When chasing reviewers, it's worth considering whether it is preferable to use automatic or manual reminders. For instance, it would be possible to set up automatic reminders to be sent at 7 day intervals until the review is submitted.
However, will this make reviewers more likely to respond? Are they likely to ignore auto-generated emails? Manual reminders can be tailored to specific circumstances, allowing the tone and content to be modified. This approach is probably more likely to provoke a helpful response.
We recommend that a mixture of automatic and manual reminders be used. Most reviewers will respond in time and will appreciate a gentle reminder. Manual reminders can be saved for difficult cases.
If all this fails, the reviewer can be unassigned. This action sometimes provokes a response from the reviewer. If the reviewer then declares that they will complete the review they can be re-invited.
It is worth remembering that you will often be unaware of a reviewer's individual circumstances. Don't make assumptions about why a reviewer has not responded. It’s fine to be firm, but keep it courteous and professional.
Sample email when a reviewer is not responding promptly.
"We understand you may be very busy at present. However, we are relying on the report you have agreed to provide. We would appreciate it if you could let us know if you are now unable to review the paper. If this is the case, are you able to recommend someone who might be willing to act as a reviewer? I'm sure you can appreciate we need to provide the author with a decision as quickly as possible."
Some common situations and suggest approaches:
Invitation or reminder emails have gone astray:respond with apologies for any inconvenience caused. Assure the reviewer that his/her input would be appreciated and grant him/her an extension as appropriate.
Emails to reviewer bounceback/are undeliverable: search the internet for an up-to-date email address. Resend the invitation email and update the reviewer's account.
Reviewer responds with news of a personal nature:respond sympathetically and with condolences. Make it clear that the reviewer should feel no obligation to complete the review and consider unassigning him/her from the manuscript. Ensure that no further automatic reminders are sent.
Your decision is contrary to a reviewer's recommendation: Be sure to send the reviewer a personal email to let them know why.
In all of this, remember the importance of the personal touch.