Reviewing journal articles

posted Mar 3, 2018, 2:30 PM by Nic Guinto

Receiving review requests from academic journals is nothing new to me after I published my first journal article in an open access international journal. But getting review requests from far more established journals of international standing are rather rare.

After a couple of publications, publishers and/or editors had ready access to my email address(es) which are included as correspondence address there. So it was not surprising to receive so many review requests and invitations to publish with them. I certainly do not mind reviewing articles that are considered for publication in a journal; and mind you, the task is not something any academic could make a living from. It is uncommon for journals to compensate their reviewers on the principle that it is a noble and solemn duty of every academic to ensure that knowledge that is to be disseminated widely through the journal is a product of meticulous and empirically-driven effort. Of course there are those that offer some decent monetary compensation (not surprisingly, the not so established ones), while there are those that would give you access to their database beyond the paywall on limited terms.

As I am aware of the proliferation of predatory journals (i.e., journal publications whose pure intention is to make money out of the industry than produce quality work), I made sure that I only take part on those that I find legitimate no matter how 'unknown' the journal is. I check the editors (and whether they are real people), the publication itself (if they charge a publication fee, that's automatically out of my radar), and the 'quality' of the articles published, among many others. If the journal is affiliated with, or is an official one by an academic institution, I'd have no questions asked. We wouldn't want to be dragged into any spurious activities that could ruin the name we're trying to establish being the academics that we are. 

I have been quite surprised though about the fact that many established scholars do not have sympathy with open access publications. Although I am very thankful that many of the established scholars that I know are very kind and generous enough to share their work to anyone needing it (especially those who do not have the means to access them). All it takes is a polite and respectful email request. 

Coming from a 'third world' country whose immediate goal is to produce a workforce that could fuel the sluggish economy, our institutions do not always put subscription to premium academic journal publishers and databases on the priority list. So I find open access journals to be equalizers.  After all, knowledge should never be a monopoly of anyone, especially only by those who have money. I am well aware that many predatory journals are open access, but this shouldn't be a reason to totally discredit the open access journal publication framework. I'm glad that there's DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals) which strictly maintains a list of open access journals we can rely on. 

So, today, I received a review request from a very established journal. And it was because of my connections with very influential people in the field and because of a paper I am about to present in a conference I dreamt of attending when I was still doing my Master's. It came in as a surprise, actually because I never thought they would be open to PhD students reviewing submitted manuscripts in such a prestigious international journal. And it's quite ironic also that another international journal that is not as prestigious as this one has cancelled their review request a few days before their deadline (without telling me why in such a short notice).

To be honest, I had reservations about accepting the review request because it could make or break my career (in the international arena). I am quite unsure about whether I am worthy enough to review an article on a topic I am currently working on and has not even published an article on myself. My idea of a journal article reviewer is someone who her/himself has published on the topic being reviewed. I've published articles, yes, but not on that topic (yet). But I must say that I have read widely on it, and perhaps could say something sensible and substantial about it.

So I accepted the challenge nonetheless because I considered it to be yet another learning experience for me. It's not every day that we could get opportunities like this. If they'll be satisfied with my work, then it could be the start of a fruitful collaboration with them. But if I disappoint them, then I guess I should hope for better luck next time.