Editorial: Becoming a Referee

By Cerpa, Narciso | Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research, April 2007 | Go to article overview
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Editorial: Becoming a Referee

Cerpa, Narciso, Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research

Journal referees or peer reviewers are responsible academics or practitioners who aim to contribute to the development of research in their area of expertise. They are willing to evaluate the quality of work undertaken by other researchers highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the work, and ensuring the accuracy and rigor of the research before widely disseminating it through a journal [1].

Referees from our journal are from diverse backgrounds: Computer Science, Information Systems, Business, Law, and the Social Science disciplines among others. This makes it difficult to apply exactly the same standards for the review of articles and also makes it difficult to provide very terse guidelines for referees. The refereeing task is a difficult one, but it is also an informative process. A referee is able to contrast poor articles with good ones, at the same time learning about what to do (or not to do) when the referee is writing his/her own paper. Volunteering time to review papers keeps one abreast of the latest developments in their area of research as well as providing exposure to cutting edge research methods. The referee's role is very important for the research community at large, and also can provide a high degree of prestige within the broader research network. Providing well-prepared, thoughtful and critical reviews can earn a referee instantaneous reputability, at the same time a poor review can reflect negatively on the general skills of the referee. Editors have great appreciation for referees that achieve excellence in their aim of providing well justified evaluations and quality feedback to authors. Most journals provide referee's certificates to highlight the tasks undertaken by the academic or practitioner. Achieving excellence as a referee over several years may also be the key to a future role on the Editorial Board of a journal. Perhaps discouraging is that the referee's task is often not acknowledged or rewarded by their academic institution. This important role in the advancement of the research community and the success of university departments has little bearing when the academic who is a referee is applying for promotion or during annual employment evaluations. We believe that university management should give more importance to the referee's task when setting procedures for evaluation and promotion of academics.

Becoming a referee may look simple, but becoming a good referee is difficult and sometimes misunderstood by those undertaking the task. The main role of the referee is to decide whether or not an article makes a sufficient contribution to the specific field of research [3]. Smith describes this contribution as: new and interesting research results; new and insightful synthesis of existing results; a useful survey of, or tutorial, on a field; or a combination of them [3]. A good referee's report should have four main components [3]:

* Summarize the article in a few sentences to ensure that you understand the article, and for the use of the editor

* Evaluate the validity and significance of the research objectives

* Evaluate the quality of the actual work presented in the article (methodology and rigor, structure, techniques, models, validation methods, results, discussion)

* Provide an overall recommendation to accept or reject the article.

Whatever recommendation is deemed appropriate by the referee, it must be clearly justified, especially when it is a rejection because the author will want to receive feedback on the main reasons the article was rejected. It is always necessary to distinguish between those research articles that may have a chance for publication after substantial changes have been made (in the same or a different journal), and those that do not. An acceptance will require the referee to list the changes that are necessary and those that are suggested [3]. We recommend reading Smith for a detailed understanding of how to evaluate a research article and make recommendations [3].

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