Peer review: nuts and bolts

Sense About Science will soon be publishing a short guide for early career researchers, Peer Review: the Nuts and Bolts. This is a nuts and bolts guide to peer review written by members of the Voice of Young Science (VoYS) network of early career researchers.

About the author:

Leonor_profile

Leonor has a degree in Natural Sciences and a PhD from Cambridge University, where she specialised in Physics. She joined Sense About Science in February 2008 as Scientific Liaison. As International Science and Policy Manager she coordinates the development of Sense About Science's international work, including the expansion of the Voice of Young Science programme in the USA. She also oversees the scrutiny of science policy issues and responses to consultations.

Members of the VoYs network first collected questions and concerns about the peer review process from their peers. 

Examples of the questions included: 

  • Is there bias against young researchers and authors?
  • If there are conflicting reviews, how does the editor make a decision?
  • Do some criteria trump others when reviewing papers e.g. originality?
  • Can double blind peer review really work?

With these in hand, the VoYS writing team set off to interview scientists, journal editors, grants body representatives, patient group workers and journalists in the UK and around the world to find out how peer review works, the challenges for peer review and how to get involved.

The guide also addresses criticisms of the peer review process, asking journal editors and reviewers some challenging questions about scientific fraud and plagiarism going undetected; issues of trust and bias; ground-breaking research taking years to publish and the system benefiting a closed group of scientists.

In talking to all these people and writing the guide, it became clear that peer review not only provides a system for assessing the quality of research and gives feedback to authors to improve research papers before publication. It also indicates that research has been considered worthy of publication by other experts in the field, and is an important consideration for policy makers, reporters and the public when weighing up research claims and debates about science.

Julia Wilson, Sense About Science’s Development Manager and VoYS coordinator says: “We have heard from early career researchers that they are uncertain about peer review: how the system works and what is being done to prevent misconduct and meet future challenges. We hope this guide helps answer the questions that many researchers have and also shows how vital peer review is when it comes to people making decisions that matter to society.”

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the guide once it’s published please email enquiries@senseaboutscience.org.


Previous guides

This is the third guide that VoYS members have produced, following Standing Up for Science: a guide to the media for early career researchers: http://www.senseaboutscience.org/data/files/resources/13/Standing-up-for-Science-interactive.pdf and Standing Up for Science 2: the nuts and bolts http://www.senseaboutscience.org/data/files/resources/14/Standing-up-for-Science-II-Final.pdf

For more information about the Voice of Young Science programme and Sense About Science please visit www.senseaboutscience.org.

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