2023 Annual Meeting Report: To Peer Review or Not to Peer Review? Some Tips and Considerations

By Oluchukwu Okoyeocha posted 05-04-2023 11:16


Peer reviewing is a part of scientific research that often does not get the attention it deserves. Hence, as part of the SOT Postdoctoral Assembly’s contribution to education and career development during the 2023 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo, the Postdoctoral Assembly put together a workshop centered on the peer review process. It was a pleasure to attend and share some highlights of the Workshop Session, “Peer Reviewing for Scholarly Journals: Best Practices, Tips, and Case Studies,” as well as some useful resources available for both novice and pro peer reviewers.

The session was chaired by Windy Boyd, Senior Science Editor, Environmental Health Perspectives, and the Co-Chair was B. Paige Lawrence, Professor and Chair, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Also in attendance were the Editor-in-Chief of Toxicological Sciences and Environmental Health Perspectives: Jeffrey M. Peters and Joel Kaufman, respectively.

Kristin Inman opened the Workshop Session by talking about the purpose, process, and pertinent considerations of peer review. The current model for scholarly publishing relies on peer review to enable journals to make decisions. The process differs between journals, but in general, the steps are the same. In addition, there are different models of peer review: open, single and double anonymous, and post-publication. The peer reviewer works with different editors within the organization. These editors play distinct roles as well. There are, however, things to consider before deciding to peer review a paper. In general, a response to the invitation should be sent within one to three days.

Next, Dr. Lawrence shared her experience regarding best practices for reviewing a manuscript. These include tips on evaluating a scholarly article, ethics, differentiating bias from facts, and communicating with the editor and authors via written comments, questions, or concerns. Dr. Lawrence discussed techniques used to convey comments politely and constructively, providing recommendations and not decisions. Some guiding principles to note when peer reviewing a scholarly article are to treat others the way you want to be treated and never write something you would not say if the person was sitting next to you.

The task of peer reviewing does come with some challenges. Paige Bommarito and Madelyn Huang pointed out these challenges, and some new models designed to resolve these challenges. One of these is the preprint model, which become more popular during the recent pandemic. Some sources that may be of interest to toxicologists are BioRxiv and AfricArXiv. In general, all models have their merits and demerits. Kimberly Keil Stietz and Jessica Hartman also presented case studies related to peer reviewing.

The best way to talk about peer review is in an interactive session with the opportunity to practice. Hence, to end the Workshop Session, we had a practice peer review session on an interesting topic and practice crafting review comments for authors and editors. This was followed by a question-and-answer panel discussion session.

Here are some reasons mentioned about why you should consider being a peer reviewer:

  • You receive a first glance into a research area.
  • Peer review is a gift exchange since we all publish.

Some things to consider before accepting an invitation to peer review a paper:

  • Conflict of interest
  • Deadline
  • Knowledge of the journal’s standards

This blog reports on the Workshop Session titled “Peer Reviewing for Scholarly Journals: Best Practices, Tips, and Case Studies” that was held during the 2023 SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. An on-demand recording of this session is available for meeting registrants on the SOT Online Planner and SOT Event App.

This blog was prepared by an SOT Reporter and represents the views of the author. SOT Reporters are SOT members who volunteer to write about sessions and events in which they participate during the SOT Annual Meeting and ToxExpo. SOT does not propose or endorse any position by posting this article. If you are interested in participating in the SOT Reporter program in the future, please email SOT Headquarters.