6 Top Tips to Prepare You For Peer Review

6 Top Tips to Prepare You For Peer Review
2 months ago

6 Top Tips to Prepare You For Peer Review

Becoming a confident peer reviewer takes practice and it’s important to acquire the relevant skills before embarking on your first review. When opportunities arise to review life science papers, you’ll need to be ready to do the job well if you want to gain a reputation as a competent and reliable reviewer.

At last year’s Hello Bio LabLife Conference, we hosted an online panel discussion on 'Writing, Peer-Reviewing & Publishing Papers' in which three experienced life scientists - Dr James Quinn, Dr Matthew Lloyd & Dr Bronwen Martin - discussed ways to get started in peer reviewing, and how to know when you’re ready. Here are their 6 key pieces of advice for early career researchers looking to embark on a peer review career:


1. Build up your expertise

In order to start peer reviewing life science papers, you need to have built up a reasonable level of expertise in the techniques that you're reviewing. You don’t need to be a complete expert in the specific subject area of the paper, but you should have a good knowledge of the techniques used to be able to make a judgement about whether the experiments have been performed correctly or not. You must have the relevant experience in order to be able to review fairly and appropriately.


2. Have a presence online

When looking for peer review opportunities, having a professional presence online can be extremely helpful. Keeping your social media channels such as LinkedIn and Twitter updated with your current experience, and using your profile to express an interest in reviewing can lead to potential opportunities. Be sure to follow the accounts of relevant journals, and don’t be afraid to reach out to their editors who may use social media to post about upcoming peer review opportunities.


3. Register as an author

Register yourself as an author with the journals you’d like to publish in, and be sure to add detailed descriptions and keywords to your profile to determine your areas of expertise. Journal editors will often search through their bank of authors to find a reviewer, and if you’ve included specific keywords that match the content of the paper to be reviewed, this may just give you the edge over other potential reviewers. Remember that you don’t need to submit a paper of your own in order to register as an author.


4. Work alongside experienced reviewers

Where possible, learn from your PI or other senior colleagues by asking to assist them with a review, or review one of their assigned papers first before comparing notes with them. Reviewing a paper together is a great way to learn the processes involved and see what an experienced reviewer would have done differently to you. Once you've built up some confidence, your supervisor may then be able to recommend you as the peer reviewer for particular papers instead of them.


5. Apply to join an Early Career Reviewer program

Many journals and organisations now run Early Career Review programs or panels to help support new reviewers with the peer review process. Programs like this one offered by Nature in 2022 often include a mentoring aspect, in which participants will be offered the chance to review a paper within their specific area of study while being mentored through the process by an experienced reviewer or editor. It’s a great way to get some experience under your belt with the additional benefit of one-to-one guidance and feedback from an expert.


6. Know your limitations

As keen as you are to get started with peer reviewing, be sure to know your limitations and don’t commit to something that you might not be ready for. Be prepared to say no to some opportunities if they don’t match your skill set. Attempting to review when you’re not ready may damage your reputation and limit future opportunities. Putting in the time to gain the relevant skills first will prove much more valuable in the long run and will open many more doors for you further down the line.


More advice on peer reviewing from Hello Bio

For more great advice on peer reviewing, check out these other fantastic resources available on the Hello Bio blog:


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