Celebrating Peer Review: EJIL’s Roll of Honour and Announcement of the first EJIL Peer Review Prize

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What makes for a good scholar? Brilliant articles and inspiring lectures – important, but not enough. No matter how solitary scholarly work can feel, it is always embedded in and dependent on a community: a community in which ideas are shared, reviewed and discussed. I hope that many of us will be able to think of some scholars who were stellar because they fundamentally shaped our thinking and writing by investing time, ideas and experience beyond the call of duty – detailed comments on a draft; meetings to discuss ways forward; endless letters of reference. You know who they are, and hopefully there are opportunities to say thanks to these academic parents, and pay it forward.

Saying thanks is more difficult, however, with peer reviewers: they, too, can fundamentally improve the quality of a piece of work, and yet, it is inherent in the exercise that the author does not know – indeed should not know – who they were. Vice-versa, for peer reviewers, the work can feel like a thankless task. They spend considerable time analysing an article, engaging with the ideas and writing up constructive suggestions, without the author ever knowing who put that effort into their work. (See ‘Peer Review in Crisis’ of July 2012.)

EJIL wants to recognize the crucial role of peer reviewers in academic life, both generally and specifically in shaping the content of this journal. This year we are doing so in two ways. First, as in previous years, we are publishing our Roll of Honour: colleagues (in addition to our Editorial Boards, who in fact bear the lion’s share of the peer review burden) who have contributed to EJIL’s peer review process in 2019. But on the occasion of EJIL’s 30th anniversary, the editorial team has decided to go a step further in recognizing the importance of peer review and publicly celebrating true leaders in this area of academic citizenship by instituting the EJIL Peer Review Prize.

We hope that this Prize may help counter a tendency in which only hyper-visible productivity is praised. The invisibility inherent in double-blind peer review does not sit well in an emerging cultural environment in which everything one does is made visible, whether on a CV or through social media. While some journals have begun to give prizes for ‘the best’ article, we want to recognize those who quietly pay an enormous service to the scholarly community – through outstanding and exemplary peer review. We hope that this Prize will also signal to appointment and promotion panels that the winner is not just an excellent thinker and writer, but also someone who invests in others, i.e., the kind of person one would like as a colleague.

As with other prizes, there is a whole range of factors that are taken into consideration, for instance, willingness and reliability. But must important is the engagement with the article being reviewed. More important than judgement (good/bad; accept/revise and resubmit/reject) is the analysis: why is this good/bad, and, most importantly: how could this piece be turned into a stronger article? A peer review report that answers that question is invaluable, not just to the editors, but also to the author, even if it is accompanied by a decision to reject. Such constructive reports can be the reason that the piece eventually does get published, possibly elsewhere, and as a very strong piece at that. (For more on this, see ‘Best Practice – Writing a Peer-Review Report’ of July 2019).

Once a year we will put one such brilliant peer reviewer in the limelight. For obvious reasons, we will not share their review(s).

 EJIL’s Roll of Honour 2019

Tilmann Altwicker, José Alvarez, Antony Anghie, Julian Arato, David Armitage, Helmut Aust, Björnstjern Baade, Ayelet Banai, William Banks, Lorand Bartels, Andrea Bianchi, Laurie Blank, Daniel Bodansky, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Eric Brabandere, Catherine Brölmann, Allen Buchanan, Gian Luca Burci, Daniela Caruso, Anupam Chander, Sungjoon Cho, Jacob Cogan, Harlan Cohen, Luigi Cominelli, Kevin Cope, Paul Craig, Marise Cremona, Anthony Cullen, Kristina Daugirdas, Natalie Davidson, Erika De Wet, Julia Dehm, Anne Dienelt, Megan Donaldson, Rochelle Dreyfuss, Jeffrey Dunoff, David Dyzenhaus, Piet Eeckhout, Kristen Eichensehr, Jaye Ellis, Christoph Engel, Michael Fakhri, Veronika Fikfak, Katharine Fortin, Eleanor Fox, Francesco Francioni, Halvard Haukeland Fredriksen, Rosa Freedman, Marsha Freeman, Paola Gaeta, Jean Galbraith, Henry Gao, Mónica García-Salmones Rovira, Janneke Gerards, Geoff Gilbert, Emanuela-Chiara Gillard, Aeyal Gross, Nienke Grossman, Douglas Guilfoyle, Michaela Hailbronner, James Harrison, Kevin Heller, Moshe Hirsch, Robert Howse, Anna-Maria Hubert, Kirsty Hughes, Stephen Humphreys, Miles Jackson, Oliver Jütersonke, Jörg Kammerhofer, Victor Kattan, Oliver Kessler, Jan Klabbers, Elaine Korzak, David Kretzmer, Dino Kritsiotis, Andreas Kulick, Jürgen Kurtz, Eliav Lieblich, Lauri Mälksoo, Maria Malksoo, Louise Mallinder, Peter Margulies, Nora Markard, Susan Marks, Nele Matz-Lück, Petros Mavroidis, Benoit Mayer, Jason Mayerfeld, Robert McCorquodale, Lorna McGregor, Frédéric Mégret, Sally Merry, Timothy Meyer, Samuel Moyn, Stephen Neff, Yota Negishi, Janne Nijman, Tzvika Nissel,Tonia Novitz, Luigi Nuzzo, Roger O’Keefe, Barbara Oomen, Dianne Otto, Joshua Paine, Martins Paparinskis, Christina Parajon Skinner, Steven Peers, Anne Peters, Ernst-Ulrich Petersmann, Erin Pobjie, Mark Pollack, Patricia Popelier, Alexander Proelss, Sergio Puig, Surabhi Ranganathan, Steven Ratner, Anthea Roberts, César Rodríguez-Garavito, Volker Roeben, C. G. Roelofsen, Yaël Ronen, Felix Rösch, Marco Roscini, Donald Rothwell, Tom Ruys, Christoph Safferling, Abdulhay Sayed, William Scheuermann, Stephan W.Schill, Thomas Schultz, Christine Schwöbel-Patel, Yuval Shany, Dinah Shelton, Vera Shikhelman, Sandesh Sivakumaran, Duncan Snidal, Jean-Marc Sorel, Sofia Stolk, Benjamin Straumann, Thomas Streinz, Péter Szigeti, Kim Talus, Yoshifumi Tanaka, Mara Tignino, Catharine Titi, Michael Trebilcock, Isabelle Van Damme, Gus Van Harten, Christiaan van Veen, Hedi Viterbo, Andreas von Arnauld, Jochen von Bernstorff, Armin von Bogdandy, Ben Wagner, Markus Wagner, Ramses Wessel, Rüdiger Wolfrum, Jan Wouters, Ezgi Yildiz, Fuad Zarbiyev, Liesbeth Zegveld, Velimir Živković.

 The EJIL Peer Review Prize 2019

The first EJIL Peer Review Prize is awarded to Professor Dr Tilmann Altwicker. Altwicker has written several reviews for EJIL, at times reviewing the same (albeit revised) article multiple times. His reviews stand out for their engagement with both the argument and structure of the manuscript as well as for his meticulous line-by-line suggestions for how to improve each piece. Through his detailed and constructive roadmaps for revision, Altwicker has truly helped authors improve their work.

Thankfully for EJIL, the competition for the prize was stiff: there were many others to whom we could have awarded the prize. We look forward to recognizing their contributions in the years to come.

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Toshi Uematsu says

April 21, 2020

You say 'Saying thanks is more difficult..(as) it is inherent in the exercise that the author does not know – indeed should not know – who they were.' Is that really the case? Many journals in other disciplines are moving toward unblinded reviews.