LUP Awards for Outstanding Journal Reviewers Winner
In the middle of Week 1, I had a pleasant surprise. I received an email telling me that I had been selected for one of the inaugural Liverpool University Press Awards for Outstanding Journal Reviewers, for the work I did in 2019 for the Journal of Romance Studies. The task of a peer reviewer is often thankless, because it can take up a lot of time and energy, has to be done to a tight deadline, on top of one’s day job, and is almost always anonymous and unpaid. We are asked to read anonymised articles on subjects within our field of expertise that have been submitted to journals, in order to assess their merits, make constructive comments, and recommend publication or rejection. This process serves as a kind of quality control, to ensure that articles contribute in a meaningful way to existing scholarship and adhere to the ethos of the journal. It is part of maintaining a healthy academic community, and also a quid pro quo, because every reviewer knows that their own work will have to be reviewed in turn.
For me, the point is to help the author submit the best piece of research they can by providing constructive criticism. I have been on the receiving end of unhelpful reviews, such as the one which declared my work not to be cutting edge in the reviewer’s opinion, but gave no indication how this could be achieved other than by ‘correcting’ one or two translated quotes. On the other hand, I have been hugely grateful to thorough reviewers for spotting mistakes (we all make them), preventing me from making a fool of myself in print and generously passing on bibliographical references.
Mine is a small field (modern Lusophone literature and culture) and I am asked to write around three or four peer reviews per year, for a range of academic journals, in Portuguese and English. As I said before, it takes time, and it is, effectively, free editing for the author of the article. But it is time well spent if it means a good piece of research gets published, plus I’m very aware that in due course I too will be relying on my colleagues’ expertise and editing skills. I think it is wonderful that LUP has inaugurated a prize to recognise this work that goes on behind the scenes.
Claire Williams (Associate Professor in Brazilian Literature and Culture).