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 2015 workshop

Our most recent Peer Review workshop was hosted by SAGE on 29th May. An audience of Early Career Researchers (ECRs) who work in diverse areas of science joined us to discuss the benefits and issues of peer review and to hear advice from a panel of experts.

ECRs from all over the world joined the event which was broadcast live. The workshop began with participants discussing the strengths and weaknesses of peer review, as well as what an alternative system might look like. Many of the young researchers were concerned by a lack of recognition and training for getting involved in peer review as well as the potential long-term impact of a negative review.

Group work


Elizabeth Moylan started the panel session by talking about the different types of peer review, their strengths and weaknesses and which factors determine what gets selected by editors. Elizabeth also explained how quickly peer review is changing, and how this innovation brings its own challenges. Mike Smith then discussed his experiences of both being a reviewer and having his papers reviewed. He talked about the motivations and benefits of reviewing and publishing and how this can help boost career progression, as well as providing top tips on how new reviewers can avoid pitfalls. Irene Hames elaborated on the limitations of peer review and how quickly the system is evolving and changing. Irene also discussed issues of ethics and bias within peer review from the perspective of her previous work with the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).

Mike Smith

An interactive discussion followed, with many questions from the participants and insights from the panel. Questions about the role and influence of an academic editor, how to get recognition for reviewing on behalf of a supervisor and whether getting something published can be time-sensitive prompted interesting debate. The audience asked the panel about the relationship between reviewers and editors, as well as the emphasis on high impact journals and bias against publishing negative results. The participants also shared their thoughts on how important peer review can be from the public perspective.


Joanne Thomas concluded the workshop by describing Sense About Science’s work putting peer review into the hands of the public and how this can empower non-scientists to make sense of science. This previous work includes 2 public guides, I don’t know what to believe and I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it, and our public campaign Ask for Evidence

Comments by participants

"By going to this workshop I gained strategies and resources to help me be a better peer reviewer and learnt a lot more than I expected about the evolving nature of peer review."

Articles by participants

Mike SmithMike Smith, Editor in-Chief of Journal of Maps and one of the panellists in this workshop, has written about the event on his blog.


Melissa BurkeMelissa Burke reflects on her experience of the workshop on Elsevier's Reviewers' Update blog. Melissa has a PhD in Molecular Parasitology from The University of Queensland and is currently a postdoctoral researcher at The Francis Crick Institute, London. Her research focuses on the transcriptomics of host-pathogen interactions during tuberculosis. 

Elizabeth Allen is a BBRSC CASE PhD student at King's College London working collaboratively with Union chimique belge (UCB). Her project involves investigating the allosteric modulation of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a key molecule in allergic disease. Elizabeth shared her thoughts about the peer review workshop in a blog hosted by Taylor & Francis.  


With thanks to our partners: 

Taylor & Francis, Elsevier, SAGE, Wiley, F1000 Research, BioMed Central, Portland Press and PRE (Peer Review Evaluation). 

London 2015 partners

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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