Getting started in peer review - Author Services

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Getting started in peer review

Peer review: the nuts & bolts workshops

We’re proud to be a sponsor of the series of excellent peer review workshops run each year by Sense about Science for early career researchers. ‘Peer review: the nuts & bolts’ sessions are a great opportunity to explore how peer review works and to find out how to get involved.

We caught up with Lidiya Nedevska, who attended a recent workshop in Glasgow, to hear her reflections on the day.

Lidiya Nedevska, Oxford Brookes University

The six-hour train journey from Oxford to Glasgow for the Peer Review: Nuts and Bolts workshop was definitely worth it. Lunch with tea, coffee and cake was the best way to start and, after a short introduction, we were split into smaller groups to discuss the positive and negative sides to peer review as well as any alternatives.

For a PhD student like me, whose experience of peer review so far had been based only on proof-reading draft papers and giving feedback on student work, the discussion was invaluable.

Positives and negatives were a bit easier to consider, but the thought of any alternatives never crossed my mind. Such alternatives do exist, for example, pre-submission service archives like bioRxiv or blog-style peer reviews where any reader can comment and give feedback to the author, and it is all transparent.

Short talks examining the process of peer review in journal publishing followed. These covered the topics of what peer review is, how it is done, why it is done, what changes are happening in the field, what makes a good reviewer and how to get started. All of these diverse considerations were delivered by speakers in publishing, editing and research. After we covered all the basics, things started to make sense.

I felt like I wanted to play a bigger part in the scientific community and act as a “gate-keeper” for the quality of research – or, to put it simply, be a reviewer.

But I had to start small and slow, I was told, and get support from the post-docs and senior scientists in my lab group first. I am now aware that I need to build my confidence in a safe environment before entering the real world of peer reviewers.

The peer review session was rounded off with an open panel discussion where all of us, the attendants, could direct our questions to the speakers and pull apart the peer review process even more. This was my favourite session as it was very much tailored to what we, as individuals, wanted to know in more detail and what sparked our interest.

As every successful event, we were given booklets and guides to take home with us, together with the encouragement to enter the peer reviewer’s world if we had not already done so. We took informal discussions about peer review, science and life as a scientist to the pub afterwards and I very much enjoyed getting to know other publishers, researchers and PhD students.

If you want to know the nuts and bolts of peer review, I definitely recommend this Sense about Science workshop, especially if you are an early career researcher like me. It will inspire you as it has inspired me.

Lidiya Nedevska is in the second year of her PhD at Oxford Brookes University, studying genetic contributions to speech and language disorders.