This is the second part of my 2-part blog about feedback. Part 1 looked at receiving feedback as part of teaching and learning, and as part of collaborative working. This blog focuses on the third type of feedback; the peer review process.
Peer Review In Academia
Prior to an article being published in an academic journal, it will be sent out for peer review. This process involves academics who have expertise in the field but who are independent from you, reading and commenting on your draft paper. They then make recommendations to the journal editor about whether to accept or reject the paper. If accepted, they also make comments which will need to be addressed. Following publication, the wider academic community will have access to your work and may respond in a critical way, either by directly commenting on your work or through citing it in their work. This peer-review process is present at all stages of academia and is one of the foundations of the scientific process. However, although this is a fundamental process which ultimately serves to strengthen academic, it has its flaws and is certainly not an easy process.
Choosing a Journal
One of the key things that we can do to help the peer review process is to ensure that we submit papers appropriately. This involves choosing an appropriate journal; one where the paper matches the journal remit and readership. Ensure that you read the author guidelines and similar papers published in the journal. Supervisors and co-authors should be able to help to identify appropriate journals.
Responding to Feedback
Receiving critical feedback, even when it is fair and constructive, can be challenging. You may have spent many months working on the project, only to have someone point out all the things that they think you should have done. Although peer review provides a critique of your work and not of you as a person, it can feel like you are being personally criticised. This, if left unchecked, can feed into imposter syndrome.
It can be hard to find a healthy balance when receiving and responding to peer review feedback. Here are my three top tips:
- Get Support – talk the comments through with your supervisors/co-authors/colleagues. They can talk through the comments with you and help you decide how to respond. They can also provide you with emotional and wellbeing support.
- Work Hard – addressing reviewer comments can take a long time and a lot of work. Ensure that you have time set aside so that you can focus on this process and complete it thoroughly within the deadline.
- Look After Yourself – even the kindest and most constructive of peer review can be challenging. Therefore, allow yourself time to process those emotions, and to show yourself care and compassion. Remind yourself that all academics go through this process and that it ensures our work is of the highest quality. Finally, try to separate out critical review of your work and criticism of you, and remember to leave it at work!
One Final Note
It is important to note here that as it is peer review, at some point, you may be asked to review other’s work as part of this process. Additionally, when citing the work of others, you are inevitably commenting on their work. When we find ourselves on that side of peer review, we should all remember what it feels like to be on the receiving end and endeavour to be kind and constructive.