Science is global, which means that peer review is a global activity. When Editors look for people to review manuscripts, they want to find the best people to comment on the topic – regardless of their background or primary language. While science and peer review are conducted in different languages all around the world, English has become the international language of science (for reasons we won’t go into in this post). English doesn’t just belong to people from English-speaking countries, it belongs to all scientists. For some people though, language can feel like a barrier to reviewing scientific papers.
That’s not to say that all non-native English speakers struggle with the language. Many reviewers for whom English is a second language have only ever reviewed in English and will only ever review in English and are comfortable, confident and experienced in the task. For some, reviewing in a second language is not all that different to reviewing in their native tongue. Many people who did not grow up speaking English are great English speakers, but for those who didn’t get much of their scientific training in English, language can impose an unwanted and unnecessary disadvantage.
The theme of this year’s Peer Review Week is Diversity in Peer Review, so we’ve asked the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors for some advice on reviewing in a second language. We hope that these tips will help people who aren’t fluent in their second (or third, fourth, etc.) language to feel more confident reviewing in it. Our journal is published in English, so we’ve focused on English as a second language in this post. However, the advice should be helpful regardless of what language your reviewing in or whether you’re a native speaker. Continue reading
This week is Peer Review Week, the slightly more popular academic celebration than pier review week. Peer review is an essential part of scientific publication and is – like Churchill’s democracy – the worst system to do it. Except for all of the others. The reason it’s imperfect is mainly that it’s done by people, so there is a natural desire to try to improve it.
One suggestion for improvement is to us double blind reviews. At the moment most journals (including Methods in Ecology and Evolution) use single blind reviewing, where the author isn’t told the identity of the reviewers. The obvious question is whether double blind reviewing does actually improve reviews: does it reduce bias, or improve quality? There have been several studies in several disciplines which have looked at this and related questions. After having looked at them, my summary is that double blind reviewing is fairly popular, but makes little or no difference to the quality of the reviews, and reviewers can often identify the authors of the papers.
Subject area experts are asked to review a lot of papers!
The primary challenge Associate Editors face is finding Reviewers for manuscripts. When times get desperate, it may feel like anyone with a pulse will do! But of course the reality is that Reviewers need some relevant expertise. They also need to be able to carve out time from busy schedules. These two requirements are remarkably efficient at eliminating every name on a list of candidate Reviewers.
This Reviewer drought slows down the publishing process, and frustrates and stresses all involved. It also runs the risk of affecting quality – busy experts have no time to contribute to reviews of papers in their area, so manuscripts end up being reviewed hastily or by people in adjacent fields. However, so much effort goes into writing a manuscript (even a bad one), and so much in science depends fundamentally on the peer review process, that finding the right Reviewers is an important academic – and even ethical – obligation as Editors. Continue reading
For many academics, especially Early Career Researchers, writing a review can seem like quite a daunting task. Direct training is often hard to come by and not all senior academics have the time to act as mentors. As this week is Peer Review Week, we wanted to provide some advice on what makes a good review and what makes a bad review. This advice has been kindly provided by the Methods in Ecology and Evolution Associate Editors – all of whom are authors and reviewers as well.
The BES Guide to Peer Review in Ecology and Evolution
Before we dive into the tips from our Editors though, we want to highlight one of the best resources for anyone looking for peer review guidance – the BES Guide to Peer Review in Ecology and Evolution. This booklet is intended as a guide for Early Career Researchers, who have little or no experience of reviewing journal articles but are interested in learning more about what is involved. It provides a succinct overview of the many aspects of reviewing, from hands-on practical advice about the actual review process to explaining less tangible aspects, such as reviewer ethics. You can get the PDF version of the guide (and the other BES guides) for free on the BES website. Continue reading
As many of you will already know, this week is Peer Review Week (19-25 September). Peer Review Week is a global event celebrating the vital work that is done by reviewers in all disciplines. To mark the week, we will be having a series of blog posts about peer review.
The theme for this year’s Peer Review Week is recognition for review and we’re starting our celebrations by thanking everyone who has reviewed for us this year. Without the hard work and expertise of the people who voluntarily review papers for us, Methods in Ecology and Evolution would not be the successful journal that it is today. We are incredibly grateful for all of the time and effort that reviewers put into reading and commenting on the manuscripts that we send to them.
A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has reviewed for Methods in Ecology and Evolution – whether you’ve worked on one paper or twenty – we really appreciate your time and effort.
You can see the names of everyone who has reviewed for us so far in 2016 on our website.