Career Tips & Advice

Reviewer profile - Dr. Patricia Dorn

Alongside her reviewing duties, Dr. Dorn has published more than 40 articles, and five books, book chapters, and monographs, as well as produced educational videos

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Dr. Patricia DornPatricia Dorn, PhD, is the Hutchinson Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences at Loyola University New Orleans. Her research is focused on understanding the factors affecting the transmission of vector-borne parasitic disease with the goal of interrupting transmission. In her current research, she studies the interplay of the vector and parasite genomics, and socioeconomic, landscape and environmental factors that impact transmission of Chagas disease. This data will be used to develop a mathematical model of transmission risk. She has ongoing projects in Central America and Mexico, as well as the United States.

Dr. Dorn has published more than 40 articles, and five books, book chapters, and monographs, as well as produced educational videos; including one teaching the Ecohealth method of house improvements to avoid Chagas, now used in rural villages in Central America. She is also a frequent reviewer for the Elsevier journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution. Dr. Dorn is a sought-after speaker nationally and internationally. She has received many awards for teaching, community engagement, and research, including the university’s top faculty honor, the 2012 Dux Academicus Award.

Dr. Dorn greatly enjoys collaborating internationally and training undergraduate students, especially increasing participation of students from groups presently underrepresented in the sciences.

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1. What do you enjoy most about being a reviewer?
Although I can’t say I’m excited to get another review request, I like feeling that I'm doing my fair share in the scientific enterprise. Of course, when I'm asked to review an article that describes an elegant study, and the article is well written and thoughtful, that is a delight.

2. In the time that you've been a reviewer, what trends have you noticed? 
Scientific articles have become more interdisciplinary, reflective of what's happening in science. This makes it more challenging to review them and I find myself hoping that the editor has been able to find reviewers from all the different fields that are reflected in the article so that all aspects are getting a thorough review.

3. How do you envisage the role of the reviewer being different in the year 2020?
With the ever-increasing volume of articles resulting from the pressure to publish and the proliferation of journals, many of which are not even peer-reviewed, I think the paradigm is shifting from counting numbers of articles published to measuring impact. Accurately measuring impact is incredibly challenging (note the limitations of journal Impact Factors). However, with the advent of methods to analyze “Big Data,” perhaps more accurate measurements of impacts rather than simply numbers will be possible.

4. What advice would you give to a new reviewer?
I would advise a new reviewer to remember that it's not your job to rewrite the paper for the authors. Also to provide examples for any criticisms you have, so that the authors can clearly understand what you're describing. This is especially important for non-native English speakers. Always present your criticisms in a constructive manner. Mean reviews are unprofessional.

5. What would you change about the peer-review process if you could?
I feel I have improved as a reviewer from reading the other reviews after the review is completed. Sharing these reviews with other reviewers is rare, in my experience.  Along these lines, I would appreciate it if the reviews were approached more in a team fashion. I would appreciate discussing the article with the other reviewers (after we had prepared our initial review) to get a broader perspective.*  

6. What do you think people would find most surprising about your role as a reviewer?
How much time and energy I dedicate to providing a careful review. This may even involve reading some other articles to better understand some aspect.

7. How do you balance your role as a reviewer with your other roles?
I've started accepting an equal number of articles to review as the number of articles that I submit in that year. I’ve also accepted that “work” is not separate from “life” and at this stage in my career, I’m trying to focus more on the parts of work I enjoy, and spend less time on those I don’t.

8. What is your favorite quote?
"If we knew what we were doing it would not be called research..." Albert Einstein.

9. What do you like to do for fun?
I enjoy bicycling, sailing, reading, and working with villagers in rural Central America to improve their lives.

* You can read about an Elsevier pilot in this area in the Reviewers’ Update article “Experimenting with collaborative peer review”.

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