There are many websites offering pre-submission review services for a fee of several hunderd dollars, e.g., editage, editeon, enago and others.

In general this seems like a useful service - instead of waiting several months to get feedback from the journal referees (and probably a rejection), the author receives feedback after a week, and can then improve the paper and submit to the journal.

However, just like there are predatory journals, it is reasonable to fear that there are "predatory review services", that take your money and produce a worthless review.

So, my question is: what is a way to detect a good pre-submission peer-review service, and distinguish it from a predatory one?

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    If you need one of these services, then what have y6ou and your supervisor been doing... – Solar Mike Jan 27 '19 at 16:48
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    @SolarMike I do not have a supervisor now... I graduated a year ago. You reminded me to update my profile... – Erel Segal-Halevi Jan 27 '19 at 18:32

The pre-submission peer review seems to cost about $250 USD for a one week turn around. That is not enough money to find an expert in the field to do the review. It is enough money to get someone familiar with the publishing process in a general field (e.g., biomedical research, engineering, humanities) who knows the core components of a paper (i.e., do you need to include statistics, do the methods seem reasonable, is there an introduction that at least pretends to make sense) and can follow a logical argument. Lots of papers get rejected for these reasons so such a review can be valuable. This is especially true if you do not have any colleagues you can pass the paper by. That said, you would be much better served developing a network of colleagues who you can pass a manuscript by prior to submission then to use one of these services.

Prior to using the service, I would ask to see a previous sample of their work. Unlike a predatory journal, which makes publishing somewhere else difficult, using one of these services only costs you money.

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    Re your last sentence: If that's really a rogue scam service, actually, the worst thing that could happen is "they take your paper, put a different name on it, and publish it on a predatory journal". – Federico Poloni Jan 27 '19 at 18:11
  • @FedericoPoloni I would hope that reputable publishers would be willing to forgive such a nightmare scenerio and publish the work anyways. – StrongBad Jan 27 '19 at 18:22

I think you mean proof-reading. This is totally different thing from peer-reviewing. The peer-reviewing process refers to academics and experts in your fields giving you scientific feedback. This is usually offered through conferences, symposiums, and journals. Anything else is suspicious and you should not go for. While proof-reading is editorial feedback (grammar, spelling, etc.). It is up to your institutions rule whether to allow third-party proof-reading or not. You should look into your institution's rules. There are some who define what a proof-reader can/can not do, while some institutions prohibit this specially for students.

UPDATE: After some comments, it is clear to me now that you mean peer-reviews. As I said, this is suspicious. Respectful academics who can give useful review provide this service through known channels: conferences, journals, symposiums, etc. Also, these channels ask these reviewers to confirm they will not disclose your work and they treat it confidentially. Other channels can disclose your work especially if you do not know the committee and if they do not have reputation to care about.

My advise: about my self, I will stay away from such shady channels. I only submit to legitimate known channels with clearly defined committee and rules. If something went wrong, there is a chair I can talk to. Otherwise you may find yourself in troubles.

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    If you read the linked pages, these services really claim that they do technical reviewing "like a true peer review". – Federico Poloni Jan 27 '19 at 17:18
  • This sounds suspicious. Respectful experts in the fields do not go for these services. The channels to get peer-reviews in academia are known since ages. I listed examples like conferences, journals, symposiums. – None Jan 27 '19 at 17:19
  • Yeah, clearly those reviewers are not going to be experts in my field --- at least, no one I've met in a conference ever mentioned having a side job for edit-something-dot-com. The question is whether they can really provide feedback of comparable quality: an experienced researcher may be able to make useful comments on my paper even if they work only in a neighboring field. I'm skeptical, but it's very difficult to tell in advance without having tested them. – Federico Poloni Jan 27 '19 at 17:21
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    I met someone who told as they were bi-lingual they could deal with any translation... They failed with an article about stresses and fractures in a loaded shaft... – Solar Mike Jan 27 '19 at 17:50
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    @FedericoPoloni think about really bad manuscripts you have reviewed. I would guess that even someone halfway competent in a related field could likely improve them by a lot since in most fields introductions and discussion sections need to be comprehendable to more than just experts. – StrongBad Jan 27 '19 at 17:55

You may want to go to a forum that researchers in your field frequently visit, and advertise that you want to hire a reviewer. This would cut down the cost for middle services, yet increase the likelihood that the reviewers are from your field. If there are many applications you can choose the best offers.

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  • This could be a good idea, however, it is not very common for academics to offer their services for hire. This might make the negotiation on the salary quite awkward. The advantages in the websites I mentioned is that there is a fixed cost and no need to negotiate. – Erel Segal-Halevi Jan 29 '19 at 3:22
  • There are people who put up service as consultant for autodidacts, so I think there is a market for this. I think when people get used to this idea there will be no awkward. Of course this can't replace the standard process, where blind review is necessary. – Ooker Jan 29 '19 at 7:01

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