The hidden side of clinical trials

Watch the AllTrials TEDx talk on YouTube

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Evidence matters to the public

Join us on 1st November at Parliament to make the case

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Plant Science Panel

Insecticides, biofuels, GMOs …

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'The Ugly Truth'

by Tracey Brown, director of Sense About Science

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Peer Review: The Nuts & Bolts - May 2016

On Friday 13th May, Sense about Science held a Peer Review: the nuts & bolts workshop hosted by SAGE. Participants were  early career researchers (ECRs) from a wide range of academic institutions and disciplines, all of whom were keen to find out more about the peer review system and how it impacts upon their careers.

The workshop began with a group discussion on the pros and cons of the current systems in place, and possible alternatives. This was followed by a panel session, where the three panellists gave brief presentations on their differing perspectives of the system and advice on how early career researchers can get involved in the process.

Dr Mike Smith

First up was Dr Mike Smith, Editor-in-chief of the Journal of Maps and lecturer at Kingston University. He offered insight from both sides of the fence - both as an editor who routinely sends article manuscripts to reviewers, and as a researcher having his work peer reviewed for publication. He touched upon the importance and satisfaction of getting work published, and the usefulness of constructive feedback from reviewers, however harsh it may be. Next up was Tom Gaston, Managing Editor at Wiley, who outlined the many different variations of peer review and how the landscape is changing. He described the different types of peer review, and highlighted the benefits and pitfalls of each. Lastly, Dr Hollydawn Murray, Editor at F1000Research, explained the innovative approach of post-publication review. The benefits of this system were outlined, including the speed at which scientific research can be made openly available, saving considerable time compared with the more standard pre-publication review systems that journals usually use. This prompted a lively discussion about whether it is in the public interest for papers that have yet to be scrutinised and improved by the peer review process to be available for journalists to report on- particularly for health research.

A dynamic discussion session followed the presentations, allowing the ECRs to put their questions and comments to the experts, as well as share their own experiences of peer review with their peers and the panel. The discussion covered many different areas, including how reviewers are assessed and recognised, and the ever-changing role of academic journals in the present day.

Group discussion

A second group discussion then focussed on the importance of peer review to the public and how it can act as a quality control mechanism, helping to protect against bad science. To finish the day, Joanne Thomas gave a presentation outlining the work done by Sense About Science, showcasing the Ask For Evidence campaign and how it supports people from all backgrounds to ask for the evidence behind claims and to hold organisations to account. She also outlined why peer review is such an important tool for the public and why the public guides I don’t know what to believe and I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it can help the public to weigh up claims they see about science and evidence.

Comments by participants

  • I really enjoyed the session, it was full of important info and examples of peer review/publishing practices I didn't know about before, thanks!
  • The workshop is really very interesting, especially to young academics who will gradually pass through the process of peer reviewing of article papers
  • Good mix of panellists - good to have all in one room
  • I really liked the open discussions
  • I felt encouraged to explore things further and apply to be a reviewer
  • Brilliant, thanks for organising this!
  • Thank you! Really stimulating


Charlie DuckerCharlie Ducker is a third year BBSRC DTP PhD student at the University of Nottingham. He wrote about the day for Cambridge University press here


James ShawJames Shaw is a PhD student at the University of Reading, England, developing new mathematical techniques for modelling the weather and climate. Before his return to academia, James was a software developer at Shazam. James shared his thoughts on the workshop in a blog for SAGE Connection

Susanne van der Veen is a second year PhD student at the University of Salford. Her project is about how stroke survivors adapt their gait, which involves them dealing with cognititive, blance and neuro-motor control defecits. this should answer the question: what limits this specific patient group the most in walking safely without falling? Susanne wrote about Peer Review: The Nuts and Bolts workshop in a blog for Publons


With thanks to our partners: 

Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, SAGE, Wiley, F1000 Research, BioMed Central, Portland Press, PRE (Peer Review Evaluation), eLIFE, Cambridge University Press, Medical Research Council and Publons. 

VoYS pinboard

  • Top tip 1: Ask for Evidence. If you’re being sold a product or asked to believe a claim then you deserve to know whether it’s based on evidence – or imagination.

  • Top tip 2: Detox. It’s a marketing myth – our body does it without pricey potions and detox diets.

  • Top tip 3: Superfood. There is no such thing, just foods that are high in some nutrients.

  • Top tip 4: Cleansing. You shouldn’t be trying to cleanse anything other than your skin or hair.

  • Top tip 5: If it sounds too good to be true… it probably is.

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