By Rebeccah Lijek and Jessica Polka
At the July 21, 2021 #FeedbackASAP meeting, Mugdha Sathe (UW), Rebeccah Lijek (Mount Holyoke), Daniela Saderi (PREreview) organized a breakout session on using public preprint review in teaching and mentorship of early career researchers.
Who is a “peer?”
The session began with Daniela Saderi leading us in discussion about who can be a peer reviewer, challenging the traditional ideas of what we mean by “expertise.” After lively conversation, we came to a crowdsourced definition that a reviewer is “anyone participating in science willing to think deliberatively, critically, and constructively about the work” and that the act of doing peer review (preprint or journal review) is what creates peer reviewers, not a faculty title.
Preprint reviews fill a gap in science education
Then we reflected on how we were trained in peer review, broadly agreeing that we hadn’t received formal training, but instead got passive exposure to peer reviews by reading reports on our papers or by producing them ourselves. Becki Lijek presented data corroborating these experiences from her recent survey, which showed that peer review training is rare. Moreover, the lack of training drives ECRs to ghostwrite reviews on behalf of their PIs. For example, 70% of respondents who had coreviewed with their PI made a major contribution, but to their knowledge, were not named to the journal.
She called for a paradigm shift to integrate authentic experiences in peer review—like preprint reviews—into science education. Involving ECRs in preprint review improves their scholarly skills of critical thinking and writing, and it also broadens students’ understanding of science to include community engagement. Since preprints and their peer reviews play a major role in new developments related to COVID-19, understanding of these processes among non-specialists has become even more crucial.
Preprint review is a meaningful component of the scientific process, and as such, Lijek is studying whether participating in it improves ECRs’ sense of belonging in science. She posits that preprint review provides an exciting new avenue to support the persistence of BIPOC, women, and gender minorities in STEM.
Mugdha Sathe shared her experience in teaching peer review to undergraduates as the final project in a seminar course for senior biology majors at a large research university. Learning was assessed with a writing assignment, including by asking students to predict the next set of experiments, offer alternative hypotheses, and identify issues with experimental design. Mugdha shared tips such as her use of the tool Perusall for collaborative reading and the rubrics she employed for evaluating students’ reviews.
Creating socially-conscious reviewers
PREreview Executive Director Daniela Saderi provided a summary of resources for preprint review available through PREreview, including their Open Reviewers community, which she will be working with Becki Lijek to use with undergraduates. Saderi then took us through an exercise in challenging implicit biases and structural inequities in peer review, including a discussion of ageism. In all, we agreed that all ages and career stages have an important role to play in peer review and preprint review opens up new, exciting opportunities for ECRs to learn and engage with the scientific community.
View collaborative notes, containing links to session slides.