Checking in with the peer review view

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Two simple words, but join them up and you have one of the most crucial and heavily discussed areas of the journal publishing world.

Peer review remains a cornerstone of journals, as one editor observes, ‘‘Reviewers are the lifeblood of any journal”. Every article published in a Taylor & Francis journal has been through peer review; its quality, validity, and relevance assessed by independent peers within the relevant field. Indeed, peer review is probably one of the most used terms within the journal publishing industry, it even has a whole week dedicated to discussion around it. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given all the talk of peer review, there are plenty of different views on the topic.

Last year, we heard the views of 6,300 researchers in our global peer review survey (read 5 key findings from this here), bringing together opinions from journal authors, peer reviewers and journal editors on all aspects of peer review, from the different models to the motivations behind reviewing. One aspect of the survey looked at what training and support authors need before they write their first review. We found out: 

Over two thirds of authors who have never peer reviewed would like to.

64 per cent of authors in HSS and 63 per cent in STM who are yet to review a paper would like formal training.

These findings highlight the willingness for many researchers to start peer reviewing, as well as the need for greater training and support for those embarking upon the process for the first time. One of the ways in which we have tried to respond to this is through working with Sense about Science, sponsoring and going along to their Peer Review: the nuts and bolts workshops for early-career researchers.

These workshops offer early-career researchers the chance to learn about the process, featuring lively first-hand accounts from those involved in peer review (journal editors and publishers), and talk to each other about some of the surrounding issues such as publishing ethics. They also give us the opportunity to check peer review’s pulse, listening in to the peer review view from the next generation of researchers.

Hearing the peer review view from the next generation of researchers

Earlier this month I went along to one of these events, hosted at Glasgow Caledonian University. The high-turn out of attendees (25+) was again a sign of the willingness of researchers to start getting involved in the process. And there was no shortage of peer review views discussed.

So what were early-career researchers saying about peer review? The following are just a few (of many) peer review views explored.

Peer review... to journals and beyond

The group discussed the benefits of peer review, for example helping authors improve their papers and drawing attention to gaps in references or literature. We also explored the bigger implications of peer review. In an age where we are bombarded by claims left, right and centre, how can we know what to trust? Attendees looked at how peer review can be used by anyone to weigh up conflicting scientific claims in the media – research that has undergone rigorous peer review is likely to be more reliable than claims that have not been subject to scrutiny. Peer review matters to journals, and beyond. Peer review matters to the public.

See ‘Peer Review: The nuts and bolts’ guide for more useful information on this.

The value of mentoring

Some attendees had already written their first review for a paper, others were keen to get started. There seemed to be a common consensus amongst the group that having someone support you when writing a review for the first time was invaluable. One of the panellists suggested shadowing someone with lots of experience, a ‘seasoned’ reviewer, and one early-career researcher shared her experience of working with her supervisor when writing her first review.

The need for clarity

Attendees asked questions about the different models of peer review, queried the plagiarism checks that go on in the background, and picked the panellists’ brains about what happens when reviews contradict each other. Listening to all of these questions emphasized the importance of, as publishers, ensuring we make every single step and aspect of peer review as clear and transparent as possible. It is crucial and it is complex, and we need to equip researchers with the information they need to understand the process in full.


Want to find out more? Read one attendee’s reflections from a Peer review: the nuts and bolts workshop. 

Claire Doffegnies, Communications Executive