 6 reviewers right from the beginning. Most of them will decline. Those that have not accepted or declined the review request in one week can be dismissed and replaced by other invitations, until you find at least two, but preferably three researchers that accept the review request. At this point, you are warmly recommended to send an email to the researchers that have been previously contacted but have not yet accepted the invitation to advise that their service is not longer needed for this review round.
  • If more than three reviewers accept the request, that’s ok, the more the better (within reasonable limits).

  • Keeping an eye on reviewers' job
    Finding good reviewers is only the first step. Once you have enough confirmed reviewers, you need to keep an eye on them and do your best to provide timely and useful reviews, but keeping in mind the voluntary nature of their work.
  • After the review deadline is passed by one week or more, please send personal emails to the late reviewers inviting them to speed up the review process and keep an eye on the status of their review.
  • Once you have collected enough reviews to take the final decision about the submission, but some reviews are still pending, you can contact these reviewers explaining that you are ready to close the review process, but if they can provide their feedback, you will be happy to include it in the overall feedback to the authors. If they cannot do that, or they don’t answer, after one week you can close the review process, but bear in mind first to notify the late reviewers that their comments are not longer needed: it is very annoying when you struggle to find the time to start the review of a paper but before you are done, the editor tells you that your review is not longer required!

  • Final recommendation
    Please, always consider that we need to find the right balance between: ensuring a reasonably fast review process to our prospective authors, but also making our reviewers aware that their work and time is valuable and highly appreciated! Of course, the very same appreciation is for the work of our AE! ;-)