What is the role of peer review in wider society according to young scientists?

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The Source
By: Lucy Frisch, Tue Sep 22 2020

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Lucy Frisch

Author: Lucy Frisch

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. In Part 1, ECRs shared their thoughts on peer review and research quality. Here, they share answers to what part they believe the role of peer review is in wider society.

Do you see that there's a role for peer review in wider society and if so, how?

Claire Price: Peer review is extremely important. More and more papers are being put on pre-print servers and being used as examples of published data. This is fueling debates such as the anti-vaxxer movement, but people are not being given the full picture. This is why, especially with the current pandemic, that people in society know the importance about peer review so that they can make informed opinions. 

Jasper Verheul: Yes there is a role for peer review in society, similar to the role of published research in society. If the general public understands the process, benefits and potential pitfalls better, it can allow non-scientific audiences to make better judgements of the published literature.

Brian Li Han Wong: As a strong proponent of global health equity, human rights and meaningful youth engagement, I think peer review and ECR reviewers can and will play a pivotal role in society by helping to translating quality research into evidence that can inform policy and promote sustainable development.

Wasseem Emam: Peer review is an essential quality control mechanism for all sorts of research which is essential for advancement of society (in almost every field). Although the research might not be consumed by wider society in general, it definitely benefits ultimately and as such holds an important role. Peer review should be valued and compensated even more, in my opinion.
GM: The current pandemic highlights the need for peer review when science is so directly shaping critical policy that affects the whole of society. Though, the way science shapes the life of the public reaches far further. From healthcare to climate change, energy to food, research paves the way for medicines, technology and policy which will all affect the public. It is therefore vital this research is credible and robust, otherwise the whole process is undermined. Peer review can also help the public understand what science to trust and filter-out harmful articles and publications. In a world of social media with so much spurious science, this is vital to help those without scientific training engage with research.

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.

Learn more about our resources for peer reviewers at Springer Nature

Lucy Frisch

Author: Lucy Frisch

Lucy Frisch is a Senior Marketing Manager on the Outreach and Open Research team, based in the New York office. She has a passion for storytelling and works to humanize the research published across Springer Nature with a focus on the researcher experience.