Peer review week: Encouraging collaborative peer review

Post from Managing Editor Emilie Aimé. Check out the later in the week for some of the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors’ perspective on collaborative peer review.

It’s Peer Review Week 2016 and the BES journals are celebrating with a series of blog posts on how much we value our reviewers.

Here at the BES we love Early Career Researchers. We give out grants to fund their research and training and development and we run and support several training and outreach programmes to help with the fantastic work they do. (Don’t forget to register for the Early Career Workshop at this year’s Annual meeting). Each of our journals also awards an annual prize for the best paper by an Early Career Researcher.

In this post though, we want to focus on Early Career Researchers as reviewers. The BES journals are very keen to give Early Career Researchers reviewing opportunities. Reviewers occasionally ask us whether they can share a review with their students or lab members as a training exercise and our answer is always an emphatic yes.

Reviewing is an important skill that’s not only vital to maintain the integrity of the scientific literature but also aids personal and professional development. The BES guide to peer review in ecology and evolution contains all the information that someone carrying out their first review might need, but it can’t compare to the mentoring and tailored training that comes from conducting a review together with a more senior researcher.  So, with that in mind, we’ve produced a few simple tips in the hope that it will encourage collaborative peer review.

If you’re sharing a review:

  • Contact the journal first – please don’t forget that the review process is confidential and it is very important that the journal is informed before a review is shared.
  • Give the names of all who read the manuscript and contributed to the review in the confidential comments to Editors section of the review. This is important for two reasons, first so that there is a proper record of anyone who has read a copy of the manuscript. Second, so that anyone who contributed may be approached directly to review in the future.
  • If you’re simply passing a review on to a lab member, rather than sharing the review as a development exercise, then it is important you decline the review but suggest your lab member as an alternative. This is vital to ensure the individual builds up their own reviewing record, and so that the journal has an accurate picture of who conducts the review.

So, have we convinced you this is a great idea? Will you be sharing your next review with your student? Will you be asking your supervisor if you can help with their next review? If you need some more persuasion here are some quotes from reviewers who have reviewed collaboratively for BES journals.

Professor David Gibson recently reviewed a paper in a BES journal with Mohammed Khalil, a PhD student from his lab. David and Mohammed are based at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and, coincidentally, David is also the Executive Editor of Journal of Ecology.

David says: “Collaborating on reviewing the manuscript with my post-graduate student allowed the opportunity to bring him into the reviewing side of publishing for the first time. We had recently published a paper together on the topic and so he was able to bring in extra expertise in a number of areas that certainly improved the scope of our review. This collaboration provided a ‘teaching moment’ that would not otherwise have been possible.”

Mohammed says: “As a junior scientist, it was a great honor for me to be involved in reviewing a manuscript for the first time. Working on the review, I gained experience on how peer review maintains the quality of the journal.  I would like to thank Professor Gibson and the Journal for giving me this great opportunity.”

Dr Meggan Craft recently reviewed a paper for the BES with two of her PhD students; Lauren White and Kimberly VanderWaal. Meggan, Lauren and Kimberley are based at the University of Minnesota and found the experience a useful teaching and learning opportunity.

Meggan says: “The collaborative peer review was a useful process for our lab as we worked together to write (and learn how to write) a constructive review. This process had the added benefit of keeping us up to date on new methods and approaches in our field.”

Lauren says: “As a novitiate graduate student, I found that working as a lab group to complete the peer review process was really helpful in introducing me to the process of peer review and understanding what was expected of me both as a reviewer and as an author. Working in a group setting has helped me gain confidence in my own peer review skills.”

Kimberly says: “Reviewing this paper collaboratively was incredible valuable for our lab group.  The process fostered a lot of in-depth discussions amongst lab members, helping us to identify each other’s strengths and interests”

So, next time you receive an invitation to review consider sharing with a more junior colleague. Or, if you want reviewing experience, ask your supervisor. It’s a rewarding experience for everyone!

Stay tuned for more from the BES publications team over the course of Peer Review Week!

7 thoughts on “Peer review week: Encouraging collaborative peer review

  1. Sounds like a good idea. Worth noting how stressful it can be reviewing for the first time and that doing a collab review would be a great way of easing into it. I certainly would have preferred that approach when I recently reviewed for the first time.

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