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06 July 2016

Peer Review: the nuts & bolts

Cambridge recently sponsored a Sense about Science workshop introducing peer review to early career researchers. We hear from one of the attendees about their experience of the workshop.

My name is Charlie, and I’m a BBSRC-funded DTP student at the University of Nottingham in the third year of my PhD. My research focuses on the molecular mechanisms underpinning development of breast cancer, with particular focus on the transcription factor Elk-1. 

I recently attended a workshop hosted by Sense about Science on ‘the Nuts and Bolts of Peer Review’. I thought it was about time to learn more about the process of peer review, what form it takes, and what alternatives there are to the classic pre-publication review system that journals typically utilise. As a third year student, I’ll soon be looking to publish my work from my PhD, so I really felt like I needed to be more aware of the inner workings of journals, and to gather any advice I could about how to approach the process.

My experience with peer review so far has been minimal – I’ve been an author on a paper, where I was aware of some of the comments made on our manuscript, and helped correct some of these, but I didn’t really actively engage with the process beyond this (I was only a minor author). But otherwise, I’ve not yet had much experience of the process.

It was interesting to learn about the pros and cons of the different forms of peer review, and how post publication peer review works. Something I hadn’t really thought about before was the importance of the reviewers themselves, and the considerable time and effort they put in for little recognition. It was good to hear about Publons, and how they aim to give credit to reviewers for the work they’ve done by recording and verifying peer review. 

There were a range of really useful resources on offer at the workshop; I found Sense about Science’s Peer Review: the nuts & bolts guide written by ECRs for ECRs to be a good starting point.

Contributing to science takes many forms other than doing research and being published – being involved in peer review is critical to prevent the perpetuation of bad science. It’s great that a world-leading publisher like Cambridge encourages researchers to start peer reviewing early on in their careers. I’m really looking forward to getting more involved in the process as my career progresses.

- Charlie Ducker




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                 Charlie Ducker

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