Sense about Science and Nature Communications are currently partnered and running a two-part Quality and Peer Review workshop and mentoring opportunity specifically for early career researchers (ECRs). Early this summer, 28 mentees were selected from over 100 applicants. The mission behind this program is to help ECRs get started in peer review and give them the confidence to become part of wider discussions about research quality at the earliest stages of their academic careers.
Before beginning the program, we asked workshop participants a series of questions to help us better understand what knowledge and ideas early career researchers are coming to the table with as it concerns peer review. You can catch up on their thoughts in Part 1 and Part 2. Here, ECRs share what motivated them to apply for this peer review mentorship opportunity.
Claire Price: Peer review is extremely important and isn't something that is taught. I hope this opportunity will allow me to become a more competent peer reviewer and turn improve my research and allow me to pass my skills on to others.
Jasper Verheul: I was motivated to apply for this unique mentoring opportunity by the fact that editors from a top scientific journal (Nature Communications) are involved. With substantial previous experience of the peer review process, both as an author and a reviewer, I have a deep appreciation for the importance of peer review.
A main element that I am hoping to get out of the mentoring opportunity is how to structure and communicate feedback to authors in a clear and constructive manner. I myself have received reviews in which the comments have either been poorly laid out, resulting in confusion or an inability to address comments, or phrased in such a way that was little constructive. It is therefore my aim to make my own reviews clear to understand and in support of the authors to improve their paper (while being fair and pointing out substantial limitation/flaws if necessary).
Bernie Simone Owusu-Yaw: We recently started a journal club in my department where we review current papers. I don’t think as students we are ever really taught at any point how to review papers properly so I did not feel adequately prepared for this task. This mentoring opportunity came at the perfect time. I hope to gain knowledge and expertise on the areas to cover when reviewing a paper, how to thoroughly review papers and how to generate high quality peer review reports. I think the experience I will gain from this scheme will be invaluable for my research career as it will help me build upon the skills needed to be a peer reviewer (someday) and give me the confidence moving forward to review papers.
Emily Beswick: I applied as I was interested in understanding more about how we as early career researchers can engage with peer review, and how peer review can inform research decision as the PhD stage. In particular, I want to understand how peer review shapes research design, methodology and reporting decisions. I hope to improve my understand of what makes a 'good' peer review report, how to manage the feedback from peer review and improve my awareness of scientific communication routes.
Fiona Ramage: I have wanted to work in some form of science publishing/communications role since before I stared my postgraduate studies, but I have come across limited opportunities to gain such experience. It is definitely something that I would like to get a taste of as soon as possible - to know if it is right for me, and to maybe help me gain a role post-graduation if I chose to go down this route. I was particularly excited to work with editors at nature communications, due to the reputation of the journal, and the breadth of the research covered (likely to be able to work close enough to my own field), and I was even more impressed after the workshop.
I hope to gain valuable editing experience, with proper guidance and mentoring, and to hopefully learn a lot more about what is required by a good editor. This will be my first experience editing for a journal, and I expect it will be a steep learning curve, despite having a little bit of experience already.
The mentorship program will run through to November 2020 and we will be sharing the personal experiences of a handful of participants in our next posts in honor of Peer Review Week. Check back for further insights we've gathered from early career researchers themselves on the topic of peer review.