Supported by Taylor & Francis, Sense About Science’s Voice of Young Science (VoYS) “Peer review: the nuts and bolts” workshops run each year in various locations across the U.K. and are streamed via Google Hangout. We joined some early-career researchers for one of these workshops at the beautiful University of St. Andrews in Fife at the end of November. Leila Jones caught up with Victoria Murphy, Programme Manager at Sense About Science.
LJ: Great to see you again Victoria and to have the chance to listen in to today’s lively discussions. Are you pleased with how today’s event is going?
VM: Thanks Leila. I think today’s going really well! We’ve got a great panel of experts, and a diverse bunch of early-career researchers participating, so there’s been lively discussion and lots of questions.
LJ: Can you tell us more about the work of VoYS and how the peer-review workshops started?
VM: Well, VoYS is an active network of nearly 2,000 early-career researchers, who speak up in public discussion about science, take part in myth-busting campaigns, and share the question “Is it peer reviewed?” with the public. Our “Peer review: the nuts and bolts” workshops began in 2010 after early-career researchers asked us how to get involved in reviewing, and what to expect. We started the workshops to address these questions, and then the researchers put together the Nuts & Bolts guide , to share the ideas further.
LJ: Why does peer review matter? Why is it important for researchers to engage with the process?
VM: Peer review is an essential part of the iterative progress of scientific knowledge. As well as being a step in the publishing process, it’s a community of academics /authors/reviewers who judge the validity, significance, and originality of the work. As a reviewer you get to see developments in your field, improve your writing, and contribute to the scientific community.
LJ: The pros and cons of the various types of peer review are much debated. Why do you think the system of peer review comes under so much fire?
VM: I think peer review is the best system we’ve got to critically assess scientific research. But as it’s so widely used, and imperfect, it comes under attack. But it’s important to be part of the debate around the peer-review process, and add to the conversation around new models of peer review.
LJ: Sense About Science and the VoYS network really help to engage and empower early-career researchers. What can editors and publishers do to further support early-career researchers, particularly with peer review?
VM: We’ve found that early-career researchers want to know more about peer review and how to get involved – any training or articles online really help with that, as does sharing our guide, Peer Review: The Nuts & Bolts.
LJ: How do you think that editors and publishers should recognize and reward peer reviewers?
VM: A system with formal recognition would particularly help early-career researchers, and prevent reviewing becoming marginalized. VoYS members came up with a great idea for reviewing to be recognized in the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF) – you can read about that campaign on our website: http://www.senseaboutscience.org/pages/letter-to-hefce-recognise-reviewing-in-the-ref.html
LJ: Finally, what’s next for the VoYS network?
VM: We’re looking forward to 2015! There will be peer-review workshops, media workshops, and evidence-hunting projects. Plus VoYS will be making a splash in the U.S.A. You can keep in the loop by following @Voiceofyoungsci on Twitter.
Sense About Science is a charitable trust championing public discussion about scientific issues, and their growing international Voice of Young Science (VoYS) network engages early-career researchers in debates about research and evidence, encouraging them to stand up for science through promoting scientific scrutiny and peer review.