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Celebrating the essential role of Peer Review in science

Editors | Reviewers | Peer Review
Advice from our Publishing Team on achieving quality in Peer Review

This week is Peer Review Week, a global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in science. The central message is that good peer review, whatever shape or form it may take, is critical to scholarly communications. We spoke to some of Hindawi’s Publishing team to get their thoughts.

This week is Peer Review Week, a global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in science. The central message is that good peer review, whatever shape or form it may take, is critical to scholarly communications. We spoke to some of Hindawi’s Publishing team to get their thoughts. 

Abada Begum is a Publishing Editor for the medical portfolio. She sees her role as ensuring smooth communication between all stakeholders including Chief Editors and Editorial Board Members, overseeing the overall running of the journal and working with the editors on journal development. 

Sam Rose is the Publisher for biological sciences. He has worked at Hindawi since 2017 and sees the Publishing team’s role as providing a safe and streamlined environment for academic editors to handle manuscripts through the peer review process. “We take every possible step to monitor that high standards are being adhered to, including managing potential conflicts of interest and identifying cases of suspected citation stacking.”

Thomas Faust is the Publisher for the physical science portfolio. He has worked at Hindawi since January 2017. He sees his role as ensuring that every journal tends to the individual needs of the communities they serve, while also pushing a broad agenda of openness and transparency. This involves small, journal-level initiatives and activities, as well broad publisher-wide policy updates.

What do you think is meant by quality in peer review?

AB: I believe that quality in peer review involves reviewing papers in an efficient, but thorough manner. In this, reviewer reports should be completed by experts in the field so that the comments are of high quality, relevance and cover all necessary points for the manuscript.  

SR: Quality in peer review comes from the contributions of all stakeholders involved in the process. Authors, reviewers, Academic Editors, Chief Editors, and publishing staff should work together to ensure that the best version of papers comes out of the publication process.

TF: Peer review should be much more than just a rubber stamp of approval. Quality in peer review means engaging in a process through which the authors, editors, and reviewers collaborate to create an article that consists of a robust experimental approach, accurate and insightful analysis, and is presented in a clear and intelligible way.

What advice would you give to researchers when approached to review research?

AB: I would advise that researchers ensure that the topic of the manuscript is within their field of study and that they feel they will be able to complete the review in a sufficient amount of time.

SR: Peer review is more than just a community service – it is a core part of the academic researcher role. Peer review is the gateway to publication, and any invitation to review is an opportunity to contribute to the literature in your field. Hindawi are looking into how we can give reviewers better recognition. As an official partner of Publons, we are integrating our systems to provide reviewers with a seamless experience that directly links with their Publons accounts.

TF: Authors value timely decisions based on well informed advice. As such, first consider whether you have sufficient subject expertise and capacity to provide a constructive assessment. If you have concerns on either front let the editor know. They may ask you to focus on a particular aspect or technique that the other reviewers cannot cover, or may be prepared to wait a little longer for your report if your advice will be especially valuable.

What do you think is the most challenging aspect of peer review? 

AB: I believe one of the challenges of peer review is ensuring the scope of the paper is suitable for the journal, especially as many journals have scopes that can be interpreted in multiple ways. This can result in disagreements between authors and peer reviewers. It can also be difficult for peer reviewers to be able to commit to reviewing papers alongside their other commitments.

SR: Finding reviewers is becoming increasingly challenging. There are several reasons for this, including a growth in the number of invitations to review driven by a growth in the number of scholarly publications. Looking forward, it is essential that the community works together to ensure publications receive quality peer review under a sustainable model that allows for growth of research.

TF: There can be a tendency for reviewers to focus on what they perceive to be the weakest aspect of the manuscript, and formulate an overall opinion based only on these shortfalls. However, there is much to be gained from also recognising a manuscript’s strengths and explicitly discussing these in the report. This leads to a more constructive peer review process, but more importantly provides encouragement to the author and allows them to reframe their manuscript on the most valuable findings.

What advice would you give to researchers receiving a reviewer’s report on their work? 

AB: I would advise that researchers thoroughly read the reviewer report and aim to respond to all comments if they can. I would also advise that they look at reviewer comments in a constructive way to improve the quality of the paper, and not a criticism of their expertise.

SR: We should not underestimate the essential contribution of reviewers. Though it can be difficult and frustrating to receive critique about our own work, reviewers are there to provide assistance for authors to improve their papers. We would always advise authors to be respectful to reviewers, whether that be taking on their comments or respectfully disagreeing.

TF: Read through the report carefully and take a day or so to digest before taking any action. Think about how you can address the points raised to improve your manuscript, whether through new experimental data or extra analysis and interpretation. If a reviewer has misunderstood something, it is likely that readers will too — use this as an opportunity to rephrase your manuscript so that it’s more easily understood.

This blog post was created 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.

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