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I would like to build up my publication profile, including the writing of book reviews. I am not well-known by any means having just completed my PhD, though I am now working full time (contract) as a level A academic in research and teaching in my field.

I wanted to know whether it would be beneficial to approach the book reviews editor of a journal to see if they have any books in my field/subject expertise that require reviewing, and the best way to go about this.

This question/response here advises not to approach editors; however, in a publications workshop I took in 2013, I was advised that I should approach editors who often have a stack of books that need reviewing.

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Yes, it's entirely appropriate to volunteer to serve as a reviewer. In doing so, you should be clear about your current background and current position (e.g. that you have a PhD and are working as a postdoc) and your specific areas of expertise. The worst that might happen is that you'll get no response or be told that they want more experienced reviewers.

Book review columns vary tremendously in the number of books that get reviewed and the depth and quality of the reviews. In some cases the reviews are brief (less than 200 words) and descriptive, while in other cases the reviews are longer and include more of an evaluation of the work. Some book review columns solicit in depth reviews from experts in the field, while other columns (particularly ones that review a wide variety of books including textbooks) may use reviewers who aren't necessarily experts on the topic.

In my opinion, it's best to try to limit yourself to reviewing books in areas where you really are an expert- I've been asked to stretch further than I'm comfortable with in a few cases, and I didn't like the results.

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You should know that book reviews count for absolutely zero towards your "research" score at R1 universities. Instead, they only count as "service." That's fair as they are not the product of your research endeavors.

If you need more publications, then publish from your research more.

That being said, most book editors welcome volunteers. Just e-mail them. I would not suggest titles to review, but topics areas that you have expertise in.

  • I'm fully aware that book reviews don't count for R1 universities (though I'm assuming R1 is a American Term? I'm based in Australia, not heard R1 before). The point is to help boost up my overall publication profile/gaining recognition for expertise for future collaborations/peer review etc. – awsoci Mar 8 '15 at 5:04

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