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Can reviewing experiences for top notch journals in a specific field be considered as a distinguishing and effective factor for the applying process?

I've read somewhere that having a fertile record in sites such as Publons can have a positive effect for applying for, e.g. a PhD position.

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It's a very weak positive signal.

Being invited to review in a field's top journal is a sign that somebody thought of your name when seeking people with deep expertise in a specific domain of study. This is clearly a good thing when applying to a PhD program (but would definitely not be expected from an applicant). That said, inappropriate reviewer selection happens all the time, so as I said, it's a very weak signal.

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Its unlikely to be a deciding factor. A reviewer position would signal that you have a significant research contribution before your PhD, one that has caught the attention of reputed researchers in your field. This would be rare for the top-journals in many fields, so it will attract attention, generally positive.

It could back-fire if, in an interview, you are unable to answer simple/current questions related to the field you reviewed in. This could suggest that you were inappropriately assigned the review, and further that you are opportunistically using the review role to improve your application.

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