Peer review is an integral component of quality assurance in the publication of scientific research, but what’s in it for the reviewer? An increasing number of junior researchers are finding that the opportunity to peer review early in their careers provides them with invaluable insight and experience, while authors and editors also gain important feedback by viewing their research through the eyes of young researchers.
In a recent Nature article junior researchers describe the skills they have gained through carrying out peer review; such as developing their expertise in providing constructive feedback, gaining insight into their peers’ approach to manuscript writing and data presentation, and learning about new research prior to its publication. Peer review also gives researchers the opportunity to become known to journal editors and to build their own scientific reputation further. Editors themselves recognise that the perspective of young researchers in peer review can be especially useful when seeking an up-to-date view on methodology and on technical aspects of submitted papers.
Not a task to be undertaken lightly, seasoned reviewers estimate the work can take from 8 hours to several weeks. Reviewers should begin by taking a general read-through of the research paper. They then consider the novelty of the work, its significance to the field and its compatibility with the journal in question. The reviewer then delves into further detail, evaluating the validity and quality of the research and determining if any further data are required to support publication. Finally, the reviewer must give, and justify, their recommendation regarding the article’s suitability for publication.
Many novice reviewers begin their reviewing careers by working jointly with a supervisor or lab leader to co-review an article, or via a recommendation to the journal from a supervisor who is unable to conduct the review themselves. Experts in the field agree that ultimately, reviewing the work of peers provides a unique opportunity for young researchers to improve their own writing and critical thinking.