Dr Brenda Asiimwe Kateera is medical doctor and epidemiologist from Uganda who is currently Country Director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation Rwanda. For Peer Review Week she shares her experiences and reflections on peer review.
What are your experiences of peer review?
As an author I have found the feedback from peer review has been very beneficial. It has greatly improved the quality of my manuscripts and grant applications especially if the peer feedback is scientifically sound and relevant. However, the long waiting time before getting feedback from journals, which may originate from delayed peer review, can be frustrating to authors. I have had to wait for around six months before a decision was communicated from one of my manuscripts.
As a reviewer, it has been a very positive experience. I have learnt a lot about critical appraisal, scientific skills and writing through participation in peer review. I would recommend that all scientists offer of their time, skills and expertise as a peer reviewer.
Why do you participate in peer review?
Participating in peer review has been extremely beneficial and fulfilling for me. I see peer review as a way of giving back to the scientific community by providing support to other scientists. Peer review has kept my skills of critical appraisal sharpened as I read through and provide feedback to manuscripts. I have had the opportunity to review excellent manuscripts as well as manuscripts that could be improved, and I have been able to learn new information from each manuscript that I have reviewed, especially those in my areas of interest. I have also had the opportunity to train others in peer review especially through the Publons academy where I am a supervisor.
What challenges do you see with peer review today?
A big challenge is timeliness of review, especially since many peer reviewers have a high workload.
There are also some challenges around quality. Many researchers are not trained or mentored in peer review and so may not place high importance to peer review or know how to produce a quality review. Some reviewers focus on minor typos and formatting errors instead of the relevance, significance, methodology discussed in the manuscript. There are further challenges when manuscripts by authors who are not fluent in English may have factual and grammatical errors that may detract from “the good science” and thus the credibility of the review.
In addition, there can be ethical issues, including potential conflicts of interest that might undermine the integrity of reviewers. Another issue with the advent of predatory and fast track journals is that some editors may not place high value on peer review and may skip this essential step in ensuring publication of quality scientific information.
What would you recommend to improve peer review?
- Open peer review
- Incentives for peer reviewers like recognition, acknowledgement,
- Post publication history available in some journals
- Getting credit for peer review e.g in Publons
- Encourage scientists to train/mentor others in peer review
You can view Dr Brenda Asiimwe Kateera's Publons profile here.
Peer Review Week is a global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. The theme of Peer Review Week 2018 is “Diversity and Inclusion” and aims to explore a wide range of issues and challenges that this topic presents within peer review. It is running from 10–15 September 2018 with activities taking place around the globe. For more information, see https://peerreviewweek.wordpress.com