Reviewing an article for a scientific journal would be a valuable and helpful service to the scientific community since it helps to make sure the research that is published is of high quality, validity, novelty, and originality. However, reviewing papers also need a considerable amount of time, effort, and expertise from the reviewer, which may not always be available and suitable. Such difficulties may cause a reviewer decides to decline a review request for various reasons. So, this article aims to explain some common reasons for rejecting a review request and discuss how to deal with them professionally and ethically.
1- Conflict of interest
Conflict of interest is one of the main reasons for rejecting a review request. Conflict of interest occurs when a reviewer has a personal or professional relationship with the author, the journal, or the paper subject, which may influence their objectivity and fairness in assessing the article. For instance, the reviewer may be a coworker, collaborator, competitor, friend, or family member of the author; they may have financial or intellectual connections to the journal or the article, or they may have strong views or biases about the subject of the paper. The conflict of interest can undermine or compromise the integrity and credibility of the peer review process and may destroy the reputation of the reviewer, the author, and the journal. So, reviewers should reveal any possible conflict of interest to the journal editors before agreeing on the review assignment or decline the invitation if they can not be unbiased.
2- Work overload and lack of time
The second common reason reviewers may reject a review request is lack of time. Reviewing an article requires a lot of time and effort from the reviewer. They have to read the paper carefully, evaluate its strengths and weaknesses, provide constructive feedback and suggestions for improvement, and write a concise report. Depending on the paper’s length and complexity and also the deadline given by the journal, reviewing an article may take several hours or days. In general, many reviewers do not have enough time to finish the review task due to competing pressures on their time and energy from their research, teaching, or other responsibilities. Those who accept a review request but fail to do it on time may cause delays in the publication process, annoyance for the author and the editor, and damage their reputation. For such reasons, reviewers should only accept article reviews they can finish within the given deadline and organize their tasks accordingly. However, reviewers should notify the journal editors as soon as possible if they face any problems, difficulties, or unexpected circumstances that prevent them from completing the review on time.
3- Lack of expertise
Lack of expertise is the third common reason that reviewers may decline an article review request. Reviewers are expected to have enough knowledge and experience in the specific area, methods, or statistical analysis of the article they are reviewing; after that, they can provide competent, skilled, and constructive feedback for the author. Reviewers who are not familiar with the article’s subject matter can not be able to evaluate its novelty, originality, validity, significance, and contribution to the field. A lack of expertise may cause them mis significant errors or flaws in the paper’s design, execution, interpretation, or presentation.
Those who accept a review request but lack expertise may provide inaccurate, irrelevant, or deceptive comments that may confuse or mislead the author and the editor. So, reviewers are expected to reviews that are within their scope and interest and contact the journal editors for guidance if they are not sure about their suitability. So, reviewers must decline reviews that are not in their expertise to avoid above mentioned problems.
4- Lack of interest
A lack of interest is the fourth common reason for declining a review request. Reviewers may find some articles irrelevant, uninteresting, or unoriginal in various aspects. Those who are not interested in the article subject they are reviewing may not be motivated to review it carefully, thoroughly, and professionally. They may skim through the article or skip some parts, thereby missing essential details, and provide vague, generic, or superficial comments that are not useful for the authors or editor. Such uninterested reviewers may waste their time and resources and may compromise the quality and usefulness of the peer review process. For these reasons, reviewers should consider the scientific merit and contribution of the article regardless of their personal preferences and offer honest and respectful feedback to the author.
5- Lack of format
The last but not least common reason a reviewer may decline a review request is lack of format. Some articles don’t follow the journal’s guidelines for authors and don’t meet the journal’s criteria, such as formatting, structure, length, or citation style. This may show that the author doesn’t care about the journal’s criteria and may not read or follow the journal’s guidelines carefully. Reviewers who receive articles that do not follow the journal’s requirements may find it hard or tedious to review them since they may have to highlight or correct any errors or inconsistencies that the author may have avoided or corrected. Those who agree to review requests for an article but face papers that lack format may spend more time, energy, and effort than necessary and may distract themselves from the content and substances of the article. So, reviewers should check that the article is appropriately formatted and according to the journal’s requirements before agreeing to review it. Reviewers should decline review requests for articles that are poorly formatted or presented.
Reviewers may accept or decline review requests for various reasons such as conflict of interest, lack of time, lack of expertise, lack of interest, or lack of format. All these reasons are valid and reasonable, and reviewers should not feel guilty or obliged to accept every review request they receive. However, they should handle these situations professionally and ethically by communicating with the journal editors quickly and respectfully, explaining their reasons for declining the request, and suggesting other reviewers if possible. They should also balance their workload and interests and accept those requests that are relevant, interesting, and manageable for them. All of these can help reviewers to contribute to the scientific community and the peer review process in a positive and meaningful way.