The reviewer perspective
Janis is an artist, writer and curator at Goldsmiths, University of London where she is Professor of Visual Arts where she is academic lead for early career researchers. She was a member of AHRC Peer Review College (fifteen years until December 2016), Panel member for research (2004-2009) and European Science Foundation, Strasbourg and Brussels (2009-2014) and was one of the founding editors of Textile; The Journal of Cloth and Culture.
When you get an invite to review a paper, what makes you say ‘yes’ to reviewing it?
Firstly, there is a good story to tell and the paper grabs your attention from the first paragraph. It is well written – for me, mostly this means that there is care and attention to words, meaning and phrasing.
As I am particularly concerned with interdisciplinary and practice research across arts, humanities and technology, I look for new angles and insights that challenge borders and boundaries.
How do you approach assessing the paper you are reviewing?
Firstly, a paper needs to be kind to its reader and include clear language when expressing complex ideas.
Secondly, images play a role particularly if well considered and integrated into a paper. They are no different to using quotes, and if presented well can add to the narrative.
From these two points I look for clarity in the abstract then a ‘hook’ that makes you really want to engage with the full text after the first paragraph. It could be a quote, an image, a diagram, a statistic or a piece of site writing.
Because the peer-review process is thorough and time consuming, I read through quickly first to get an overview.
I then read more thoroughly and in detail on the second reading, making notes that can be communicated under headings for feedback to the editor and/or author. I try to turn around a peer review within one-to-two months. This is mostly due to the crucial role peer review publications have in processes of tenure and promotion that have strict deadlines.
What do you include your report to the editor?
I use headings such as: title, abstract, structure, themes, clarity of expression, distinctive insights and contribution to the field/s, conclusion, proofreading issues, spelling and grammar, use of illustrations, diagrams, statistics.
Aside from the title and abstract, I would normally give myself a two-hundred word limit under each heading.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of becoming a reviewer?
It is important for senior academics to recognize their professional responsibility to both authors and journals to review whenever possible. However, having done peer review for over fifteen years, I also recognize the amount of time it takes, especially for early career academics whose workload is heavy.