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.
Why do you review?
I peer review because I enjoy learning about new ways of dealing with old problems, and sometimes old ways of dealing with new problems. Through peer review, I get an opportunity to learn new techniques.
What do you most enjoy about the review process?
Peer review offers me an opportunity to be part of the advancement of my research field. Through my questions and comments I help to shape my research field, even though it may seem to be in a small way.
What do you find most challenging about reviewing papers?
I normally carry out peer review outside my office hours. This means I won't have access to most research papers and even science databases. As a result, it becomes difficult to assess how the new study fits in the body of science. In other words, it is hard to assess the significance or the novelty of a study when you don't have access to previous studies.
Secondly, peer reviewing multidisciplinary work has proven to be difficult. For example, I peer reviewed a paper that had a flaw in an experimental approach in my area of expertise. Reviewers in other focus areas found the study sound. As a result, a paper with an experimental flaw in one area was published.
What has been your proudest moment as a reviewer?
I think I can serve better as a writing liaison. My proudest moment was when I went through a manuscript for someone else as I prepared them for publication.
How do you manage your time between reviewing papers and your career responsibilities/research work?
I reserve peer review for when I'm away from work. In my current position, peer review does not contribute to my evaluation. It is not considered important.
What tools, programs, or systems do you use to facilitate the review process?
I use SCOPUS to search for similar papers on the topic.
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?
Publons contributed to my appointment as an Editor for mega journal, Scientific African. However, career wise it has not been of any help due to the nature of assessment and evaluation in China.
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?
I reviewed a manuscript where the experimental approach did not account for some systematic errors. Instead of recommending additional experiments, I recommended that the authors include the limitations of the study and potential techniques to address the systematic errors. I made this recommendation because I understand that most researchers do not have access to their labs.
What do you wish you could change about the peer review process?
I think journals should have a separate board that works with researchers who come from countries with little history of research. I have seen several good papers being rejected due to poor presentation rather than the scientific content. I have worked with several young researchers who had their papers rejected, and through my guidance they got accepted in other equally important journals. Traditional book publishing uses the same system, and I think it might work with journals. The advantage of such a system is it will help in saving time for peer reviewers to deal with poorly written manuscripts.