Reflections on the impact of Peer Review Week over the years
Every year, an entire workweek is dedicated to celebrating a process so integral to scholarly publishing that it is nearly impossible to imagine academic and scientific progress without it. Peer Review Week has been one of the most important annual events in scholarly communications ever since it was founded in 2015. It is a global, community-driven, virtual event that has generated a wealth of resources, sparked ideas, and provided a space to have conversations on myriad themes related to peer review.
As part of the Editage Insights team, I have been involved in Peer Review Week activities for the past few years, and this is hands-down the most exhilarating time of the year for us. I am always left astounded by how much is happening all around. Despite my best efforts to read every interesting article that’s published and follow every live discussion that promises to be engrossing or even provocative, I feel like I’m missing out, on a lot. But I also feel reassured that the sheer interest and buzz this event generates is a sign that the community cares that much about peer review and is willing to strengthen it further.
This year, as we began to prepare for Peer Review Week, I wondered whether it is possible to form a view on the impact celebrating this event has had over all these years. Has it improved knowledge-sharing or researcher education? Has it helped increase outreach to diverse researcher/publisher segments? Has it led to improvements in the process of peer review itself?
For answers, we reached out to individuals who have participated in this event or been closely associated with it in some way or another. Here’s what they had to say:
Director of Community Engagement, NISO
It’s been great to see the growth of interest in Peer Review Week since the very first one, back in 2015. Measured in terms of the growth in participation and engagement, Peer Review Week has certainly had an impact, especially among individuals and organizations working in journal publishing. In its first year, just four organizations participated, all from the UK or US. This year, there are over 50 from countries including China, Dubai, Egypt, Germany, India, Japan, the Netherlands, and Pakistan, as well as the UK and US—and that’s just the organizing committee! In addition, there is now more involvement from organizations beyond journal publishing, such as funders and institutions. Thanks to these volunteers, PRW resources are also now made available in multiple languages each year, helping to further increase global awareness. I also love the fact that, for the past couple of years, the steering committee has given the community the chance to choose the topic for Peer Review Week—a great example of community engagement. Having said all that, there is of course still a lot more opportunity for growth—in terms of geography, organization type, language, and more. But kudos to everyone who’s contributed so much to increasing PRW’s impact—and who will, I’m sure, continue to do so in the coming years.
Asli Telli Aydemir
Associate Professor, Wits University
Peer Review Week has been, for me, a great learning journey with all the exciting events and spaces of sharing. I’m sure this year, this awesomeness will continue with current hot topics. Early career researchers are always under stress caused by higher-education structures. Thus, peer-to-peer support systems before, during and after “publishing” are extremely valuable for any research and knowledge dissemination. Peer Review Week is also a community-builder and a strategic way to focus on research. I recommend researchers from all walks of life to participate in this event and experience the benefits.
Director, Product and Strategy, Cactus Communications
Peer review is one of the bedrocks of modern science and research, but one that we have maybe taken for granted over time. Peer Review Week for me is an opportunity to analyze if it is still performing as well as it could and question if it could be improved in some way. Given that peer review seriously took off in the mid-20th century, it’s essential that we revisit it annually and appraise its function in the modern scholarly ecosystem. One thing which has struck me this year is the willingness of all parties to reappraise how we validate and authenticate research communication. It feels like an inflexion point in the development of peer review and adjusting it to match the requirements of the present era. I think Peer Review Week deserves some credit for this—giving us all an opportunity for introspection and reinvention.
Author Community Lead, Cactus Communications
Co-Chair, Peer Review Week 2021, 2022
I have been seeing Peer Review Week up close for the past several years, and for the first time this year, thanks to this question, I am taking a step back to look at the impact this event has had. The most obvious impact—and this is a visible change—is just in terms of the community. Some years ago, we were still trying to get people to talk about and participate in peer review. Today, I can see more and more people aware of the event, more and more people stepping forward to amplify it and participate in it. The increased outreach has resulted in more events and activities on and around peer review. And a direct result of that is an opening up of conversations—real conversations—between different stakeholders in the publishing cycle, about what peer review is, what is ought to be, what we expect from it, how it is evolving, newer things people are trying, and how it impacts the research output.
Another way of looking at this is how each year, the theme for Peer Review Week inspires thought about specific aspects of peer review. For instance, the edition where we focused on recognition for peer review was like a milestone. So many people stepped forward to talk about how the act of peer review needs to be recognized, celebrated even. A lot of awareness was created that year about the need and ways to incentivize peer review. So, in more ways than one, by simply creating awareness, Peer Review Week is bringing the community together to look at what really happens behind the scenes, who are the people behind the process, and what each of us can do to build a more robust and reliable pool of scientific literature.
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