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June 15, 2023

Planning Peer–Reviewer Development & Future Training

Discussions and planning point towards a potentially exciting new endeavour in peer-review training for active researchers.

Yesterday, on a sunny drenched forecourt of Warwick’s fabulous arts building I had the pleasure of a lengthy and exploratory chat with my sometime collaborator – and collage as research expert – Dr Harriet Richmond. Over the last year I’ve co-facilitated a session for Harriet’s early stage researcher programme, around the areas of peer-review and editing, and it is always a pleasure to talk over professional matters with her. Albeit with the occasional segue into tangentially related topics too! I should note, each of the sessions this year was a wonderful and eye-opening opportunity to exchange insights with the delegates around their own publishing experiences – and my thanks to them all for their contributions.

Yesterday’s meeting arose on the back of these sessions, but more broadly is looking towards something which is loosely or even more directly aligned with Warwick’s increasing focus on developing effective research cultures [1]. What we were discussing was in fact our plans for future publishing related training – and specifically that relating to the topic of peer-review. One thing that’s been evident in our discussions with delegates this past year around peer-review is how clearly there is a need to offer some form of development or training for researchers, especially those earlier in their careers. However, that doesn’t mean they’re the sole potential audience!

Most of we scholars, when we perform peer-review early in our career, and are especially lucky will find a friendly editor willing to spare a few moments to offer some guidance. More likely many of us will be left reading a journal’s online reviewers’ guide and simply conducting ourselves as professionally as we can. I can say as a journal editor over the years the variance between practices I’ve witnessed from peer-reviewers has been considerable, although virtually everyone who’s contributed to the journal has risen to the challenge admirably.

What Harriet and I are thinking about here is producing a training session – or sessions – which takes a broader look at the wider realm [2] of peer-review. I should add, that currently the whole enterprise is very embryonic at best, and the focus of our discussions yesterday was to find if such an enterprise would be worthwhile, and what elements we’d both like to explore within it. Hence, yesterday's meeting saw us bounce around our outline ideas, explore a bit about how we might seek to formulate an effective session and especially identify those key areas we think would comprise a valuable, impactful and interesting session. Thus, while currently absolutely nothing is set in stone – not even how I’m writing peer-review [3] –as I said in my note to Harriet this morning the session clearly has ‘legs’. That is to say, a strong potential to be well-received by our researcher community.

Thankfully though, we’re looking to develop this session – as part of a broader envisaged developmental programme – over the next year rather than rush to present it after the summer. Partly, this is because as reflexive practitioner scholars, Harriet and I want to let the content develop organically – something which requires time, introspection and internal debate. Additionally, it also gives us both space and time to perform some background research into the literature and praxis of peer-review. As this is something I’ve been meaning to give over some serious time to for a while, it is nice to have some greater motivation now!

I anticipate too I may well ‘field-test’ some elements of the potential session within my own anticipated [4] training schedule over the next 12 months. This will be useful in using live subjects – sorry, delegates – to help refine, refocus and augment the content and emphasis of the session to better meet scholar’s authentic needs.

As always, watch this space – and elsewhere – for more news on this exciting and I interesting proposal as it develops. Naturally, if anyone reading wants to share their thoughts on peer-review training, related dynamics and normative practices, you are warmly invited to use the comments below. Alternatively, if you prefer, drop me a line and arrange a chat as I am always happy to hear from those reviewers on the front line about their experiences: especially those reviewing for titles which aren’t Exchanges…

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Endnotes

[1] Watch out for something exciting relating to this in an announcement next week.

[2] Dare I say field, in a Bourdieulian sense? Yes, I probably can.

[3] Peer-review or peer review? Is it a personal preference or should I be following strict grammatical rules? Your answers on a postcard too…

[4] My event, workshop and teaching diary for academic year 23/24 is looking very spartan currently – I’ve only one event fixed. So, I’m open to offers or requests…


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