Utilising and Developing the Skills of Early Career Researchers: The Reviewer College

By Roxanne Connelly and Siobhan Dytham, University of Warwick

Peer review is at the heart of the journal publication process. Yet our experience is that the process through which we initiate research students and early career researchers into the peer review system is often haphazard. Early career researchers are under increasing pressure to publish in highly ranked journals, yet opportunities to develop an understanding of the peer review process are rare.

The Reviewer College

Recently the International Journal of Social Research Methodology introduced a novel initiative, the Reviewer College. The Reviewer College is a board of reviewers comprised of early career researchers. For most college members this is their first experience of being involved with a journal, and they are provided with supportive guidance on the review process, and how to produce their first peer reviews. When places become available, members of the reviewer college can ‘graduate’ to become members of the main editorial board.

Benefits to Early Career Researchers

The Reviewer College has produced benefits for both the journal and the reviewers. The early career researchers are developing their reviewing skills, and deepening their understanding of the research and publication process. We have found reviewing articles for the journal has improved our own research by better understanding the shortcomings of rejected papers, and appreciating what makes accepted papers stand out. Whilst college reviewers are usually allocated articles within their immediate field, reviewers also benefit from reading a range of papers which they may not usually pick out. The exposure to these papers makes us better rounded researchers, more aware of the wider field, and has also sparked our interests in methodological issues which we have not previously considered.

Benefits to the Journal

The journal has found that reviewers from the college members are of very high quality. The extra support required to aide early career researchers is outweighed by the careful reviews which have been received. The reviewer college also provides the opportunity for the journal to foster the upcoming community of researchers in the field who will be future authors and expert reviewers for the journal in years to come.

The Reviewer College has been mutually beneficial. Reviewers have gained valuable career experience, but equally we have been able to call on a poll of new and fresh thinking methodological talent. The standard of reviews has been excellent, such that several members of the College have been promoted to the Editorial Board. These scholars have become valued Board members, because they are already familiar both with the kind of papers we receive and the day to day workings of the journal.

Roxanne Connelly is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at the University of Warwick. She a member of the Editorial Board, and a former member of the IJSRM Reviewer College.

Siobhan Dytham is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Education Studies at the University of Warwick. She joined the IJSRM Reviewer College during the final year of her PhD, and became a member of the Editorial Board in 2016.

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