COPE at Sense about Science workshop. Peer review: the nuts and bolts

On Friday April 27th, Sense about Science, Voice of Young Science and SAGE Publications hosted a workshop for early career researchers to find out more about peer review.

The session began with group work exploring the strengths and weakness of peer review, and potential alternatives. We agreed that peer review ensured quality and public trust in published work, was a means of establishing validity and originality, and could facilitate new connections (especially when open). But we also agreed that peer review could be burdensome, resistant to new ideas, slow, contradictory and lacking standardisation. Potential alternatives were discussed, for example, the role of Artificial Intelligence in determining if work advanced a particular field with a ‘scan’ against published literature, voting systems for published articles and officially incorporating peer review into researcher job descriptions.

We heard perspectives from panellists sharing their take on peer review. Elizabeth Moylan (COPE Council Member) explained the role of COPE and shared some of COPE’s resources on peer review, particularly with respect to the points researchers should consider before undertaking peer review and some of the ethical issues.

“Peer review is amazing”  Sam Illingworth

Sam Illingworth (Senior Lecturer in Science Communication, Manchester Metropolitan University) explained his own experiences of peer review, and although there are frustrations, peer review can be an amazing, positive experience helping researchers improve their work (a sentiment borne out by Sense about Science’s own survey findings in 2009). Sabina Alam (Editorial Director of F1000 Platforms) shared her experience of peer review from the perspective of an author and also editor. She debunked a few myths that peer review should be all about ‘finding fault’ when it can be so much more positive and collaborative. She explained how the F1000Research approach addressed some of the criticisms of peer review in terms of conflicts of interest and speed.

“You don’t need to find fault, rather you should think: what can I do to help this person?”  Sabina Alam

The early career researchers shared their own stories which bought home the need for training, mentoring, feedback and recognition for peer review. Collectively, we agreed that funders and research councils played a vital role here, as well as publishers and institutions too. How can we work together on this? And wouldn’t it be great if training in peer review, research integrity and publication ethics was mandatory for students, and their supervisors too?

Thank you Sense about Science for inviting COPE to share in the discussions.