Trust in peer review: 5 Researchers share their experiences
Every year, Peer Review Week celebrates peer review and its contribution towards maintaining quality in research output. This year’s theme, “Trust in Peer Review,” allows scope for conversations to take place around the concept of “trust” in the process and among everyone involved in it. To get the conversation going, I spoke to a few researchers about what makes them trust in the peer review process. Here’s what they had to say:
Thev JayMahan (Japan)
PhD candidate, Kyoto University
Reviewers in my case were honest and their criticisms were constructive. Some experiments were impossible but they accepted workaround solutions. The paper got much better after taking in their advice.
Peter Simpson (U.S.A)
Research Fellow at University of Curtin
The peer review process is an essential component of scientific publication. As authors, we sometimes approach peer review with an element of trepidation, but in its core, the function of the peer review process is to improve our manuscripts and hold us, and our work, to a high standard. We sometimes forget this, and we all know the jokes of the ‘third reviewer’ derailing an otherwise glowing review, but I have come to trust and enjoy this process and how it makes my work better through the benefits of an outsider’s perspective.
Personally, this was evident in the publication of our 2017 paper: Defining the Anti-Cancer Activity of Tricarbonyl Rhenium Complexes: Induction of G2/M Cell Cycle Arrest and Blockade of Aurora-A Kinase Phosphorylation.
We presented a mechanistic study of a new class of rhenium complexes as anticancer agents, and were asked in review to increase the number of complexes studied to get a better idea of structure activity relationships. This meant more experimentation and a delay in publication, but once the additions were made the article was of a higher quality than before.
Of course, the process is not perfect, and there is significant merit in the discussion of using double blind reviews, but overall the peer review process leads to better science. In recent years I have been fortunate enough to get involved as a peer reviewer for many chemistry journals, and I also gladly continue this at CACTUS.
Zoya Marinova (Switzerland)
MD, PhD, Ronin Institute and Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research
Through my experience with peer review both as a researcher and as a reviewer, I have gained confidence in the ability of this process to improve the quality of scientific publications. I have benefited greatly from the peer review of my work.
In some cases it may be challenging to remain patient if the review process is delayed, and critical comments may be disappointing after the substantial effort invested in the preparation of a manuscript. However, the independent feedback of experts in the research area may be very instructive.
The most helpful peer review feedback that I have received has included suggestions for additional controls or factors to consider in the analysis, as well as tips on discussing in more depth all possible explanations and implications for the findings.
When I conduct a peer review, I try to give authors suggestions that relate to all aspects of the data analysis and interpretation as well as to the manuscript structure and preparation. Whereas the study design and analysis and the interpretation of the data are always critical aspects to consider during the peer review, the structure and logical flow of the manuscript are also very important.
Scott Brandl, Uruguay
Postdoctoral scholar at the Universidad de la Republica
Modern science is rarely a solo endeavor. Ideas are incubated with our labmates and collaborators until an experiment is conceived, research is carried out, and a manuscript is produced. This supportive environment creates a synergy of ideas and a strong sense of community, but it can also lead to tunnel vision. Peer review serves as a strong counterpoint to this environment.
I trust peer review because my experiences as an author have always been positive. My reviewers have always provided useful criticism based on good faith, and in service to the scientific community. Reviews are sometimes harsh, and reviews can feel unfair, but this simply is a reflection of the competitive nature of the science community. It is the competitive nature and anonymity that allows for a true assessment of our blind spots to take place.
Rajat Biswas (Bangladesh)
MD, Assistant Professor, Chittagong Ma-O-Shishu Hospital Medical College
As an author, after article submission, I used to wait for the peer review report all the time. As it provides in-depth critique to enrich the manuscript, I was always happy to follow the instructions. And after that, most of the times, my articles would get accepted.
But I remember one negative experience of sending in an article to a Springer journal. After many rounds of back and forth, they provisionally accepted the article but stated that I had to make some major revisions. This was disappointing and so I withdrew the article and submitted it to another journal. Here it was accepted after one round of review.
I believe that peer review is an excellent practice and authors should engage in peer review if asked and should gain knowledge about it during their research journey.
Trust is an essential part of the peer review process. The anecdotes and perspectives shared by the researchers show how they have faith in the process and believe that peer review contributes to upholding high quality standards of research.
What are your thoughts on the theme of Peer Review Week this year – trust in peer review? Leave a comment below and let us know.
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