This week saw the publication of another Bournemouth University paper on academic writing and publishing. This latest paper ‘Struggling to reply to reviewers: Some advice for novice researchers‘ has been published in the scientific journal Health Prospect: Journal of Public Health. This journal is published in Nepal and it is Open Access, hence freely available across the globe.
Peer review is the process by which academic journals assess and regulate the quality of content they publish, by inviting academic experts to review your submitted manuscripts. It is a process of quality control. Once you have submitted your paper to a journal the editor will select potential peer reviewers within the field of research to peer-review your manuscript and make recommendations. In many case the peer review process can be a positive experience for you as it allows you to develop your skills and improve your written work. For example, good reviewers may notice potential imbalances, point out missing key references or highlight different potential perspectives, and thus help you to enhance the overall quality of the paper. On some occasions, however a reviewer can be a complete pain in the neck!
The paper is written by a multidisciplinary team based in the Department of Nursing Sciences (Dr. Regmi), the Department of Social Sciences and Social Work (Dr. Harvey), and the Department of Midwifery & Health Sciences (Dr. Taylor & Prof. van Teijlingen). The authors bring their combined expertise in midwifery, social work, health education, sociology and health services research to offers the readers advice how to deal with the more difficult reviewers.
- Harvey, O., Taylor, A., Regmi, P.R., van Teijlingen, E. (2022) Struggling to reply to reviewers: Some advice for novice researchers Health Prospect: Journal of Public Health 21(2):19-22
Are you thinking about being a peer reviewer but aren’t sure where to start? Are you concerned that you don’t have enough experience to review a manuscript for a journal?
Click on the link below to find out the ten easy things you can do to prepare to be a reviewer and put yourself in a position to start reviewing. Some of these are so simple you can do them in the next five minutes. Get started now!
Congratulations to Dr. Orlanda Harvey in the Department of Social Sciences & Social Work, Dr. Pramod Regmi in the Department of Nursing Science and FHSS Visiting Faculty Jillian Ireland, Professional Midwifery Advocate in Poole Maternity Hospital (UHD/University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust) whose paper ‘Co-authors, colleagues, and contributors: Complexities in collaboration and sharing lessons on academic writing‘ was published today.
The paper argues that academic writing, especially in the health field, is usually an interdisciplinary team effort. It highlights some of the trials, tribulations, and benefits of working with co-authors. This includes collaborations and co-authorship between academics from different disciplines, academics of different level of careers, and authors from countries of varying economies i.e., high-income countries (HICs) and from low-and middle-income countries (LMICs). This paper also provides advice in the form of several useful tips to lead authors and co-authors to support collaborative working. Our other co-authors are: Aney Rijal, postgraduate student and Executive Editor of the journal Health Prospect based in Nepal, and Alexander van Teijlingen postgraduate student in the Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland).
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health
- Harvey, O., van Teijlingen, A., Regmi, P.R., Ireland, J., Rijal, A., van Teijlingen, E.R. (2022) Co-authors, colleagues, and contributors: Complexities in collaboration and sharing lessons on academic writing Health Prospect 21(1):1-3.
The process of peer review is widely recognised as the key element of quality control in academic publishing and the scientific community more generally. Peer review is the critical appraisal of one’s work by fellow scholars, who read and comment on your manuscript and offered a verdict on its quality, rigour, originality, style, completeness, etc. etc.
Peer reviewers are typically experts in your field, if not your topic, or who have expertise in the methods you applied or the population or are you studied. They are also academics often with busy day jobs, who act as unpaid peer reviewers, and as journal editors for that matter. Peer reviewers are with full-time jobs who give up their free time to review for academic journals. A recent article by Aczel and colleagues (2021) reported that reviewers across the globe spent over 100 million hours on peer reviewing for free in 2020, the estimated value of this equated to nearly £300 million in the UK alone. This quantifies in some of my feelings I wrote about a decade ago now in a BU Research Blog with the title ‘Peer review and bust academics’.
However, with the ever-growing number of health and social science journals the requests for reviewing seem to grow relentlessly. This month alone (November 2021) I received twenty or 21 requests to review. I have reviewed three manuscripts for Birth, Nepal Journal of Epidemiology, and The Journal of International Development, but I had to reject or ignore many more (see Table 1). I usually do my reviews over the weekend. One weekend this month I could not review because I had to prepare materials for the external auditor who came to visit Bournemouth University for a project recently completed, and this weekend I could not find the time because I’m proof-reading two PhD chapters (and writing this blog).
I leave you with some food for thought: academics spent time applying for research funding, then apply for the ethical approval, do the research, we write up the findings, and write blogs about the process!
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health (CMMPH)
Aczel, B., Szaszi, B., Holcombe, A.O. (2021) A billion-dollar donation: estimating the cost of researchers’ time spent on peer review. Res Integr Peer Rev 6, 14. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41073-021-00118-2.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has developed a new feature in its current funding systems to recognise formally the contributions of UKRI reviewers via ORCID, a unique identifier tool for individuals.
The implementation of ORCID reviewer recognition went live on 23 Nov. 2020. It will enable UKRI review contributions to be publicly displayed without compromising the anonymity and confidentiality of the assessment process. This will be done by issuing a ‘review credit’ that will be displayed in individual reviewers ORCID profiles.
To receive “ORCID review credits”, UKRI reviewers must hold an ORCID account and link their ORCID ID to their Je-S account. UKRI will only send ORCID review credits to the reviewers that submit a “usable review” via Je-S after 23 Nov. 2020. For more information, please see UKRIs webpage on how they recognise reviewer contribution, and the guidance on ORCID Reviewer Recognition for UKRI reviewers.
UKRI is very pleased to announce a Call for new members to the UKRI International Development Peer Review College. UKRI is inviting applications for new members to the College from both academics and non-academics from organisations based in or working with DAC list countries, such as policymakers, non-governmental organisations and civil society organisations. Eligible applicants should have ODA experience as well as interdisciplinary knowledge. The Call opens on 25 November and closes 20 December 15.00 UK time.
UKRI especially invites applications from women to achieve their aim of a 50:50 gender balance in College membership. UKRI is also especially keen to receive applications from applicants in certain DAC-list countries (please see section 4 in the Call text) and from certain research areas where the College has a shortage (please see section 5 in Call text).
The Call text has information on eligibility, how to and where to apply. UKRI strongly advises potential applicants to read through the Call text carefully and to look at the SmartSurvey screenshots before starting their application.
A letter of support is required from a senior member of BU. For academics: If you are a professor, your letter of support should be signed by the VC. If you are a senior lecturer, your letter of support should be signed by a department head or equivalent. If you are an Early Career Researcher, it should be signed by a professor in your department or equivalent. Please contact your signatory and confirm their support before beginning your application.
More information about the College can be found on the College webpage.
If you are interested in applying then please inform Jo Garrad in RDS.
Academia has become more demanding than twenty years ago, particularly, the job outwith university. Just this morning I received three requests to review a paper. Each from a very reputable journal and a each a legitimate requests, i.e. I asking me to assess a paper in a my academic field.
Reviewing papers and grant applications is, of course, part of my academic responsibilities, and hence part of my scholarly practice. But I am already reviewing five NIHR (National Institute for Health Research) grant applications this weekend, as well as an other paper for BMC Pregnancy & Childbirth, and there are two PhD theses next my bed which I need to exam. On top of this I have been ignoring several reminder invitations to review a research proposal for the Croatian Science Foundation, as I simply do not have time to do so, however, much I would like to do so.
The forthcoming REF 2021 is not helping. UK academics are frantically submitting their manuscripts to academic journals to have them in print before the end of 2020, to beat the REF 2021 deadline. The flip-side of this reviewing coin is that my collaborators and I have had three papers turned down in the past year by a reputable journal as it could not find appropriate reviewers. Three articles on three very different aspects of our work, one a UK-based study, one a European study and one a study based in Nepal. For two of these manuscripts the journal took nearly a year to come back to us, wasting the chance to submit the paper elsewhere.
Perhaps it is due the rose-tinted spectacles of looking at the past, perhaps is it simply my level of seniority (compared to twenty years ago) but I don’t think so. The underlying trend is that the volume of papers submitted to journals is growing faster than the number of academics volunteering to review. This blog is, therefor, also a call for my academic colleagues to step up and agree to review on (extra) paper. Interestingly, I made a not dissimilar call in a BU Research Blog eight years ago! Unfortunately, the overall situation has not improved.
I haven’t even mentioned the exponential growth in email requests to academics submit papers to so-called predatory journals! I counted 15 requests in the past two days alone and it is only 10 AM on Saturday morning so more to follow later today.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Once you have submitted you manuscript to a scientific journal, the editor has a (quick) look at it and sends it out for review. As I remind students and colleagues in training sessions on academic writing and publishing, the editor and the peer reviewers are academics like me and my colleagues who do both the editing and the reviewing, for free and over and above the day job. Being an editor and a reviewer are part of being any academic’s so-called scholarly activity. We are expected to do this as part of the wider scientific community for the benefit of our academic discipline(s).
When an academic receives an invitation to peer review, the journal will send you a copy of the paper’s abstract. On reading this abstract you then decide whether you wish to do the review. If the paper sounds interesting and it is in your field and you have the time you may volunteer to conduct a review. Once you have agreed you will get the full paper (or more likely you are send a link to the publisher’s website). The requirements of the review report varies between disciplines and often between journals. Some follow an informal structure, but others have a more formal approach, sometimes with scoring systems for sections of the paper.
Unfortunately, academics across the globe are experiencing an ‘epidemic’ of invitations to review for scientific journals. And I am not talking about so-called predatory publishers, i.e. journals and publishers that are only in it for the monetary gain, no I am talking about legitimate journals sending out invitations to review for them. Especially scholars with a few decent publications receive several emails a week from often high quality scientific journals. The photo of my email inbox shows three invitations in a row I received in the space of two hours last week (10th July), two are even from different Associate Editors for the same journal!
I would like to stress that doing peer reviews is very important. It is the backbone of academic publishing. Reviewing is part of our overall scholarly responsibility so we all do it, although some more than others. We all have are favourite journals to review for, perhaps because the journal is high quality, or we like to publish in it ourselves, because we know the editor, or our reviewing is recognised on websites like KUDOS. I would like to urge colleagues who don’t manage to review at least once a month to step up and agree to review a wee bit more often.
Prof. Edwin van Teijlingen
Centre for Midwifery, Maternal & Perinatal Health
The Times Higher Education (THE) have published an article where seven academics offer tips on good refereeing, and reflect on how it may change. You may have to register on the THE site to read the full article.
ESRC is inviting applications from academics suitably experienced in the social sciences to act as members of their Grants Assessment Panels (GAPs).
About the Panels
The ESRC is the UK’s leading agency for research and training in the social sciences. Their Grants Assessment Panels (GAPs) assess proposals for most responsive mode schemes across the range of ESRC’s activities.
There are currently three Panels organised around a cluster of disciplines with a fourth panel that considers proposals submitted to the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI). Between them the Panels cover the whole of ESRC’s disciplinary remit.
Membership of a GAP is an opportunity to work with other experienced people from across the academic, public, business and civil society sectors to help ensure ESRC funds high quality research with academic, economic and societal impact. Members will also have an opportunity to feed into, and learn about ESRC policy development.
ESRC are currently looking for applications specifically in the following disciplinary areas:
Human Geography (panel A)
- Essential: Should have expertise across the Human Geography remit
- Desirable: Specific expertise in areas such as inequality, migration, environment and climate change would be desirable.
Psychology (panel A) – post 1
- Essential: Should be a social psychologist with broad expertise covering quantitative and qualitative methods
- Desirable: Specific expertise in areas such as attitudes, ‘Identity, diversity and inequality’ and ‘Individual differences’ would be desirable
Psychology (panel A) – post 2
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the Psychology remit
- Desirable: Specific expertise in behaviour change, developmental psychology and mental health would be desirable.
Sociology/ Social Policy (panel D)
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the sociology and social policy disciplines.
- Desirable: This post is for Panel D and therefore requires someone with expertise in quantitative methods and secondary data analysis
Education (panel B)
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the sociology and social policy disciplines.
- Desirable: Specific expertise in primary education and quantitative research methods would be desirable
Education (panel D)
- Essential: Should have a broad expertise across the sociology and social policy disciplines.
- Desirable: This post is for panel D and therefore requires someone with expertise in quantitative methods and secondary data analysis
Linguistics (panel B)
- Essential: Should have broad expertise across the linguistics discipline
- Desirable: Specific expertise in second language acquisition and/or language processing would be desirable
Socio-legal studies (panel B)
- Essential: Should have broad expertise across the discipline of socio-legal studies
- Desirable: Specific expertise in criminology, criminal justice and policing would be desirable
Members are expected to assess an average of 30 applications a year and to meet three times a year (in March, July and November) to make funding recommendations. Meetings will alternate between London and Swindon.
New Chair for Panel D
In addition to the appointment of new members, there is also a vacancy to chair Panel D. Panel D covers the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. See the announcement for further details.
How to apply
Applications should be submitted online no later than 17.00 on 19 May 2017. A short CV (no longer than two A4 pages) should be included.
Successful applicants will be appointed for two years initially, with possible renewal for a further two years. Invitations will be sent to successful candidates in late July/early August and members will be expected to be available for a briefing session on 7 September 2017 in Swindon.
Find out about peer review.
Debate challenges to the system.
Discuss the role of peer review for scientists and the public.
Friday 12th May, 2pm– 6pm
Workshop to be held at Informa’s Offices, 5 Howick Place, London
Peer Review: The nuts and bolts is a free half-day workshop for early career researchers and will explore how peer review works, how to get involved, the challenges to the system, and the role of peer review in helping the public to evaluate research claims.
Should peer review detect plagiarism, bias or fraud? What does peer review do for science and what does the scientific community want it to do for them? Should reviewers remain anonymous? Does it illuminate good ideas or shut them down?
To apply to attend this workshop, please fill out the application form by 9am on Tuesday 25 April: http://bit.ly/2mCFsyr
For more details, get in touch with Joanne Thomas email@example.com.
More information: http://senseaboutscience.org/activities/peer-review-workshop/
From December 2015 the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) will be employing one panel to moderate its Research Grants scheme. This is a change from the current four panel structure which brings the scheme into line with other AHRC funding such as the Leadership Fellows scheme.
There will be no changes to the pre-panel peer review stage. The single panel structure will allow for the AHRC to hold panel meetings more frequently than the current quarterly arrangements, which will lead to more timely delivery of outcomes to applicants.
The Newton Fund is actively inviting expressions of interest from senior and early career researchers to expand their pool of panel members for the Newton Fund initiative and, potentially, other British Council programmes.
Looking at the specialisms below, BU has significant expertise in many of these areas.
They are looking for early career researchers who would like to broaden their experience of peer review as a career development opportunity, and for senior researchers who are willing to share and use their experience to support the review panels. Please note that we can only consider researchers based at UK institutions.
By getting involved in funding panels, you will gain invaluable insights into how a funder functions, how they assess applications, build your network, raise your profile in your field and, potentially, give you the opportunity to influence future funding decisions.
For this particular invitation:
Eligibility Senior and early-career researchers. Early-career researcher is defined as being a PhD holder + up to 10 years. For fields where a PhD is not a usual career requirement, sufficient research experience will be accepted.
Researchers with the following specialisms are eligible to apply:
- Biological and Medical Sciences
- Environment and Agriculture
- Arts and Humanities
- Social Sciences
- Engineering and Physical Sciences
In particular, the Newton Fund would like to hear from researchers who have the following subject specialisms:
- Human rights
- Forensic anthropology
- Marine biology/Oceanography
- Public health/Nutrition
- Food science
- Earth Sciences
Find out more and apply!
The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) is seeking nominations for new members to be appointed to its Peer Review College (PRC).
Peer review lies at the heart of the AHRC’s operations, and they are fully committed to the principle of peer review for the assessment of proposals to their schemes and programmes. PRC members provide expert quality reviews of proposals within their areas of expertise, which inform the AHRC’s decision making processes. As well as making an important contribution to the AHRC’s peer review processes, the experience gained by membership of the College will provide benefits to you, your department and to Bournemouth University.
Nominations are welcomed for either of the below Calls:
Call for Early Career Researchers (ECRs)
Eligibility – Nominations for all candidates who meet the eligibility for the PRC Academic group (ECR) and who meet the AHRC ECR criteria. At the point of nomination to the college the nominee must be:
- Within eight years of the award of their PhD or equivalent professional training or
- Within six years of their first academic appointment
Please be aware that current AHRC PRC members do not need to apply for this call. Former PRC members are only eligible to apply if their PRC membership ended before 16th April 2013. For further information, read the ECR Call for Nominations advert (PDF 71KB, opens in a new window).
Call for membership of the Strategic and Technical reviewer groups
Eligibility – Nominations for all candidates, from any career stage, who meet the criteria for the Strategic or Technical groups of the AHRC PRC. Current members are eligible to apply for this Call if they meet the criteria for one or either of these groups. Former PRC members are only eligible to apply if their PRC membership ended before 16th April 2013. For further information, click here to view read the Strategic/Technical group Call for Nominations advert (PDF 85KB, opens in a new window).
The deadline for nominations to both Calls is 12 noon on 16th April 2015.
If successful, College members will be appointed for a term commencing 1 October 2015 and ending 31 December 2018.
If you have any queries regarding the nomination process please do not hesitate to contact:
Matthew Carr, AHRC Peer Review College Coordinator (Membership)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Tel: 01793 416069
Horizon 2020 is now seeking Evaluators. Don’t worry, they don’t expect you to be an expert in the calls or even to have won funding. Just to be an expert in your subject area.
Registering to be an expert has lots of value – you could get paid to evaluate and monitor projects or evaluate calls for proposals under the schemes. Indeed, becoming an EC evaluator is a fantastic experience; it not only helps you learn what the EC are looking for in proposals, but also enables you to travel to Brussels and network with other reviewers to start forming collaborations yourself.
It’s really simple to sign up, you just pop your details in the form (which isn’t very long) and when an appropriate call or proposal comes up, they will ask if you can review it. If you can’t, you simply let them know and you are not obliged to. You also get until December 2020 to sign up to be a reviewer if you aren’t quite ready yet!
You will get paid a day rate to do the review plus travel and subsistence and you can also still apply for the funding scheme if you are registered as a reviewer (although for a specific call you apply to, you would have to declare a conflict of interest).
More info can be found here
What is the review process?
As anyone submitting a proposal to a research council at BU knows, once you hut the Je-S ‘submit’ button, the proposal then gets sent to R&KEO to undertake final checks. These are all done to ensure your proposal has the best chance of success. This is also a critical stage in the process, as we know from our contacts in the Research Councils that reviewers won’t even see an application if the proposal has not adhered to the guidance criteria.
Stage 1 of the process is where proposals are sifted by a group of staff who reject immediately any which do not meet the published eligibility criteria; either related to documentation requirements or where it does not meet the aims or criteria of the scheme. When we return your application to you before submitting in Je-S, it is to ensure your proposal gets through this team of sifters and makes it to Panel.
One element which we often find have been overlooked in applications is matching the Case for Support headings on the attachments, with those outlined in the guidance. The sifting process may reject your application for this reason and it is therefore important you make sure they match up. The headings have been developed based on feedback from peer reviewers and so following this structure will also put you in a favourable position with them. The other stages for most grants can be found in the diagram below.
What do reviewers looking for in proposals?
Quality & Importance of Research Proposed
- the proposal meets the specific aims of the scheme to which the applicant is applying
- the project is significant and important and the contribution it will enhance or develop creativity, insights, knowledge or understanding of the area in a national or international context
- the research questions, issues or problems that will be addressed are defined and their importance and appropriateness specified
- the research context and specification of why it is important that these particular questions, issues or problems are addressed is articulated
- the appropriateness, effectiveness and feasibility of the proposed research methods and/or approach is outlined
- the quality and importance of the applicant’s work to date is demonstrated
- the applicant is able to monitor the project and bring it to completion as demonstrated in the application
- the level and balance (in terms of time and seniority) of the proposed staffing on the project is appropriate and opportunities will be made available for less experienced researchers
- the other named participants have the appropriate experience and expertise to deliver the project.
- the lines of responsibility and accountability are clearly articulated.
- a realistic timetable, incorporating milestones is presented which will achieve the project’s aims and objectives within the proposed timescale
- the applicant has demonstrated that they understand the amount of work to be involved, allocated sufficient time and resources to achieving each aspect.
Value for Money
- the likely outcome of the research will represent value for money, and in particular the relationship between the funds that are sought and the significance and quality of the projected outcomes of the research
- the resources requested are reasonable in the context of the proposed research.
Outputs, Dissemination & Impact
- the dissemination methods are appropriate and effective
- the research process is documented or recorded in a way to enable dissemination of research outcomes to the widest possible audience
- the outputs and outcomes of the project will be highly valued and widely exploited, both in the research community and in wider contexts where they can make a difference
- plans to increase impact are appropriate and justified, given the nature of the proposed research
- sufficient attention has been given to who the beneficiaries of the research might be and appropriate ways to engage with them throughout the project.
- the research and its outcomes are disseminated to as wide an audience as possible, and where appropriate to engage in communication, dissemination and exploitation activities throughout the period of the project.
- the audiences to whom their research could be of interest are specified, and how they propose to engage with those audiences about their research.
How can I increase my chances of success?
Firstly, let your RKE Operations Officer know as soon as you want to apply for a scheme. They have many years’ experience of reading the eligibility criteria and guidance and can help you make sure you tick all of these boxes. They will also cost your proposal and get it approved by Legal and through the APF Quality Approval Process as well as submitting it via Je-S when the time comes.
Your proposal will automatically go through our internal peer review process (RPRS) and you will receive useful feedback on how to really strengthen this. We have a number of AHRC award holders and a reviewer on our database which will be a huge help for you. If you are a member of the Grants Academy you also have access to our successful applications to help you write yours as well as unlimited support from Dr Martin Pickard in creating a fantastic application.
If you haven’t won much funding before, then team up with more experienced academics in your field to make a submission that way.
Finally, the best piece of advice is to dedicate enough time to writing a great application. Many of the big schemes don’t have deadlines, and those which do have these dates announced usually quite far in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare. With so many areas to cover in your proposal and to do so better than your competition in other institutions, you really can’t write these applications in a week. A Research Grant is a very prestigious one to have on your CV and is worth dedicating the time and energy to get.
I have heard one of two grumbles over the years over our mandatory internal peer review for Research Council (RCUK) proposals and this can sometimes seem like an ‘additional hurdle’ to get through in making a submission. BU is not alone in having a mandatory review process for RCUK grants and we implemented this, as did others around the UK, on the back of demand management measures initiated by some of the Research Councils (such as the EPSRC who will ban repeatedly unsuccessful applicants from making further submissions for 12 months). To help ensure no one at BU is unable to bid for the calls they wish to, we want to offer this extra support to our academic community in helping them submit the best possible application that they can.
At BU we have seen success rates with RCUK funders increase due to the utilisation of the RPRS. Today Times Higher Education announced that due to initiatives taken by BU and other institutions in reviewing applications before submission, across the board RCUK success rates for funding have risen. The ESRC responsive mode scheme for instance has gone from a 14% success rate in 2011-12 to a 16% success rate in 2012-13.
Helping ensure fewer numbers of lowe quality bids are submitted to RCUK funders facilitates a reduction in administration costs, which can then be redistributed into funding calls. This is great news for the funders and for applicants and potential applicants.
We are reviewing how the internal peer review process works at BU to make it even more useful and ever less bureaucratic to help any RCUK applicants and indeed applicants for any funding bodies. More details on this will be placed on the blog soon!