Real Life Peer Review: The Review Experience of a Senior Research Associate

The Source
By: Penny Freedman, Thu Apr 16 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. 

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Madhuvika Murugan is a Senior Research Associate in Neuroscience based in the United States. On average she reviews eight papers a year, and has been serving as a peer reviewer for five years.

Why do you review?
First of all, reviewing a manuscript challenges me to be well-read and be an expert in my field. It makes me a more responsible researcher. The reviewing experience enriches my own knowledge. Secondly, reviewing has allowed me to look at my own research more objectively and helped improve the quality of my own research/experimental design and analysis. Lastly, it helps with carrier progress and even immigration. This is often overlooked but being a reviewer for a journal establishes your expertise in the field which is sought for in immigration paperwork (particularly in the USA).  

What do you most enjoy about the review process?
Being the first to know about new and novel research. 

What do you find most challenging about reviewing papers?
Finding time to fully immerse in the research article and fully investigate the background and rationale for the research design. 

What has been your proudest moment as a reviewer?
When my review was taken seriously by an author who I revere in my field. To see them do the experiments I suggested and seeing that article get published. 

How do you manage your time between reviewing papers and your career responsibilities/research work?
I always print the paper and re-read it as many times as possible when I have a few minutes to spare. I make extensive notes and jot down points. A few days before the deadline, I make a formal response letter with all my comments. 

Has your approach to peer review, or thoughts about it shifted with the changes to work and life during the COVID-19 pandemic? If so, how?
The COVID-19 pandemic has definitely caused a surge in manuscript submissions. I have been receiving more papers to review. However, my approach to review has not changed. It has been challenging to meet track of the deadlines, but it has also kept me engaged during these unprecedented times. 

What tools, programs, or systems do you use to facilitate the review process? 
I have started using my phone to read and make notes on the papers. I use OneDrive / Google Docs depending on the device I have access to. I save all reviews in a folder and I maintain a list of all the papers I have reviewed over the years on a Word document. 

If you use programs such as Publons or ORCID to showcase your review history, how has this contributed to your overall review experience and/or career? 
Yes. Currently I use ORCID but I recently registered with Publons. I plan to use both programs going forward. 

What do you wish you could change about the peer review process?
I have enjoyed the transparency of the peer review process in some journals that publish the comments. However, as a reader I am more keen on only viewing the absolute final version of the research article. I also enjoy reading comments on forums like F1000. 


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.