To mark Peer Review Week 2019, we asked some of our Chief and Associate Editors for their thoughts on peer review and why it is essential to scholarly communications. This year’s theme is on ‘Quality in Peer Review’ and we asked our Editors what is most important to them when it comes to peer review. And what advice would they give to others?
Giulia Grancini’s work focuses on exploring the fundamental photophysical processes underlying the operation of advanced optoelectronic devices, in particular new generation photovoltaics. Her contribution to the understanding of the interface physics that governs the operation of organic and hybrid perovskite solar cells was pioneering. The Grancini group’s mission is to develop efficient, low cost photovoltaic devices that combine less energy-intensive production processes and long term stability. These can provide the world with vast amounts of clean electricity that would reduce or eliminate carbon dioxide emissions. She has been involved in the International Journal of Photoenergy since October 2015.
Mark Yorek is a Professor in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the University of Iowa and Associate Chief of Staff for Research at the Iowa City VA Medical Centre. His research for the past 35 years has focused on the effect of diabetes and obesity on neural vascular tissue and peripheral nerve function. He has served as an Academic Editor on the Journal of Diabetes Research for four years and recently became Chief Editor.
Jeanette Vasquez-Vivar is a Professor in the Department of Biophysics and Associate Director of the Redox Biology Program at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Her research interests are the biochemistry of free radicals and reactive oxygen and nitrogen species mechanisms in vascular and neurological disorders. She has worked as an Academic Editor for Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity the last 8 years and recently became Chief Editor for the journal.
Massimiliano Valeriani is a neurologist working at “Bambino Gesù” Pediatric Hospital in Rome as Director of the Neurology Ward. His research in dealing with pain began more than 20 years ago and were focused on laser evoked potential recording in healthy humans and painful diseases. More recently he works with children and adolescents suffering from headaches, investigating the pathophysiological mechanisms and definition of the clinical characteristics of migraine in this population. He has worked with Pain Research and Management as an Academic Editor for 2 years.
What is important to you in a peer review report?
GG: It is crucial to perform a judgement based on solid arguments, with complete referee report, evaluating referee expertise and points along with the authors claims. Reviews should be fair, clear, rigorous and as fast as possible.
MY: A fair and impartial review is the most important combined with a reasonable turnaround time.
MV: I think that a peer review report should not represent a mere verdict. A reviewer’s duty is not to judge the author(s) as “innocent” or “guilty” but try to improve the quality of a study, providing suggestions and comments. Of course, the manuscript may not hold up, leading to its rejection. In this case, the reviewer should try to help the author(s) understand where the main weakness of the study is and why it is not amenable, even if revised adequately.
JVV: An in-depth analysis of the data including evaluation of methods and the accurate representation of the data is most important.
What do you think is the most challenging thing about peer reviewing?
GG: If a topic is not in the editor’s background it can be difficult to evaluate referee’s reports if they contain very different opinions; which luckily happens rarely. In that case an additional referee will serve as a back up plan to ensure a rigorous review approach.
MY: It is important that the reviewer knows the subject area. Sometimes the abstract can be misleading and after accepting the review assignment the methodology used is beyond your expertise. It is also very frustrating when the paper is poorly written.
MV: Peer review is a time-consuming activity, requiring attention and competence. When accepting this engagement, the reviewer should be aware about the responsibility he/she has with the author(s). Indeed, a superficial reviewing process can lead to rejection of a study presenting important data for the scientific community. Vice versa, the acceptance of a manuscript with erroneous conclusions can have important negative consequences for the future research.
JVV: The unbiased analysis of all the data, and formulating constructive suggestions to improve the work.
What advice would you give to researchers in your community when approached to review research?
GG: I would suggest a fair process with no bias. Judging only the real advance beyond the state of the art, the broad applicability or interest and the innovative aspects of the research work presented is an asset.
MY: Be sure you are comfortable with the subject area. Be specific in your comments so the authors can clearly see what your concerns are. I think it is best to provide an overall opinion of the study and then in your remarks in the critique use a bullet approach and be concise. It is important to review all aspects of the study including the appropriateness of the tissue or animal models used. If there is a concern with animal welfare be sure to make this an important point. Be sure that the correct controls were included in the studies. Lastly, that the abstract and discussion addresses the data generated by the authors of the study and that unreasonable conclusions are challenged.
MV: Any researcher who is asked to review a manuscript should accept, provided he/she feels they have the right competence in the field. There are two main reasons to accept to review a paper. First, in my opinion, putting one’s own competence at the service of science, supporting new original results and rejecting low quality manuscripts, is a moral duty. Second, the reviewer can achieve an extensive learning from reviewing process, in terms of both methodology of science and development of critical ability.
How do you feel about Open Science and championing it in your community?
MY: It is very important. Transparency should be the goal of every study and publication. Making studies available to the science community as soon as possible is critical.
MV: I am in favor of Open Science. It allows scientific results to reach anybody who is interested, independently of their institution and geographical spot. I think that scientists should try to make their institutional administrations change their mind and no longer pay for a periodic subscription to a journal, but support their own researchers to disseminate their scientific production worldwide.
JVV: I believe that advocating for open access to new knowledge, and dissemination of new ideas is critical for the advancement of science. I support Open Science through peer reviews and promoting science reproducibility and transparency.
This interview was conducted by the Hindawi team. It is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY