Three peer review myths debunked by the First EGU Peer Review Training

Three peer review myths debunked by the First EGU Peer Review Training

In 2023, EGU offered Peer Review Training for the first time, over three virtual sessions in September and October 2023, with a little homework in between. With more than 100 applications, from which we chose 57, mostly Early Career Scientists (ECS) to fill the available places, the desire for this kind of training in the EGU community was clear. About 80% of the participants completed the training and drafted peer review reports for  manuscripts, either open to discussion or already published in one of  EGU’s 19 Open Access journals. The training facilitator, Professor Gene Rankey (University of Kansas), led the training which was supported by EGU and its Publications Committee. Together with 13 editors representing 11 of our journals, he provided individual feedback on the reports, the participants worked to improve them and, in some cases, uploaded their reports to the respective journal website as a part of the EGU Public Peer Review process. Following this great event, we want to address three of the most common myths or misconceptions the trainees identified, and how they can be debunked!


  1. Peer review only benefits authors

While there is no doubt that peer review is essential to improve the overall quality and credibility of scientific papers, it also offers benefits to the referees involved in the process. By peer reviewing manuscripts, you hone your attention to detail, improve your writing skills, and gain valuable insight into the publishing process. Being a referee can also enhance your visibility, making you better known in the academic community, especially among editors (who tend to be senior career researchers). On top of that, additional recognition is also possible from platforms such as the Web of Science.


  1. Early Career Researchers cannot review papers (especially if you haven’t yet finished a PhD)

This is a very common misconception. The reality is that senior researchers are usually busy with other academic commitments and therefore do not accept invitations to review. As a result, it has become increasingly difficult for journals to find referees for their manuscripts, which has a direct impact on an important aspect of the peer review process: timeliness!

Figure 1. Word cloud constructed with the responses of the participants when asked to complete the following statement “My confidence as a peer reviewer would grow if I….”

ECS tend to have more time and motivation to prove themselves in their field, which makes them excellent candidates for providing thorough reviews. The potential of ECS reviewers was demonstrated in the EGU’s peer review training when the trainees used real manuscripts to complete their reviews and submitted them to the review process straight away. As an extra assist to the newly trained reviewers, they were all added to EGU’s referee database after the course, setting them up to start receiving review requests straight away! Given that more than 50% of EGU members are Early Careers, we can’t help but imagine a future where all ECS are trained and empowered to interact with the reviewing process – creating a significant resource for journal editors everywhere!


  1. Peer review is not a very transparent process

For many researchers their experience of the traditional peer review process is one obscured in shadow, where the interactions between reviewers, editors and authors are hidden and unclear. Some publishers claim that they cannot discuss the peer review process of a paper with anyone except the authors, but there are many benefits to conducting peer review out in the open.  Since 2001, EGU has used a multi-stage interactive public peer review process, where every aspect of the review process from submission to solicited reviews to corrections are shared publicly and open access, connected to the finished paper. This  transparent process reflects EGU’s values, as we believe that all the collaborations and exchanges between authors, editors, reviewers and the broad scientific community need to happen in the public sphere. But in addition to this the public peer review process provides extra benefits, such as a greater accountability for reviewers to write respectful and constructive reviews, as well as an excellent way to demystify publishing for new researchers – especially those who are first generation academics.


These three myths represent just a few examples of the dynamic and fruitful discussions we had during the training, showing how important these kinds of interactive peer review training courses are. The training received very good feedback from both editors and participants and we are excited to continue to expand this training for our wonderful community of EGU members, editors and reviewers – so stay tuned for future opportunities!


Figure 2. Applicants were asked to choose up to 3 EGU journals they would like to review for. Although there is overlap in the subjects covered by different journals, each publication has a different emphasis. Most of the participants chose 3 options, indicating their broad research interests.


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Eduardo Queiroz Alves is the Editorial Manager at the European Geosciences Union. He supports the executive editors of EGU journals, the EGUsphere coordinator, and the Publications Committee, while collaborating with Copernicus Publications to develop inter-journal initiatives and promote the EGU publications. He holds a PhD in Archaeological Science/Earth Sciences from the University of Oxford in the UK and is passionate about open access communication.

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