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International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society
Main Content

When to accept or decline an invitation to review

March 21, 2022
Series:Peer Reviewing
For the second episode of the special series focused on the peer review process, Dr. Shweta Prasad speaks with Prof. Günther Deuschl about the crucial first part of the peer review process - identifying reviewers, and understanding when a reviewer should accept or decline an invitation to review.

Dr. Shweta Prasad: Hello, and welcome to the MDS podcast, the official podcast channel of the International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society. I'm Dr. Shweta Prasad from the National institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, India, and I, along with Dr. Kirby and Dr. Di Luca, am the co-chair of the MDS Peer Review Mentoring and Education Program.

Today for episode two of our special podcast series on the peer review, I'm honored and privileged to introduce Dr. Günther Deuschl. Dr. Deuschl is a Senior Professor of Neurology at the Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany. He has published more than 650 peer reviewed articles with over 60,000 citations. He was also a Past President of the Movement Disorder Society and the past editor of the Movement Disorders journal.

Hello Professor Deuschl, and welcome to the MDS peer review podcast.

View full transcript

[00:00:49] Prof. Günther Deuschl:
Hello, Shweta. Nice to talk to you.

[00:00:53] Dr. Shweta Prasad:
So today's podcast aims to cover the very first part of the peer review process, which is identifying reviewers and understanding when a reviewer should accept or decline an invitation to review. So professor, could you tell us what really happens in the background before someone receives an invitation to review? How does the journal editor identify potential reviewers?

[00:01:16] Prof. Günther Deuschl:
For an editor, it's one of the most important questions to find the right reviewers and to interfere with this complex process, it's probably important to understand what an editor has in mind.

If an editor gets a paper, he first looks at whether the topic fits to the journal. So is it really something that should be eventually published? The second important question is the content true? Is the standard of of scientific rigor high enough to get published in that journal?

The next question is, is the result important? Not every result is really important. That is certainly in the responsibility of the editor. But the editor wants also to get the input of the reviewer on this particular question and the standard questions that always accompany review requests. They are basically dedicated to answer this. And then certainly the, the relevance of the paper for the field is a very important part.

I think that's, that are the main points here. And then the editor is building up his register of possible reviewers. As you can imagine, this has a lot to do with the past experience.

So if somebody has provided a good review in the sense that I explained before, he gets by itself a star. And you don't have to mark it in your register because you know if you are dealing with tremor or if you're dealing with the emotional disturbances of Parkinson's disease, you have a few people in mind that could probably review such a paper.

And therefore from the other side, from the side of the young scientist who wants to become a reviewer, one of the best things to become a reviewer is to write good papers. Once you write good papers, editors will recognize you.

This is inevitable. Because every editor reads a lot. He does not only read the submissions, but he goes through other journals and gets an overview. And usually the editors are those people who really have a very fundamental understanding of the field. And therefore if you write good papers, that's a very first way to become a good reviewer.

[00:03:49] Dr. Shweta Prasad:
Thank you for those insights, which I'm certain most of us who were listening were pretty unaware of. And I really hope our young reviewers who want to review further paid really good attention to those words. Now that someone’s received an invitation to review, what are the core criteria they should satisfy before they accept the invitation?

[00:04:06] Prof. Günther Deuschl:
Let’s assume that you get the request for a review — Either that or the other way. Then you should ask yourself, am I fit in the field?

For example, in your case, it's a paper on imaging. Then it would fit perfectly to your profile. If it's a review on tremor and let's say methodological aspects of any kind of molecular features of tremor patients, then it's probably not exactly your profile. But if you are willing to go deep into this, and if you have the time to dedicate a day or two to that particular paper, why not do it? You can ask questions, which are probably not in the field of methods exactly. But you can tell the editor, 'Well, this is an interesting topic. We would like to know this.' And when you have a first overview on that, then that may be a paper that should probably accept to review

 That's one side. The other side is certainly you have to have time. Particularly for your first reviews. Take really a day or two to read the paper two or three times to understand the critical points. Go into the literature possibly, to better understand this or the other point. Particularly for your first reviews, this is important.

And then the the conflict of interest issue is very important, certainly. If the author of the paper is known to you, that would be something where you should think about: Do you have a conflict of interest? Are they, to some extent, covering exactly the same topic as you? Are you bound in your choice and in your decisions to some extent because it's from this or that person? Do you have engagements in companies or, you know, what is usually asked by the journals? That is probably not the most important thing, but if there is competition on a particular point, this may be a reason that really pre-forms your choice.

 And what we want to have with the conflict of interest question is really to avoid the most serious things. And scientists should be aware that when they feel, to some extent, biased, that they then say, 'It's better that I do not review on this.'

When I get review requests I do not principally deny reviews of papers of people that I know. Certainly, I know so many people that I could almost not accept any reviews. It's more about the personal engagement in the field, that I have a pre-formed opinion, and that the paper is dealing with that in a different way, for example. That would be something where I would say, ‘Okay, it’s probably better not to review that at this particular point.' But this happens only rarely.’

[00:07:12] Dr. Shweta Prasad:
Thank you so much for telling us the basis on which somebody should accept or decline a review. Now specifically, very often for young trainees and first-time reviewers, they feel under-qualified or not experienced enough to perform independent reviews. How should a trainee that is just starting their career deal with the insecurity of not knowing the topic well enough?

[00:07:40] Prof. Günther Deuschl:
Honestly, all the people that are asked for writing reviews they do have a supervisor and it's part of the scientific education And this is a personal thing that the advisors should discuss with their trainees with their fellows how to deal with particular papers They should discuss it with them And I know so many countries in this world how science is done there I haven't seen a country where that would not be possible every person who takes fellows is completely aware that this is necessary and don't be shy. Ask your supervisors and discuss with them. Show them what you've done and ask them what they think about it. Ask them what is lacking And usually they give you advice.

I'm certain that will help a lot of young reviewers and probably encourage them to review just by seeking help from their supervisors So that was episode two of the peer review podcast wherein we reviewed the crucial first part of the peer review process. Thank you so very much Professor Deuschl for sharing your time and years worth of experience with us. In the next episode we'll discuss Thank you so much for listening.

Special thank you to:Prof. Günther Deuschl
Dr. Shweta Prasad 

Co-chair of the MDS Peer Review Mentoring and Education Program

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