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I am an editor for a math journal. When I select and invite a reviewer to referee a paper the journal's management software automatically writes and sends an email invitation to that reviewer.

For a couple of recent papers where I was having trouble getting reviewers to accept an invitation I started sending a manually written email (from my university email address) to the potential reviewer asking them to consider reviewing the paper,

My response and acceptance rates are much higher when I do this, which is great, but I worry if I am being overly pushy this way, or if emailing reviewers directly is outside the norm. When I get requests to review papers myself, I almost never get a manually-written email from the editor, just the auto-generated one.

So is it OK to send a manually written email to potential reviewers, when the journal already sends them an autogenerated email invitation? This manually written email would be in addition to the autogenerated one.

3 Answers 3

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I wouldn't send both up front - that seems a bit spammy.

It seems perfectly reasonable to me for an editor to reach out to potential reviewers however they communicate with other humans: email, in the pub, at a conference.

If you're getting a better response with your personal communications, I'd recommend reaching out that way first, and if someone shows interest, that's when you can follow up with the autogenerated email.

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Long time editor and editor-in-chief here:

I would say putting on a human touch is a perfectly legitimate approach and, as you are finding out, is improving your response rates. So go with it.

In the system we use the journal where I'm the EiC, I get to see the auto-generated email before I click "send". I often put a personal preface at the top. This way, the recipient gets only one email, but it has a personal element to it.

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Don't send two emails. It's somewhat spammy, and even where it isn't, it's a not-very-productive use of your time. If you have no choice then yeah (e.g. in one of the editorial management systems I've used, if you register a new reviewer, the system sends a mandatory email to tell them that they've been registered), but don't do it if you don't have to.

Instead, customize the reviewer invitation that is actually sent. The editorial management system should let you do this. You probably don't have to change much, the template is there for a reason, but you can add a personal message at the top that doesn't even have to make structural sense.

Here's an example of a recent invitation I sent that got an enthusiastic response from the reviewer. The only thing I added was the text in brackets at the top; the rest of the email is the template.

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You could write all sorts of things as well, e.g. some kind of personal greeting if you know the reviewer personally, or reassure the reviewer that you are not pressuring them to review, so they should feel free to decline if they're currently busy, etc.

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    Bear in mind that the autogenerated email might be more likely to trigger spam filters, in which case customizing the content won't help fix the problem. You might ask the recipients of your manual emails if they ever saw the automated ones. Apr 25, 2023 at 22:46

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