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Supporting doctoral students and early career researchers in journal peer review in educational research: Issues and suggestions (Part 2)

Sin-Wang Chong, Senior Lecturer (Associate Professor) in Language Education, University of Edinburgh

In Part 1 of this two-part blog post, I surveyed the landscape of journal peer review in educational research and underscored the importance of involving junior researchers. Am I suggesting that everyone can be a journal peer reviewer? No, people need training. Am I devaluing the contributions of expert reviewers? No, what I am suggesting is a reallocation or expansion of their expertise to train the next generation of peer reviewers. We, as an academic community, need to provide opportunities to doctoral students and early career researchers to grow and blossom as journal peer reviewers. In my experience, serving as peer reviewers is the best way for junior researchers to gain hands-on experience and an insider’s perspective to peer review. 

Creating pedagogic moments in journal peer review: Some suggestions 

First, doctoral students and early career researchers could be invited to sit on journal editorial boards. I know some journals offer ‘internships’ to junior researchers, providing them with the opportunity to review for the journal. Language Teaching published by Cambridge University Press, for example, has an annual essay writing competition opened to doctoral students and early career researchers. The winner is offered a place on the editorial board of the journal for a year, providing them with hands-on experience of peer reviewing.  

A second suggestion is to have doctoral students and early career researchers serve as a regular peer reviewer (not an ad hoc reviewer), sometimes called the College of Reviewers. These novice peer reviewers receive regular invitations from the same journal, helping them get acquainted with the standards of the journal, and the practice and culture of peer review of the journal. It is not enough to simply invite doctoral students and early career researchers to review; journal editors and experienced reviewers need to provide mentorship opportunities. For example, some journals, such as Advancing Scholarship and Research in Higher Education, adopt a collaborative peer-review model, where a group of reviewers, comprising the new and experienced, meet to discuss a manuscript. Elsewhere, I have proposed the creation of an additional position on the journal editorial board that focuses on mentoring new peer reviewers for the journal (Chong, 2021). This experienced researcher would co-review with new peer reviewers, providing guidance and support throughout the process of writing up an evaluation report.  

‘It is not enough to simply invite doctoral students and early career researchers to review; journal editors and experienced reviewers need to provide mentorship opportunities.’

A third initiative would be to create a repository of doctoral students and early career researchers with a range of expertise in educational research topics and methodologies who are willing to serve as journal peer reviewers. Additional information such as their research backgrounds, reviewing experiences and sample publications will also be uploaded to the repository. Training will be provided to the peer reviewers who register on the repository, and if they complete the training, this will also be indicated on the system. The repository will be shared with editors of educational research journals who will indicate whether they would be willing to invite a certain number of doctoral students and early career researchers on the repository to review for their journals every year. I also propose to create badges (an idea similar to the open science badges awarded to journals) for these journals who participate in this initiative to show on their websites that they are actively supporting and including doctoral students and early career researchers in their peer-review process. 

I am hoping to begin the consultation and planning phase of this idea later this year, when opinions from journal editors, publishers and early career researchers will be sought. In preparation for this initiative, several events are being planned. These include a summer school on journal peer review focusing on responding to and providing feedback, and peer-review retreats for participants to discuss in small groups about how to respond to peer-review feedback they receive or to provide feedback on a manuscript that they are invited to review.  

Conclusion 

It is of paramount importance that we consider the developmental benefits of peer review for doctoral students and early career researchers in educational research. It is not my intention to downplay the value of ‘expertise’ and ‘experience’; rather, the intent of this blog is to invite us to ponder what ‘peer’ means in ‘peer review’, and how we can create space and opportunities for junior researchers to make our journal peer-review model sustainable and inclusive.

Reference

Chong, S. W. (2021). Improving peer-review by developing reviewers’ feedback literacy. Learned Publishing, 34(3), 461–467. https://doi.org/10.1002/leap.1378