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Building peer review skills: lessons from our ECR Editorial Board Members

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In celebration of Peer Review Week (19-23 September) we spoke to the early career researcher (ECR) editorial boards of our official journals about how they have been building skills and experience in peer review in their new roles as Editorial Board Members and the key lessons they have learned.

We recently ventured into new areas to develop how we can support the next generation of immunologists with the launch of dedicated Editorial Boards for ECRs within our official journals Immunotherapy Advances and Clinical & Experimental Immunology. After much interest, we recruited twelve ambitious and talented ECRs to join each journal’s editorial team to develop their skills and confidence as peer reviewers, learn more about the editorial process and bring fresh perspectives to our journals.

We spoke to six of our ECR Editorial Board Members about key lessons they have learned when it comes to peer review during their time on the journals.

Use a structure

“A typical review starts with a brief summary highlighting the paper’s key findings and what you think is the actual impact on the field. Then you can provide detailed comments on any major concerns (such as a lack of a key experiment) and minor concerns (such typographical errors). Based on these, you can finish the review by offering a recommendation to the editor.”

Dr Alsya Affandi, Amsterdam UMC, Netherlands Immunotherapy Advances ECR Editorial Board Member

Be constructive

“Constructive criticisms and suggestions help improve the quality of manuscripts. Sometimes, authors can be so focused on certain aspects of their research findings while overlooking a potentially impactful angle. Fresh eyes of a reviewer can pick up on these aspects and nudge authors in that direction.”

Dr Rebecca Chukwuanukwu, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Nigeria. Immunotherapy Advances ECR Editorial Board Member

Focus on the science

“When reviewing, ask ‘is the data presented robust, analysed correctly and with appropriate controls? Does it support the authors’ conclusions?’. You’re not a copyeditor, so don’t spend too much time correcting typos and grammar. And avoid suggesting the authors consult a ‘native’ English speaker to proof-read their manuscript.”

Dr Nicole Campbell, Hudson Institute of Medical Research, Australia. Clinical & Experimental Immunology ECR Editorial Board Member

Be realistic

“Even if the science is sound and the interpretation is validated, there is always more that can be done. However, as a reviewer, consider what the manuscript really needs to bring the take-home message of the article to fruition and satisfy the criteria of the selected journal.”

Dr Caroline Weight, University College London, UK Immunotherapy Advances ECR Editorial Board Member

Keep your audience in mind

“Authors need feedback that is based on the quality of their research and accompanying claims in its current state, whereas the editors need to know the current position of the research within the field, the quality of the research and if additional experiments would sufficiently support the manuscript for further assessment.”

Dr Theo van den Broek, University Medical Center Utrecht, Netherlands. Clinical & Experimental Immunology ECR Editorial Board Member

Be considerate

“To provide timely and constructive criticism, you have got to approach the peer review process as if it was your dearest colleague asking for advice on how to improve their manuscript. Focus on the critical, actionable points needing improvementthat would turn the manuscript into the strongest, most convincing story.”

Dr Damian Perez Mazliah, Hull York Medical School, University of York, UK. Clinical & Experimental Immunology ECR Editorial Board Member

Early Career Researcher Editorial Boards

The BSI journals are supporting early career researchers who want to get involved with research at the point of publication through our dedicated ECR Editorial Boards. You can find out more about the ECR Editorial Board Members here: