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Behind the scenes of peer review

14 Sep 2017 James Dacey

By James Dacey

This week is Peer Review Week 2017, a global celebration of the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality. The theme of this year’s event is “transparency in review”, exploring how individuals and organizations could be more open at all stages of the scientific process.

Physics World is published by IOP Publishing and I’ve been part of a crack team assembled to take people behind the scenes of our peer-review processes. As the man with a camera, my job was to create a series of videos with my colleagues in the publishing department who deal with peer review on a daily basis.

First up, we have a video message from Marc Gillet, our associate director of publishing operations, introducing our plans for the week (see above). Marc is joined by a selection of staff revealing the role they play in the peer-review process – drawing inspiration from Bob Dylan’s famous flashcard skit for Subterranean Homesick Blues.

Next up, we produced a profile of Lauren Carter, one of our associate editors. You get an inside look at a typical working day in publishing. It’s worth checking out whether you want to learn about peer review, or if you’ve ever thought about a career in publishing.

Of course, academic publishers such as IOP Publishing are always going to argue for the merits of peer review. But what really matters is whether the process meets the needs of the academic community – the people actually doing the scientific research. So we’d like to hear your thoughts on how it could be improved. During this week we’re asking you to describe your perfect peer review in no more than 50 words for a chance to win £50 worth of Amazon vouchers.

You can also get the thoughts on peer review of Phil Moriarty, a nano researcher at the University of Nottingham. In a wide-ranging interview with publisher Ceri-Wyn Thomas, Moriarty gives strong opinions on the strengths and limitations of established peer review system. While agreeing with the broad principle of peer review, Moriarty points out some of the pitfalls of peer review in practice, while sharing ideas for how scientists and publishers could be more open.

Finally, we worked with local company Research Media to create this animated tour of the peer review process at IOP Publishing. Rather than serve up an exhaustive process map of everything single thing we do, we instead created some blue and red cartoon protagonists to act out the key events. We hope you’ll agree that the end result is much more fun.

Naturally, the process of continually improving peer review doesn’t finish at the end of this week. So please share your thoughts and feedback anytime by getting in touch with us on Twitter using the hashtag #PeerRevWk17. For specific issues regarding submissions then please get in touch with the relevant journal on the IOPscience website.

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