The Pros and Cons of Reviewing Academic and Scientific Writing

The Pros and Cons of Reviewing Academic and Scientific Writing
If you are considering reviewing academic or scientific writing, it is wise to reflect both seriously and realistically on the full implications of the tasks you will be performing. Whatever good might come of doing either pre-publication or post-publication reviews will not become a reality if you do not complete the work you promised to do or choose to perform that work shabbily or without a scholarly conscience. Considering the pros and cons or perhaps the investments and returns of reviewing might therefore be helpful.

• Time is a major concern because reviewing scholarship thoroughly and thoughtfully will take more time than most academics and scientists expect when they first begin doing reviews. For pre-publication reviews, time will be an especially sensitive issue, and being tardy with your work and not meeting the deadline you agreed to will hinder the publication process. Consuming large portions of your time completing reviews may be a pro or a con depending on whether you feel you have more important things to do with your time.
• Access to the most recent research before it is published and the acquisition of new publications without charge are among the benefits of pre- and post-publication reviewing, and few would argue that these are anything but pros. However, taking on reviewing jobs that do not match your specialisation is, in most cases, neither fair to the authors nor a productive use of your time. Choosing to review unpublished writing in order to prevent the research of competitors from being published is unethical. Keep in mind that a bird’s eye view of your field and offers of free books must be balanced against the seriousness of reviewing the writing of other scholars.
• Reviewing scholarly writing enables you to do a service for your academic or scientific community, one that will be rewarded with recognition and perhaps some of the benefits that can follow recognition. To be considered an expert in your field, however, you will need to behave as an expert would, reviewing the studies you report on thoroughly, thoughtfully and respectfully. If you do, reviewing may produce pros both personal and professional that easily outweigh the time and effort you invest.
• Reviewing can be a successful aspect of the path to a career in editing and publishing. Peer reviewers who do an excellent job for a journal will be offered new articles to review, and doing an excellent job for the editor time and again can lead to positions on editorial boards and even to a career as chief editor. This may sound more like a con than a pro to those who prefer to conduct research and teach students, but those who truly enjoy reviewing also tend to enjoy editing and publishing, so it is certainly a possibility worth a little exploration.
• Remembering as you read the work of your colleagues, often behind the mask of anonymity, that the object is to benefit knowledge as a whole by enabling the publication of sound and valuable research will help you stay on track. If you remind yourself that you are simply one member of an academic or scientific community that will have other reviewers to judge and therefore enable or hinder your research and writing, you will be better able to keep the human element front and centre as you review, and that is definitely a pro regardless of where your reviewing activities may take you.

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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.

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