When identifying reviewers for a particular paper, I try to find a balance of:
- expertise (all reviewers need appropriate expertise, but this can range between e.g., specific topic/research question, methods, theory, implications, study region, ...)
- regional location of institution (e.g., Global North/South)
- gender balance
- career stage (I find that earlier careers, PhDs through postdocs, often write the best reviews, and getting started with peer reviews is helpful).
Where to find reviewers?
- It's often good to try to find someone who has published in your target journal (or a journal with similar reach).
- The Journal/Author Name Editor, JANE, can be a good resource for finding reviewers (leans towards medicine). You enter title and/or abstract and it finds similar papers, authors.
(Along those lines- if you’re publishing make sure you’re giving back to the community by serving as a peer reviewer and/or editor yourself! Read my guide to writing a solid peer review or how to get started, and register as a potential reviewer with journals in your field).
- Suggested reviewers must avoid conflicts of interest, that is, they should not have a personal or professional relationship with any authors that would prevent impartial scientific judgment. Definite conflicts of interest are co-published authors, people at the same institution, former or current academic mentors/advisees.
- I avoid suggesting personal friends even if they have relevant expertise. (I try to put myself in the reverse situation and think, if I were asked to review them, do I start with a positive predisposition just because I know they're a nice person/ in general I think well of them/ it would be awkward to reject them/etc? My goal is to have reviewers who are able to focus on the quality of the work alone, independent from the qualities of the people who produced it, insofar as this is possible in a small community of human beings!)
- Technically the editors should also screen for conflicts, but this is a time-consuming and imperfectly accurate process done by busy volunteers, so when authors are asked to provide reviewers it's our responsibility to meet all the guidelines.)
- Some specific guidelines on conflict of interest below.
See guidelines for picking reviewers: https://methodsblog.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/preferred-reviewers/
For the PNAS guidelines see here: http://m.pnas.org/site/authors/coi.xhtml
Springer, Conflict of Interest: http://www.springer.com/authors/manuscript+guidelines?SGWID=0-40162-6-795522-0
Article on COI in medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2246405/