8 Questions on Peer Review With a Research Engineer

The Source
By: Penny Freedman, Tue Sep 22 2020
Penny Freedman

Author: Penny Freedman

Peer review is an important part of the publishing process. Journals would not be able to publish the research that they do without the dedication of peer reviewers. Serving as the checkpoint to academic credibility, reviewers provide crucial feedback for authors and editors that influences the future of a paper’s publication status. With the world facing an unprecedented time of crisis, the work of reviewers is more essential than ever. 

We asked researchers about their experience as peer reviewers. We hope their stories provide a sounding board for others, and offer insight into a process that almost all researchers will take part in during their career. 

Marianna Semprini © 2020
Marianna Semprini is a Research Engineer based in Italy who primarily reviews research in Neuroengineering. She reviews around 12 papers each year across both journal and conference papers.

Why do you review?
I believe that reviewing other groups’ work is a fundamental contribution to the scientific community.

What do you most enjoy about the review process?

It's a bit like a game I used to play as a kid: someone tells a story and you need to find out whether everything has been told and, of course, if it makes sense.

What do you find most challenging about reviewing papers?

To unravel the methodology. I believe that the key to understanding whether a work is truly good or not is to assess whether the used methods and tools are valid. Otherwise the results cannot be reliable.

What has been your proudest moment as a reviewer?
When I was named reviewer of the year for Journal of Neural Engineering, totally unexpected: I didn't even know about the award.

How do you manage your time between reviewing papers and your career responsibilities/research work?
Reviewing papers is a great opportunity to read state-of-the-art literature and to keep learning, which is both a fundamental point of our job and also (at least for me) at the bottom of the daily priorities. If I have to complete a review, I simply allocate some time to do it, as for any other research activity, and I'm thus "forced" to do it. 

What tools, programs, or systems do you use to facilitate the review process?
Nothing special, I still prefer to print down the manuscript (on both sides and two pages per sheet) and take notes while reading. I generally go through the paper twice, the second one while annotating comments on a text document that I will later use for completing the review.

If you use ORCID to showcase your review history, how has this contributed to your overall review experience and/or career?
I do use both but don't know yet how/if they contribute.

What do you wish you could change about the peer review process?
I think that sometimes reviews are biased because the authors' list is visible. Of course I try to be as unbiased as possible but I've realized that often if I have a doubt on a methodology or analysis but the authors are from a very known and established group in the field, I double-check my doubts many times before writing them down. So I guess that I would like reviews to be blind.

Penny Freedman

Author: Penny Freedman

Penny Freedman is a Marketing Manager on the Author Experience & Services team based in the New York office. She works closely on sharing insight and guidance on the benefits and services available to our editors, reviewers, and authors.

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