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Online Chat with Christophe Bernard


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eNeuro’s editor-in-chief Christophe Bernard answered questions on November 23, 2015 on anything related to what you should know about being a reviewer and why it’s important for your career. Explore the conversation now!

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Dear Dr Bernard, Here is my question. Iam in my 5th year of postdoc at George washington university and i have only reveiewed for 2 manuscripts so far, which were invited. I want to review more to improve my career. For this purpose, I sent out emails to journal editorial members to include me in the list of reviewers. Some of them said yes, but havent received any invitations so far. Some of them said that i need more papers to be published. Can you tell me how to approach to be included as a reviewer for any journal?

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Hi Dr. Bernard, I am a new junior faculty and I have been doing reviewing for a while.

I do have some questions in my mind, since I want to create an introductory course for our postgrad students. May I know what are the criteria for creating a good review and how can one learn to do that? In other words, how can someone prepare to be a good reviewer, and what kind of skills one should work on?

Cheers,
Heiman

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christophe_bernard

When you are an Editor or a Reviewing Editor, one criterion you are using is whether a person has published several papers in a given field. But the best, is to have had direct contacts with editors, for example if they heard you give a seminar. Choices are often based on a personal knowledge of the other person. The best is to meet these editors and talk to them. If you introduce yourself and have a good publication record it may work.
Alternatively, if your PI is reviewing a lot for a specific journal, you can ask your PI to do some reviewing (perhaps, first not officially). If this works out, the PI can directly recommend you to the journal.

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neuronline_admin

Welcome to the first Neuronline chat! We’re excited to have as our guest today eNeuro Editor-in-Chief Christophe Bernard. From noon-12:30 p.m., he will be answering your questions about being a reviewer and how it can help your career right now. Please note that all the rules of conduct for the community apply. Thanks for joining us today and feel free to begin posting your questions.

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Sounds like networking does a lot.

So would you mind telling us your experience on how do you make time for being a reviewer on top of your main job, like doing experiments, writing grants and papers?

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christophe_bernard

This is THE key question. I could write a book on that :smile:
The first place to start is during journal clubs in the lab.
Still in the lab, if the group is large enough, one can propose to review a paper when it is still under construction by a colleague. It is helpful to both.
Now, how one should perform a review? This is a very subjective issue.
One should focus on only one thing: what is the question asked? Did the authors provide a good answer?
That is the most important starting point

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shreaya_chakroborty1

Dear Dr. Bernard,

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. I am a 4th year postdoc at Rosalind Franklin University and have been reviewing manuscripts regularly for my mentor. I have been invited to review 3 manuscripts so far. I am still very new to the peer review process and would like to become a reviewer who provides positive and constructive peer reviews that would help to improve the science that is presented in any scientific journal.
Do you think pairing an inexperienced reviewer with a more experienced reviewer is a good way to help postdocs and junior faculty improve their reviewing skills? Is this something you would consider doing as eNeuro’s editor-in-chief?

Sincerely,
Shreaya

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christophe_bernard

I am selfish :wink:
True, reviewing takes my time. But I gain from it, as I can learn a lot of things when reviewing papers.
As a non-native speaker, I learned how write a paper, organize my ideas etc.
And also, as importantly, it is key to the whole science business that we give back what we receive from others.
Your science is being reviewed by others, and you are grateful for that. Hence you should do it as well.

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That would be wonder if there is a book like “reviewing 101”

Would you suggest, as from a training perspective, for a student/postdoc to start off from the basics like experimental vigor? Then the science? Or vice versa?

What kind of skill set would you recommend one should first develop on reviewing?

Thank you.

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christophe_bernard

Also a key question.
When I started to do reviews as a postdoc, I thought that I had to show my knowledge, and I was writing several pages long reviews.
You should focus on the essential as we do for eNeuro: are the conclusions supported by data? see also another comment I made on that
Hence, if they are grammar issue etc, just mention that "grammar should be fixed"
Focus on the essential: data, analysis, interpretation

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Hi Dr. Bernard, thanks for the taking the time to chat with the community! I’m a senior graduate student and consider myself lucky that my PI has involved me in the reviewing process on several manuscripts throughout my time in the lab. I know I have gained valuable experience in doing this with my PI, but do editors always know who has participated in writing a given review? Is there a way for junior scientists (graduate students and postdocs) to formally establish their reviewing reputation? Can PIs recommend grad students and postdocs directly to editors?
Thanks again for your helpful advice so far! The tips on networking with editors are especially useful.

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christophe_bernard

Yes, I was also doing it as a Reviewing Editor at J Neurosci
I was often trying junior people, and pairing them with senior ones
The nice thing with eNeuro is that the 2 reviewers and the reviewing editor talk to each other before sending the final decision to the authors. It is a very good system for junior people who want to get some experience.

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Oh, I have never thought before that reviewers do communicate like chatting or emailing before making the final decision for a manuscript.

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christophe_bernard

You’ll be happy to know that we are working at SfN in setting a course about “how to review a paper”. This should come in a not too distant future. We plan several ones, which will be interactive, as this chat.
Keep an eye on SfN emails!

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christophe_bernard

This is specific to eNeuro
This is how we ensure that we have a fair review process, and that there is no discordant messages (e.g. two opposite reviews) sent to the authors

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Thanks for the suggestion. I am a big fan of SfN and I attend the annual meeting every year since I step into the field.

I am also wondering if being reviewer of certain Journals can be put on the CVs? Does it matter also during the hiring process?

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christophe_bernard

In both SfN journals, JNeurosci and eNeuro, the reviewer can indicate whether they received help from another person. Hence the name is included and the information can be used by the reviewing editor.
Otherwise, the best course of action is for the PI (if the PI does a lot of reviews) is to recommend directly to the reviewing editor.

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christophe_bernard

Yes, it is important to add in on a CV for hiring.
We (editors of various journals) are thinking on finding a way to acknowledge reviewers (a kind of index) that will say how often a person is performing reviews.

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Just curious on something further, I also wondered is it being a prominent reviewer is a prerequisite to become a member of Editorial Board of certain journals?

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christophe_bernard

I guess that the most difficult part is to express everything clearly. The logic behind the study etc.
I was scared when I wrote my first paper, and my PI re-wrote it.
There is no other way than learning.
The best advice: consider a set of papers in your field (or other fields) beautifully written. Try to understand the packaging (not the content), i.e. how the authors lead the reader from the original question to the conclusion. Use that as models.
It worked for me.

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christophe_bernard

For SfN journals, it helps. It is not a prerequisite.
For other society journals, I don’t know.
For commercial ones, like Nature, Cell Press, they have professional reviewing editors (they are not bench scientists).

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Thanks for the advise! just another question, do you have any tips for writing a cover letter for a manuscript submission to a scientific journal?

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I guess having a service record (of reviewing) showing one’s judgement, diligence, and commitment helps. And I believe now that bringing that record up to a CV can be a significant contributing factor to career progression in the research sciences. Thank you Dr Bernard for your time and effort in answering my questions. :smile:

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neuronline_admin

Thanks to everyone for joining us on today’s chat. Check your email for a follow-up survey about possible future Neuronline chat topics next week. Thanks for participating today!

In the meantime, please also check out Neuronline articles written on the review process:

First Time Reviewers, Read This
Peer Review: Are You Asking the Right Questions?
Peer Review: Is Your Feedback Clear?

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