Sunday, May 12, 2024


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AGU Publications is dedicated to helping the upcoming group of reviewers.

AGU and Peer Review Week logos with an illustration of gears and people in the background.

The blog Editors’ Vox is run by the Publications Department of AGU.

When engaging with early career researchers (ECRs), either in person at AGU’s yearly conferences or online through webinars and email, we often receive feedback that they desire more chances to participate in the peer review process beyond simply publishing their own papers. They express an interest in reviewing papers but are not frequently invited, or they are unsure of their qualifications to review independently. They seek assistance and tools to begin this process. Likewise, our journal editors and pool of reviewers also express that they are overwhelmed, receiving review requests on a daily basis and struggling to keep up with the workload.

After analyzing demographic data from AGU Publications, it is evident that our pool of reviewers does not fully represent the diversity of our authors and the broader community of geoscientists that we serve. As a result, we recognize the importance of diversifying our pool of reviewers and have implemented various programs to address this issue. Our Co-reviewer Program offers Early Career Researchers (ECRs) the opportunity to gain experience in reviewing and receive recognition for their contributions. Additionally, our mentoring programs provide ECRs with valuable insights into the publishing process and access to our journal editors and publishing staff. We also offer webinars and resources for individuals at all levels of experience. These initiatives have been successful in achieving their objectives of supporting our future reviewers, and we aim to continue their development and expansion in the future.

The Co-reviewer Program at AGU Publications is a program designed to allow reviewers to share their reviews with other reviewers.

The AGU Publications Co-reviewer Program facilitates the sharing of reviews among reviewers.

Co-review is a process in which a less experienced researcher, such as a graduate student, postdoctoral fellow, or research assistant, is asked to assist a more experienced researcher, typically their mentor or supervisor, in completing a review.

Our Co-reviewer Program started as a way to formalize and enhance a practice we knew was already occurring. Co-review is when a junior researcher (such as a graduate student, post doc, or research assistant) is invited to complete a review with a senior researcher (often their advisor or supervisor). Each reviewer reads the paper and together they write the review and come up with a recommendation. This has long been a way to train ECRs and help them learn how to review on their own. Co-reviewing is a longstanding practice within AGU’s journals (and many other journals outside of AGU), but it was not formally tracked in our submission and peer review system or by our journals; nor was the co-reviewer acknowledged or named, as the practice was done outside of the system.

Starting in the latter half of 2021, we implemented a Co-reviewer Program for AGU’s journals. This program is integrated into our submission and peer review system, GEMS. When reviewers are asked to review a submission, they have the option to invite a co-reviewer and include them on the reviewer form when submitting their review. Our objectives in establishing this formal co-reviewing process in our journals through the integrated functionality are threefold:

  • Promote increased participation from novice reviewers and offer them guidance through mentorship from experienced reviewers.

  • Acknowledge their efforts and contributions (more on this topic later)

  • Broaden our pool of reviewers to enhance diversity in terms of age groups and geographic locations.

AGU is committed to inclusive and equitable scientific publishing. One of our diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) goals is to strengthen our editorial boards and review pool through a diversity of perspectives. At AGU journals (and many others), the decision of who gets invited to review is in the hands of the editors and associate editors.

The Co-reviewer Program enables the expansion of the review network by allowing reviewers to invite and include co-reviewers.

The Co-reviewer Program aims to expand the pool of potential reviewers by allowing current reviewers to invite and include a co-reviewer. Since its launch in 2021, the program has received over 1,500 co-review submissions. This data was initially gathered through the review form in our submission system and manually added to the reviewer database at regular intervals. It is also featured in our annual editorials thanking reviewers for each journal.

At the end of the initial year of the program, we conducted a survey among those who took part to assess whether it met their expectations and gather any suggestions for improvement. The responses were mostly positive, with co-reviewers, senior reviewers, and editors finding it to be a beneficial experience and expressing a desire for further chances to participate. The main suggestions for improvement were related to recognizing the contributions of co-reviewers and integrating them into the overall pool of reviewers.

Based on the survey and email feedback, we have enhanced the system’s functionality and tracking to effectively include co-reviewers. With this new update, the co-reviewers will now be automatically added to the system and receive the same thank you email as the primary reviewer. These improvements will help us better acknowledge and keep track of co-reviewers.

Although this program has been successful and well-received, we are aware of its limitations in achieving co-review goals and reaching a broader audience. According to the data presented in the charts, the co-reviewer program has moderately increased the diversity of our reviewer pool in terms of geographical location (Figures 1 and 2) and significantly increased the number of reviewers in the youngest age group (Figure 3). We are pleased to see these positive results early on in the program, but also acknowledge that there is still progress to be made. The Co-reviewer Program is designed in such a way that early career researchers can only participate if they are invited by more experienced researchers. We hope that by promoting this program, we will see a rise in co-review invitations over time.

Figure 1. Geographic distribution of reviewers and co-reviewers in 2022.

In Figure 2, the chart shows the amount of co-reviewers per country.

The graph shows the age breakdown of reviewers between 2021 and 2022.

We are constantly seeking ways to involve early-career researchers who may not have been invited to participate in collaborative reviews, especially those from regions and countries where we have a smaller presence in our reviewer pool. While our recent updates, such as recognizing co-reviewers and adding them to our database, have been helpful, feedback has shown a need for more comprehensive training to support the transition from co-reviewer to independent reviewer.

Providing Training and Resources to Assist Early Career Researchers (ECRs)

In the current year, we have increased our focus on supporting early career researchers by offering them training and guidance to help them achieve their goals in publishing and peer review.

AGU Publications already offers author-focused various training and educational materials, ranging from workshops at our annual meeting, editor-led workshops at conferences, recorded webinars and virtual events, and written how-to guidelines. This year, we expanded these efforts to prioritize ECRs, providing them with training and mentoring to support their publishing and peer review aspirations.

In July 2023, the AGU publications department organized a Mentoring365 Circle called Publishing 101, which aimed to provide guidance on scholarly publishing, including the peer-review process. The 64 mentees who participated showed great interest, with many of them getting ready for their first journal submission. After the 4-week course ended, the participants had a Zoom Q&A session with Dr. Lisa Beal, Editor in Chief of AGU’s JGR: Oceans. This session allowed the participants to directly seek advice on writing and publishing from an editor, while also providing an opportunity for us to learn from them. Moving forward, we plan to organize more Mentoring365 Circles specifically focused on peer-review.

In August 2023, we organized a webinar focused on early career researchers (ECRs) that covered the fundamentals of peer review. This included guidance on writing constructive and respectful reviews, our ethical policies, and tips for first-time reviewers. The live training session allowed participants to learn and ask questions directly to Dr. Kaustubh Thirumalai, an experienced Associate Editor on the editorial board for AGU’s Paleoceanography & Paleoclimatology. A recording of the webinar and its accompanying slides are now available as a permanent resource on our website and can be accessed at any time. The slides also feature a list of free online courses and training materials to improve reviewing skills and gain a deeper understanding of the peer review process.

As part of our efforts to promote a fair and inclusive peer review process, we have developed guidelines for reviewers to write respectful and constructive comments. This includes the use of our Reviewer Tone Table, which is included in our Reviewer Instructions and policy page. We encourage reviewers to be mindful of their language and tone, and to avoid any biases that may impact the perception of authors. For more information on reviewer tone, please see our Editor’s Vox. Additionally, our Review criteria are readily available for reviewers to consult online.

We aim to increase engagement of ECRs in the peer review and publishing process by providing open and accessible materials, giving them the necessary resources for success.

Looking Ahead

We are pleased with the positive response and early outcomes of our attempts to involve and assist novice reviewers. We will keep enhancing our Co-reviewing Program, developing new learning materials, and providing more chances for ECRs to receive guidance and interact with us directly on this matter.

The generous efforts of our volunteer reviewers play a crucial role in the ongoing success of AGU’s publication of top-notch scientific research in the fields of Earth and space. We extend our gratitude to all of our reviewers and eagerly anticipate working with our communities to support the development of future reviewers.

—Sarah Dedej ([email protected]; 0000-0003-3952-

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0009-0002-7190-7905); Sophie Hanson (0009-0003-6021-8466); and Mia Ricci (0000-0002-8789-0565), Publications Department, American Geophysical Union

Reference: Dedej, S., Ramil, M., Hanson, S., & Ricci, M. (2023). AGU Publications’ support for upcoming reviewers. Eos, 104. Retrieved from Published on September 29, 2023.

The views expressed in this article do not reflect those of AGU, Eos, or any associated entities. They are solely the opinions of the author(s).

Text © 2023. The authors. CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

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