Reviewer of the Month
Each month beginning in October 2018, our editors will select one of our outstanding referees to be featured as Reviewer of the Month. See our editorial from September 6, 2018 for more information about our Reviewer of the Month program.
Our featured reviewers are those who have:
- made a significant and positive contribution to the peer review process, regardless of whether the paper was eventually accepted by the journal;
- taken both a broad and detailed view of the paper;
- demonstrated professionalism and compassion in their reviews; and
- provided comments that truly help the authors to improve their work.
We must note that, while it is our opinion that these referees have provided exceptional reviews, many of our referees meet the above criteria and we regret that we cannot recognize each of them publicly here. We are equally grateful to all of the individuals who agree to review for Communications Biology, thereby helping to strengthen the scientific record. We hope that by highlighting a few of our most outstanding referees, we can bring attention to the valuable contributions of peer reviewers to the scientific process.
June: Jorge A. Marchand, University of Washington, USA
May: Alexandra Newman, New York University Langone Medical Center, USA
April: Xu Tan, Tsinghua University, China
March: Sharon Schlesinger, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
February: Melanie Wencker, Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie, France
January: Katharine Irvine, Mater Research, The University of Queensland, Australia
December: Guido Bonthond, Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg, Germany
November: Bishal Paudel, University of Virginia, Virginia, USA
October: Natalia Zaretskaya, University of Graz, Graz, Austria
September: Aiko Sada, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto Japan
August: Anne-Laure Decombeix, CNRS, Montpellier, France
July: Arsalan Emami-Khoyi, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, South Africa
June: Dmitry Kobak, Tübingen University, Tübingen, Germany
May: Elena Schroeter, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA
April: Natalia Paladino, National University of Quilmes and CONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina
March: Daniel Frigo, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA
February: Isabel Pardo, Margarita Salas Center for Biological Research, Madrid, Spain
January: Markus Löffler, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Germany
December: Tinatin Brelidze, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, D.C., USA
November: Shelly Buffington, The University of Texas Medical Branch, USA
October: Brian Steidinger, University of Konstanz, Germany
September: Alex Moffett, York University, Canada
August: Katrina Jones, University of Manchester, UK
July: Anna Martner, University of Gothenburg, Sweden
June: Hisashi Kawasaki, University of Tokyo, Japan
May: Dipanjan Roy, National Brain Research Center, India
April: Umberto León-Domínguez, University of Monterrey, Mexico
March: Ilhem Messaoudi, University of California Irvine, USA
February: Kaoru Ito, RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences, Japan
January: Nicholas Marra, Drury University, USA
December: Thomas Pucadyil, Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, India
November: Jaeda Coutinho-Budd, University of Vermont, USA
October: María de la Paz Fernández, Barnard College, USA
September: Christoph Baumann, University of York, UK
August: Ana María Estrada Sánchez, IPICYT, Mexico
July: Fernando Villanea, Brown University, USA
June: Karuna Ganesh, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA
May: Alejandra Bruna, Institute of Cancer Research, UK
April: Takuro Nakagawa, Osaka University, Japan
March: Mehdi Fallahnezhad, Sorbonne University UPMC, France
February: Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad, Queen’s University Belfast, UK
January: Florencia Assaneo, New York University, USA
December: Sissel Jentoft , University of Oslo, Norway
November: Danielle Tullman-Ercek, Northwestern University, USA
October: Janet Young, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, USA
September: Kelly Manthei, University of Michigan, USA
August: Taj Azarian, University of Central Florida, USA
July: Jinju Han, Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), South Korea
June: Mark Walton, University of Oxford, UK
May: Chiea Chuen Khor, Genome Institute of Singapore, Singapore
April: Jeanette Mumford, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
March: Wen Huang, Michigan State University, USA
February: Peter Friedl, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, NL & MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA
January: Shaun Killen & Jack Hollins, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
December: Lucia Di Marcotullio, University of Rome "La Sapienza", Rome, Italy
November: Sandra Rieger, University of Miami, USA
October: Rebecca Howard, Science for Life Laboratory, Stockholm, Sweden
Jorge A. Marchand
Jorge A. Marchand is an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington. Jorge completed his Ph.D. in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2019 and a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical School. His group now utilizes fundamental approaches in synthetic biology, chemical biology, biosynthesis, and biomolecular engineering for reprogramming life at the nucleic acid level and focus on three fundamental areas in the xenonucleic acid field: enzymatic synthesis, next-generation sequencing, and synthetic biology. You can contact him on Twitter: @SyntBio
On peer review, Jorge says: “I generally find peer reviewing for journals to be an incredibly valuable service to the greater scientific community. It allows me to contribute towards ensuring the high quality and credibility of published research. I also find it to be a fulfilling way to stay connected with the ever-evolving frontiers of many biological research fields. The decision 'to peer review or not to peer review' is easiest when the request comes from a journal you already frequently read.”
Dr. Alexandra Newman is a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Dr. Kathryn Moore at the New York University Langone Medical Center studying drivers of cross-disease communication between cardiovascular disease and cancer (called Reverse Cardio-Oncology). She received her PhD in 2019 from the University of Virginia in the lab of Dr. Gary Owens where she studied the metabolic regulation of smooth muscle cells for maintenance of atherosclerotic plaque stability. You can connect with her on Twitter: @aacnewman13
On peer review, Alexandra says: “I try to be the reviewer I would like to have: thoughtful and constructive (and timely). After all, I want the manuscript I’m reviewing to become a strong paper. As a postdoctoral fellow I benefit tremendously from reviewing manuscripts, learning how to structure my own papers and figures and where my blind spots might be. I do believe that at its core peer review is a noble ideal allowing ideas and knowledge to be refined and honed. Though it carries and exposes its own weaknesses, inefficiencies, and inequalities, science is not science without this process.”
Dr Xu Tan is a research group leader at Tsinghua University. He obtained a PhD in Pharmacology at the University of Washington and did postdoctoral training in Virology at Harvard Medical School. His research interests are in virus-host interactions and antiviral drug discovery as well as in protein ubiquitination and degradation.
On why he peer reviewed for Communications Biology: “I was attracted by the catchy title of the paper at first so I chose to review the paper. After reading the whole paper, it seemed to me that the title might be a bit over-selling. But the data looked solid and the study design well-thought out.”
Dr Schlessinger is a Senior lecturer at the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Rehovot, Israel.Her group studies how cell identity, i.e. a cell's lineage, morphology, and function, is controlled by its epigenetic landscape and transcriptional program. Their research aims to investigate what is unique about the epigenetic regulation of retroviral sequences in embryonic stem cells, how environmental stress affects bovine stem cell fate, and how the data from these aims can be used to develop biotechnological applications for the benefit of humans, animals, and the planet. You can visit her lab homepage here.
On peer review, she says: “I see being a peer reviewer as a crucial responsibility for scientists, as peer review is a critical step in assessing the validity, reliability, and relevance of manuscripts submitted for publication. I always aim to provide valuable feedback to authors, ensuring that their research meets the highest standards of scientific rigor, and helping to identify potential areas for improvement and even suggest additional experiments and controls that will strengthen the manuscript. Additionally, being a peer reviewer for Communication Biology provides valuable experience and exposure to cutting-edge research in my field, and helps me guide my students and mentees in assessing the quality and accuracy of scientific research. Overall, serving as a peer reviewer for Communication Biology is an essential service to the scientific community and a vital contribution to the advancement of scientific knowledge.”
Melanie Wencker obtained a PhD in Virology in 2009, on the pro-leukemogenic activity of HTLV-1 retrovirus in human immature thymocytes, at the Ecole Normale Supérieure of Lyon (France). (France). She then joined the laboratory of Pr. A. Hayday at Cancer Research UK in London where she focused her research on gd T-cells (which are prototypic unconventional T-cells). In 2014, she obtained an INSERM position as a principal investigator and joined the Centre International de Recherche en Infectiologie in Lyon. She now studies several aspects of CD8 T-cells’ biology, mainly using in vivo models, with a specific interest in tissue resident memory T-cells following viral infection.
“I believe peer-reviewing participates in science integrity and reviewers have a responsibility in assessing the quality of the presented data (in terms of controls, reproducibility, clarity of the text, methods…). When I review a paper, I thus try to look at it in details, but I also try to keep the big picture in mind: “what is the main message? do the presented data support the authors’ conclusions? how important it is for the community to know about those results?”. In this way, even “negative results” are important! Finally, I try to write my reviews in the nicest possible ways, highlighting the good parts of the study as well, since we are all scientists after all. At Communications Biology our work as a reviewer is highly valued, which I greatly appreciate when communicating with editors.”
Dr Katharine Irvine is a research group leader at Mater Research-The University of Queensland, Australia. Her research focusses on macrophage contributions to the progression and complications of chronic liver disease, and in translational research focused on macrophages in metabolic diseases and regenerative medicine more generally. Her team and collaborators span a spectrum of preclinical-clinical research in liver disease. Dr Irvine has diverse technical expertise across genomics and bioinformatics, molecular and cellular biology, in vivo investigations in mice and rats, as well as clinical research design and analysis. See more at www.macrophagelab.org. Twitter: @kateirvine10; @materresearch
On peer review she said, "I have greatly benefited from both peer reviewing and receiving reviews. The most valuable peer reviews should be honest, respectful and transparent, and seek to elevate the research. Peer review can feel like an unseen and thankless task, so I commend Communications Biology for taking the initiative to recognize reviewers."
Dr. Guido Bonthond is a microbial ecologist, working at the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg (Germany).
John H. Lawton (1999 Oikos 84:177-192) famously posited that “community ecology is a mess”. Challenged and inspired by this statement, he aims to better understand –and bring order to– microbial community ecology. On this venture, he studies microbial communities from marine sediments and different host organisms, including macroalgae. His work tries to unravel how microbial communities are shaped in space and time and in response to anthropogenic processes such as fishing activity or biological invasions. You can find and follow his research on twitter (@g_bonthond).
On peer review he comments: "The peer review process is not perfect. Reviewers and editors have to read a study in great detail, which is a demanding task. If a review is rushed, it may slow down good quality work or fail to filter out errors. Peer review is, however, also a beautiful and important task. Getting a preview into the work of a colleague is exciting and interesting. As author, a good review can be discouraging and encouraging at the same time. I enjoy reviewing a study and see the in-depth reading as a necessary exercise, keeping the academic mind in good shape. As researchers, we should strive to regularly review papers and do so with commitment. It is critical that academic evaluations better appreciate this dedicated effort."
Dr. Bishal Paudel is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Virginia. His interests lie in using multi-disciplinary approaches to understand the cellular/molecular basis of heterogeneity in cancer, and how that contributes to tumorigenesis and/or drug-resistance. He can be reached on his twitter handle (@paudelbb).
On peer-review process: "Peer-review is a pillar of scientific research, and ensures scientific rigor, integrity and quality in the manuscripts. Peer-review should focus on providing constructive feedback to the authors to help improve the manuscripts. It should be intended to ensure quality in the publications, and whether the claims are supported by the data, and should never be intended to ask for details that the story does not require. Scientific publications would benefit greatly if the reviewers treat the manuscripts they review as their own, and provide suggestions on what the manuscripts lacks from both scientific, and statistical point of view."
Dr. Natalia Zaretskaya is a research group leader at the Institute of Psychology of the University of Graz, Austria. Before moving to Graz, she worked at the Centre for Integrative Neuroscience of the University of Tübingen and at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, MGH/Harvard Medical School in Boston. Her primary research interests are visual and cognitive neuroscience and MRI methods, including high-resolution MRI at ultrahigh magnetic fields. Her group is working on understanding how the poor visual information that our eyes send to our brain is transformed into a rich and meaningful experience of the world around us. The group also works on MRI tools and approaches for studying the human brain, with an emphasis on visual processing. You can visit the Zaretskaya group website and reach her on Twitter: @ZaretskayaN.
Dr. Zaretskaya believes that “peer review is not only an opportunity to give back, but also to learn from the authors (and sometimes from their mistakes). While peer-reviewing, I try to help the authors to improve their manuscript, which makes it an exciting scientific endeavour and a fun collaboration.”
Dr. Aiko Sada is an Associate Professor at the International Research Center for Medical Sciences (IRCMS), Kumamoto University, Japan. The Sada laboratory is interested in how epidermal stem cell populations with different cell division frequencies behave and are regulated during skin regeneration and aging. We are currently studying the mechanisms of stem cell regulation by combining cell & molecular biology techniques, genetic engineering of mice, tissue engineering, omics analysis, glycobiology, and so on. Our research goal is to reveal the drivers and effectors of epidermal stem cell dysfunction. Targeting these factors may prevent or cure diseases at the stem cell level, with implications for applications in regenerative therapy and future treatments of skin aging, cancer, and other disorders. You can visit the Sada Lab website and follow them on Twitter (@sada_laboratory).
Regarding peer review, she says: I believe that peer review of papers is critical for the entire research community because it improves the quality of papers, discusses the reliability of data, and can lead to new ideas. I have had many experiences where our papers have been greatly improved by comments from reviewers who are experts in the field and sometimes noticing points that we had missed. When I review papers as a reviewer, I try to determine what is essential, accurately explain the authors of the points that need revision, and make sure that revising experiments is not overly demanding. I also read comments from other reviewers on areas that are not my primary expertise so that I can evaluate papers from multiple perspectives. Reading papers critically is also important for me, as a junior PI, to improve my research abilities.
Dr Anne-Laure Decombeix is a paleobotanist and CNRS (French National Centre for Scientific Research) research scientist. She works at UMR AMAP (https://amap.cirad.fr/en/index.php) in Montpellier, France, an interdisciplinary department conducting research on plants and plant communities. She is also an affiliate researcher at the University of Kansas. Dr Decombeix studies fossils from the Paleozoic and early Mesozoic (400-200 million years ago) to understand the biology and evolution of key groups of plants. She is especially interested in the evolution of vascular tissues and in how we can reconstruct the biology of fossil trees. You can find her homepage here: https://annelauredecombeix.wordpress.com and reach her on Twitter at @ALDecombeix
Her comments on peer-review: I have benefitted from some very helpful reviews of my own papers and I try to do my part although it can be quite time consuming. As a reviewer I strive to provide constructive comments for the authors and to clearly present what I think are the strengths and weaknesses (if any!) of the paper, especially for multidisciplinary journals where the editors may be less familiar with the research area. I think giving the authors the possibility to publish reviews and rebuttal letters together with their article makes the process more respectful and transparent and should be encouraged in more journals.
Dr Arsalan Emami-Khoyi is an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Johannesburg who works on the interface between population genomics and functional genomics. His interest is in understanding different evolutionary forces that influence genomic diversity and local adaptation in wild populations. He says the following about peer review:
“I think both authors and reviewers will benefit from a thorough review process. In a rapidly evolving field like genomics, it is practically impossible for a single researcher to keep pace with the latest developments in the field. I not only consider the review process to be an opportunity to help improve the quality of promising papers, but it is often also a good opportunity to consolidate my background knowledge and learn about new methods that I can apply in my studies.”
Dr. Dmitry Kobak is a research scientist at Tübingen University, Germany, working on data analysis of single-cell RNA-seq data. He is most interested in unsupervised learning, in particular manifold learning and dimensionality reduction for 2D visualization of biological datasets. Apart from that, he is interested in statistical forensics and was involved in analysis of Russian electoral falsifications and Covid-19 excess mortality and misreporting. Before coming to Tübingen, Dr. Kobak studied computer science and physics in St. Petersburg, Russia, did a PhD in computational neuroscience between Freiburg, Germany, and Imperial College London, UK, and then a postdoc at the Champalimaud Institute, Portugal. You can read more about his research here and follow him on Twitter at @hippopedoid.
He says: “There has recently been a lot of criticism towards the traditional academic publication model and peer-review, with some claims that the current peer-review system is broken, only serves for gate-keeping, and is in general not useful. While I agree that the system is often ineffective and frustrating, I do find peer-review useful. As an author, I found that a good review can be extremely valuable and can strongly improve the paper. So as a reviewer, I try to focus on actionable suggestions that can help the authors make their paper more useful for the scientific community.”
Elena Schroeter is an Assistant Research Professor at North Carolina State University. As a molecular paleontologist, she studies the preservation of organic remains in fossils from a range of ages and tissue types. She specializes in the application of tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to fossils, including development of methodology to overcome the unique challenges of working with highly degraded or diagenetically altered tissues.
She says: “In my opinion, the scientific method is in the running for the greatest wonder humans have ever devised, because unlike the Colossus of Rhodes or the Lighthouse of Alexandria, its foundation is strengthened and its reach is broadened with the passage of time. Peer review is a core pillar in what makes the process of science unique. It is what puts scientific knowledge in a continuous state of re-evaluation and refinement, in which gaps are actively sought and addressed instead of being left to grow and compound. As individual peer reviewers, each of us play a very small but dynamic role in ensuring the body of scientific knowledge future generations inherit to build upon is as robust as we can make it.”
Dra. Natalia Paladino is an Associate Professor in the Science and Technology Department at the National University of Quilmes and Assistant Researcher at the National Research Council (CONICET) of Argentina. She works in the Laboratory of Chronobiology (http://cronos.web.unq.edu.ar/), which studies the circadian system in different models in physiologic and pathologic conditions. Since she studied the immune system in her PhD, her research is focused on the bidirectional interaction between the immune and the circadian systems. Actually, she leads two different research topics, one of these studying the role of the circadian variation of the immune system in the tumor progression in mice, and the other analyzing the daily differences that modulate the mortality rate in a sepsis mouse model.
Regarding peer review she says: “I think it is important that many researchers participate in the review process to make it richer and more transparent, having many different points of view. In addition, I consider this activity to be a good opportunity to learn about different topics and experiments, and to contribute to improving the research of different colleagues.”
Dr. Dan Frigo is an Associate Professor in the Departments of Cancer Systems Imaging (primary) and Genitourinary Medical Oncology (secondary) at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In addition, he holds adjunct positions at the University of Houston and The Houston Methodist Research Institute. The Frigo Laboratory is currently focused on understanding how various signaling pathways, such as those regulated by the androgen receptor, CAMKK2, AMPK, mTOR and Myc, drive the progression of prostate cancer. The long-term goal of this work is to exploit these newly uncovered pathways for therapeutic purposes. Interestingly, many of these signaling pathways converge at various metabolic nodes. The end result is a shift in oncogenic metabolism that allows the cancer cells to utilize a diverse array of nutrients to the benefit of the cancer cell. Read more about the Frigo lab's research here.
Regarding his decision to review for Communications Biology, Dr. Frigo says, "I’m a proponent of the open access format, giving everyone the chance to read and review each other’s findings. I appreciate the broad audience as well and opportunity to read about diverse fields. In addition, I’m a big believer that not all studies have to contain 25 figures of exhaustive mechanism - that may or may not be true - to have an impact. If the experiments are done well, the conclusions are honest, and there is benefit for the field, I am a very supportive reviewer. For me, an author’s ability to recognize the limitations of their own work and call out where the gaps are that need to be filled in by the field is often just as important as the reported new findings."
Dr. Isabel Pardo recently joined the Margarita Salas Center for Biological Research in Madrid, Spain, as a Research Fellow in 2021. Her research is focused on the biological upcycling of plastics, using bacteria and enzymes to convert different plastic waste streams into sustainable materials with a closed-loop life cycle. In her lab, she combines her expertise in protein engineering and synthetic biology to develop improved biocatalysts, but her research interests include using multidisciplinary approaches to curb plastics pollution. You can follow Dr. Pardo on Twitter at @IsaParmen.
As a Peer Reviewer, Dr. Pardo says, "I strive to give the type of feedback that helps improve a manuscript and that I would like to receive as an author myself. This requires time and effort that oftentimes goes unnoticed, but it is important in order to advance scientific knowledge with the required rigor. I also consider that reviewing others’ work is useful to develop a critical eye to apply to my own research and improve its quality, so I would encourage other young scientists to participate in the revision process whenever they can."
Dr. Markus W. Löffler is a research group leader and physician-scientist working at the intersection of immunology and surgery at the University of Tübingen in Germany. His broad interests include the characterization of HLA-presented peptides with a view to translational research. As a clinical researcher and trials expert he has supported first-in-human vaccine studies, e.g. against liver cancer and COVID-19. Dr. Löffler is interested in drug development and bringing new therapies to the clinic (find a list of his publications here). Being invested in teaching and science communication he has recently taught a seminar about COVIDSurg, a worldwide consortium of scientists aiming to address the challenges in surgery brought about by the Corona virus pandemic. You can find an interview with Dr. Löffler about the COVIDSurg network and conducting scientific research here and follow him on Twitter at @marks_science. (Image credit: Verena Müller / University Hospital Tübingen)
Concerning peer review, Dr. Löffler says, “for me personally peer-review is hard work and frequently I have to invest substantial resources concerning time and effort to provide top notch feedback for authors and editors alike. I am aware that peer-review as we know it is probably among the worst approaches for guaranteeing scientific integrity, however it is currently the best approach we have available.During the Coronavirus pandemic this process has come under pressure and many reviewers have been struggling with numerous requests to review and tight timelines. I feel an obligation to give back, since as researchers we all need fair and high-quality peer-review. However, there are limits to what I can realistically provide and for me quality in peer-review generally supersedes speed.”
Dr. Brelidze is an Associate Professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Physiology at Georgetown University Medical Center. Research in her laboratory is focused on studies of regulatory mechanisms of ion channels and identification of novel ion channel modulators. For these studies Dr. Brelidze and her research group use a variety of methods, including electrophysiology, biochemistry, fluorescence-based methods, and zebrafish and rodent animal models. For more information on the laboratory you can visit her faculty profile.
Dr. Brelidze feels that the peer review is an integral part of scientific process. "Quality reviews can substantially improve a manuscript and uphold standards in the field. As someone who started her own laboratory not so long ago, I am indebted to peer reviewers who shaped my manuscripts and feel that the reviewer’s comments are especially valuable for new investigators who are publishing their first manuscripts as senior authors."
Dr. Buffington is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, & Anatomy, as well as the Sealy Center for Microbiome Research, at The University of Texas Medical Branch. Her research group is interested in how host-microbe interactions contribute to synaptic plasticity and behavior, and how modulation of the maternal microbiome relates to neurodevelopmental disease. Her multidisciplinary work integrates mouse genetics, behavior, electrophysiology, immunology, metagenomics, and transcriptomics to investigate the gut-brain axis. You can read more about her research at her website.
Dr. Buffington thinks that “Peer review is a really critical component of the scientific process because it allows experts that are independent from the investigative team to carefully and objectively consider the work in the context of the broader field and to provide suggestions for how to improve it, for the benefit of the authors as well as the greater scientific community. I am pleased to serve as a reviewer for Communications Biology because of the platform it provides for rigorous, interdisciplinary studies of interest to a broad scientific audience.”
Dr. Brian Steidinger studies the ecology of plants and their microbial symbionts. He uses a combination of classical ecological theory and large-scale, macroecological data analysis to determine the mechanisms that shape the distribution and diversity of symbiosis from the global to the root tip scale. He got a Masters Degree from the University of Illinois, a PhD from Indiana University, and is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at University of Konstanz. You can learn more at his website and follow him on Twitter at @SteidingerBrian.
Dr. Steidinger's experience as an author has shaped his view on peer review: "I have been fortunate as an author in that I have had great peer reviewers who really helped improve my work. I do my best to "pay it forward" by imitating those good reviewers. I think the best thing a reviewer can do is to identify the strengths of an existing work while setting a standard for thorough analysis and a crisp, clear presentation so that those strengths can really shine."
Dr. Alex Moffett is a postdoctoral fellow at York University in Toronto, Canada. His research interests center on understanding how cells perceive their environment, communicate, and make decisions. His research draws on techniques from information theory, population genetics, and systems biology. Alex has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in biophysics and computational biology. As a graduate student, he used molecular dynamics simulations to understand how plant proteins transduce growth signals carried by hormones. You can learn more about his research at his website.
Regarding peer review at Communications Biology, Dr. Moffett says, "I greatly appreciate that postdocs and graduate students can sign up to review for Communications Biology. I think it's important that we get to contribute to the scientific process through peer review, and it isn't always easy to do so earlier in one's career." (PS: to volunteer as a reviewer, fill out our Google form!)
Dr. Katrina Jones is a Presidential Fellow and Royal Society University Research Fellow at the University of Manchester, interested in the anatomy and evolution of the mammalian skeleton, particularly the vertebral column. Her work combines comparative anatomy, quantitative morphology (e.g., geometric morphometrics, evolutionary modelling), and biomechanics to understand the evolutionary drivers of the mammalian axial skeleton. Dr. Jones has a PhD in Functional Anatomy and Evolution from Johns Hopkins University and was an NSF-funded postdoc in the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. You can learn more about her reserach on her website here and follow her on Twitter at @kjonesthebones.
On peer review, Dr. Jones says, "I enjoy peer reviewing because it allows me to help develop and support research in my field, stay on top of the latest discoveries, and work with scientists from all over the world to improve the quality of research outputs. Contributing to peer review is one of the most important ways in which I stay engaged with my broader research community and important scientific debates and discussions."
Dr. Anna Martner is an Associate Professor in Immunology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. She and her research group carry out translational cancer studies, with the aim of finding treatment combinations that may prevent relapse and metastasis. One major research focus is therapeutic inhibitors of the myeloid cell enzyme NOX2 that generates immunosuppressive reactive oxygen species (ROS). In the presence of NOX2-inhibitors, cytotoxic NK cells and T cells appear to be more responsive to cytokine stimulation and checkpoint inhibitors, leading to improved immunosurveillance. You can read more about this research at the Martnerlab website (martnerlab.com) and also follow the groups Twitter account at @Martnerlab.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Martner says “The peer review process is time consuming, but very important in order to maintain research quality. If you want your own manuscripts to be reviewed, you must do the same for others. The papers that I accept to review are either in my exact area of expertise, or in a close by field that I wish to learn more about. In the second scenario, I take the peer review process as an opportunity to read up on a field and thus expand my knowledge.”
Dr. Hisashi Kawasaki is a Project Professor in the Agro-Biotechnology Research Center at the Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Japan. His group focuses on membrane transport using their unique "electrophysiological analysis system", developed in the Kawasaki lab, which allows the analysis of organelle and bacterial cell membranes. In addition, his laboratory focuses on the investigation of membrane transport using all-atom molecular dynamics simulation with a supercomputer, such as "Fugaku," and a close-to-real membrane model, created by applying the lipid force field also developed by his group. Making full use of these non-traditional methods, Dr. Hisashi Kawasaki aims to gain novel insights into membrane transport. Dr. Hisashi Kawasaki also promotes research that aims to contribute to a sustainable society; for example, improving the functionality of microbial cell factories and the efficiency of renewable resource production. You can read more about his research on the website of his laboratory here.
His website in English is under construction and is foreseen to be completed by mid-June 2021.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Kawasaki says: “Certainly, it is necessary to critically verify the adequacy of the experiments conducted by the authors and the correctness of the conclusions. However, I will strive to improve the manuscript so that important findings that contribute to scientific advancement are not overwhelmed by always striving for perfection.”
Professor Dipanjan Roy leads the Cognitive Brain Dynamics and Connectivity Lab at the National Brain Research Center in Gurgaon, India. His group employs a range of behavioural, imaging, neural recording and computational approaches to investigate network dynamics and connectivity in relation to learning and memory, perception and attention, aging, and multi-sensory processing. Professor Roy has made key contributions to understanding the computational role of time delay, time-scale separation, structure-function relationship and plasticity. You can read more about his research at his website and follow him on Twitter @dynamicdip.
Professor Roy says “Reviewing a manuscript allows us to identify work that has the potential to make an advance and also introduces us to new research questions and perspectives. It provides us with an opportunity to see exciting new results as well as demonstrations of new technological advances and their potential application. Furthermore, as reviewers, we can remain unbiased and disconnected from the authors. This enables us to focus on the merit of the content as well as the reproducibility, generalisability and societal impact. Finally, reviewing also benefits the reviewer themselves. It provides a perfect opportunity to learn from the work being reviewed and so enables the development of the reviewer’s own intuition and ideas in their lab and research projects.”
Dr. León-Domínguez is an Assistant Professor of Neuropsychology and Director of the Human Cognition and Brain Studies lab at the University of Monterrey in Mexico. He also works as a consultant for the Center for Brain Injury Rehabilitation (CRECER) in Seville, Spain and for the “Instituto Nuevo Amanecer” of Monterrey, Mexico, specializing in the implementation of multidisciplinary neurorehabilitation programs and brain research. His research group has published several articles about brain injury, including some theoretical frameworks about the functioning of human consciousness. He pushes himself and his students to think out of the box in order to design and develop research and projects with meaning and value. You can read more about his research at his website and follow him on Twitter @umbertoleon.
Dr. León-Domínguez says, “the peer reviewing process is the main foundation of the social and technology progress, because it ensures that the article published in the journal fulfills the sufficient scientific criteria to be considered valid, reliable and legitimate. Reviewing a manuscript means that the potential paper will add value to the scientific community, and also that the knowledge contained in it, may be a plausible hypothesis that will motivate other specialists to continue with the line of research, or even, to create some innovative technology… So, in my opinion, the peer-reviewing process is a treasure that scientists, clinicians, politicians, media, scientific journals and society, in general, should take care of.”
Dr. Messaoudi is a Professor in the Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry at the University of California-Irvine, School of Biological Sciences, and currently serves as the director for UCI Center for Virus Research (@UCVirusResearch) and a member of the executive committee of the Institute for Immunology. During her graduate and postdoctoral years, she gained outstanding training in anti-viral immunity and immune senescence at Cornell Medical School/Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and Oregon Health and Science University respectively. Her laboratory uses a combination of experimental and computational approaches to address fundamental questions related to immunity and host defense: 1) mechanisms of viral pathogenesis, notably that of emerging and re-emerging pathogens; 2) dysregulation of immunity by age and alcohol use disorder; 3) modulation of immunity at the maternal-fetal interface by pregravid obesity; and 4) role of the microbiome in infectious disease.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Messaoudi says, “we all have seen the video about reviewer #3 that has gone viral and most of us have experienced that moment more than we care to admit. Nevertheless, peer review is the best mechanism that we have today to advance knowledge through rigorous yet thoughtful and constructive evaluations of manuscripts and grant proposals. Reviewing is not only a service to our community, but also a process by which we can grow as scientists. I embrace the responsibility that comes with being a reviewer and strive to ensure that my evaluations are constructive while ensuring scientific rigor to advance the field.” You can follow Dr. Messaoudi on Twitter at @MessaoudiLab.
Dr. Kaoru Ito is a team leader at the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in Yokohama, Japan. His group seeks to understand the genetic causes of cardiovascular diseases and genetic variants specific to the Japanese population. Dr. Ito's group is working on analysis methods, such as an application of artificial intelligence to solve the "P greater than N” scenario, where the sample size is small, but the number of variants to be analyzed is large, and an integrated disease risk scoring system for clinical use. Finally, Dr. Ito and colleagues are developing a system to prioritize variants of unknown significance using massively parallel in vitro assays. You can read more about Dr. Ito's research on his lab website.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Ito says, 'I believe it is one of the most important steps in science. Since science is based on the premise that it is done correctly and in the right way, I suppose we should make sure stringently that the methods are properly used and that they are used in accordance with their assumptions. In addition, papers are the product of the blood, sweat, and tears of researchers, so I not only judge whether a paper is worthy of being published in the journal, but also think hard about how I can provide useful suggestions that make the paper improved and more interesting. I will be very happy if this process makes the paper better and contributes to 'right' science."
Dr. Nicholas Marra is an Associate Professor at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri. His research uses computational and sequencing approaches to understand the genetic basis of physiological adaptation in animals, and how genomes evolve. Dr. Marra completed his post-doctoral training at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, working on shark genome sequencing and molecular evolution. Prior to that, his PhD at Purdue University focussed on osmoregulation and kidney function in desert rodents.
About peer review, Dr. Marra says, “I consider peer review one of the most important service activities that we have as scientists. Through the peer review process, we ensure that each publication advances our knowledge in a productive and meaningful way. Authors have put significant work into any study that has reached the point of peer review, and as a reviewer I try to put myself in the author’s shoes to make sure that my review is constructive in its critiques. While checking that the study is accurate and robust, I also find it is important to stress strengths so that they are not inadvertently removed in future edits and are appropriately highlighted. Quality peer reviews improve my own publications, and thus I consider reviewing for journals such as Communications Biology an opportunity to pay it forward and to learn about new, exciting work that will benefit the field.”
Dr Thomas Pucadyil is an Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Pune, India. His research is directed towards understanding how vesicles form by membrane fission. His laboratory uses assays in which membrane fission is directly reconstituted to screen for fission activity in cell and tissue lysates, identify the proteins involved in fission and to develop experimental models to understand how they function in the cell. You can read more about his research at his website and follow him on Twitter @TPucadyil.
He says the following about peer review: "I believe in the peer review process since it is the fairest mechanism to ensure that we advance in science. Providing positive and constructive inputs to manuscripts is critical to the success of the peer review process - not only does it give us the opportunity to learn from and understand a colleagues perspective but it also reaffirms our commitment towards the betterment of the scientific enterprise. Personally, I feel that the peer review process offers tremendous opportunities to engage in a thought experiment and introspect about my own work."
Dr. Jaeda Coutinho-Budd is a neurobiologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Vermont. She and her team are studying the development and function of glial cells, and how impairment in these cells affects overall nervous system. You can check out her research group here and follow her on Twitter (@JCoutinhoBudd). Dr. Coutinho-Budd has established Drosophila cortex glia as a model to better understand neuron-glia interactions at the neuronal cell body—a topic that is often overlooked in neuroscience. She is on a mission to change that.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Coutinho-Budd says, “Everybody braces for that moment when you first scan the reviewer comments on your manuscript with fingers crossed that you don’t have three reviewer #2’s—but reviews shouldn’t only be about picking a paper apart to reveal every little flaw. A good review can identify weaknesses while also providing helpful feedback to improve the study. This is my main goal as a reviewer, and in doing so, not only do I get to preview some of the newest and most exciting science in my field, but I also get to play a role in making it better. I’ve found the review process at Communications Biology to be particularly fair and transparent, which ultimately fosters careful and constructive reviews and reviewers.”
María de la Paz Fernández
Dr. María de la Paz Fernández is an Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Barnard College of Columbia University. She completed her PhD at the Fundación Instituto Leloir in Buenos Aires, Argentina and conducted her postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School before becoming a group leader at the Max Planck Partner Institiute of Biomedicine Research in Buenos Aires in 2013. Dr. de la Paz Fernández was a Research Assistant Professor with the City University of New York before establishing her current lab at Barnard. Her team studies multiple aspects of animal behavior, including the neronal underpinnings of aggression and circadian control of behavior, mainly in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster. To learn more about her work, visit her lab page at fernandez-lab.org. You can also follow her on Twitter at @mariadelapax.
On peer review, Dr. Fernandez says, "I see Peer Review as one of the most important roles that we serve as academics, as it helps ensure that published scientific articles have gone through the scrutiny of several experts in the field and satisfy the current standards for rigor, integrity, and novelty. Providing thorough and constructive comments can be quite time consuming, but it is also very rewarding as one is making a significant contribution to one’s field. Sometimes time constraints make it difficult, particularly this year, but I do my best to always accept invitations to review those manuscripts for which I think I can provide objective, meaningful, and helpful feedback. The editors at Communications Biology sent me a manuscript that was already very good and well within my area of expertise, and I liked the fact that it is a high quality, open access journal. Being asked to peer review means that you are seen as an expert in your field, and makes you feel a valued member of a scientific community."
Dr. Christoph Baumann is a Lecturer in the Department of Biology at the University of York (UK). He specialises in applying single-molecule mechanics and fluorescence microscopy to probe biochemical mechanisms and the biophysical properties of macromolecules and membranes. Recently, his application of single-molecule fluorescence microscopy techniques has helped to establish fundamental functional paradigms in cell envelope biology, including the spatio-temporal dynamics of outer-membrane and inner-membrane proteins in Gram-negative bacteria. To learn more about his work you can visit his website here.
When asked what he thinks of the peer review process, Dr. Baumann says, “I consider robust peer review to be an integral part of publishing our research. If I’m trying to publish in a journal, I expect and appreciate a critical, unbiased and helpful assessment of my manuscript. I strive to provide the same as a reviewer and consider it my responsibility to provide this level of input to the authors. The reviewing process should ultimately assist the authors in publishing their work somewhere, while ensuring this work also makes a significant scientific contribution.”
Ana María Estrada Sánchez
Dr. Ana María Estrada Sánchez is a neuroscientist and Assistant Professor in the department of Molecular Biology at the Instituto Potosino de Investigación Científica y Tecnológica (IPICYT) in San Luis Potosí, México. After completing her PhD at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and two successful postdoctoral positions at Indiana University and University of California Los Angeles, she recently accepted her current position at IPICYT. In her new role, Dr. Estrada Sánchez trains the next generation of neuroscientists interested in studying the role of astrocytes in cortico-striatal neural circuits and neurodegeneration. As if establishing her brand new laboratory during a pandemic was not enough, Dr. Estrada Sánchez is also busy being Mom of a playful and energetic toddler while at the same time finding time to peer-review.
On peer review, she says “As the last step before a research report goes public, reviewers should focus on providing impartial critical input that aids the authors and enhance the contribution of the work. Unfortunately, the existing review process allows for bad reviews that can be painfully critical without being constructive. These destructive reviews might have long-lasting and serious consequences on students. Because of this, when I review I focus on providing constructive comments that improve their work. I also hope it serves as an example of how to write useful and thoughtful critiques – handy for when the junior authors become reviewers. It is a win-win process, as I learn from each revision, I want them to learn that behind the anonymity there are reviewers that care.”
Dr. Fernando Villanea is a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University and soon-to-be Associate Professor at the University of Colorado Boulder. His research is focused on learning about the natural history of Neanderthals and other archaic human species as observed through genetic data, including the ancient genomes sequenced from individuals long dead, as well as the small fragments of archaic DNA inherited in people living today. You can follow Dr. Villanea on Twitter at @FerVillanea.
On peer-review, Dr. Villanea says, “When I reflect on why I put effort into peer-reviewing, I remember that science is a sort of crowdsourcing endeavor. Our colleagues, mentors, and students all help mold our ideas during manuscript writing. Similarly, our job as reviewers is to extend that process by providing a wider perspective and offering ideas that are outside of the authors’ original vision. This is why for every criticism a reviewer provides, they should always present a way to move forward, because the goal is to collectively improve every manuscript.”
Dr. Karuna Ganesh is a physician-scientist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center working to understand the mechanisms of cancer metastasis, with a particular focus on metastasis reinitiating cancer stem cells (MetSCs). Using patient-derived organoid models of colorectal cancer (CRC), her laboratory integrates bulk and single cell transcriptomics, epigenetics, mouse modeling and mechanistic studies to define the key phenotypic states and molecular mediators of the MetSC phenotype. You can read more about her research on her website and follow her on Twitter at @KarunaMDPhD.
Asked about her thoughts on peer review she says “Constructive peer review is vital to ensuring scientific rigor, and is thus critical for scientific advance and integrity. I enjoy peer reviewing as an integral component of my work as a scientist, and it is also exciting to be the first to learn about new advances in the field!”
Dr. Alejandra Bruna is a cancer biologist and Team Leader at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, UK. Dr. Bruna developed, coordinated and co-led a translational research framework for patient-derived tumour xenografts (PDXs) and short-term cultures of PDX cells (or PDTCs) with Professor Carlos Caldas at the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Institute. She currently leads the Preclinical Modelling of Paediatric Cancer Evolution team and continues to focus her research on gaining knowledge through the use of preclinical models of aggressive solid paediatric tumours in translational research. In particular, she aims to understand cancer's ability to adapt and how this affects the choice of therapy. Dr. Bruna uses simulations of complex clinically relevant models to help refine, improve, adapt and redesign current therapeutic strategies for long-term benefits. To learn more about Dr. Bruna's research, visit her webpage here.
Dr. Takuro Nakagawa is a molecular biologist and Associate Professor at Osaka University. He and his team are interested in understanding how cells protect their chromosomes from gross rearrangements that cause genetic disorders including cancer. Dr. Nakagawa has received numerous fellowships and awards for his identification of mechanisms underlying chromosomal rearrangements at centromeres. To learn more about his work, you can visit the website of his research group here.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Nakagawa says, “we often receive insightful comments from reviewers, which help us to improve the manuscript before publication. Such a peer review process is one of the most effective ways to keep scientific papers high quality. Keeping that in mind, I always give my best when reviewing papers.”
Dr. Mehdi Fallahnezhad is a neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow at Sorbonne University UPMC, Paris. He is interested in studying neural circuitry of spatial navigation, learning, and memory. Currently, he is investigating how the cerebellum may influence this circuit. He employs transgenic mouse models and pharmacological techniques to manipulate sub-regional cerebellar structures while monitoring the neuronal activity in multiple cortical and subcortical regions of cerebral cortex that are involved in navigation.
On the importance of peer review, Dr. Fallahnezhad says, "A proper peer-review process increases the quality of articles substantially, which each scientist benefits from. Therefore, as a part of the scientific community, we all should be delightfully involved in this process, at least in the area of our expertise. Besides, as a reviewer I gain lots of experience reading an article thoroughly, thinking in-depth about the foundation of a question and its interests to the community and communicating it with the authors on their reasoning. These all help me to improve in designing my own research and communicating it with others."
Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad
Dr. Seyed Mehdi Jafarnejad is a cell and molecular biologist and principle investigator at Patrick Johnston Centre for Cancer Research at Queen’s University Belfast. His main research interests are the mechanisms of regulation of mRNA translation and decay and their role in development and disease. You can learn more about Dr Jafarnejad’s work on his website.
Regarding peer review, he says “I see peer review as a unique opportunity to learn about the latest advancements in the field while contributing to the quality of the manuscripts by ensuring the robustness of the findings and making constructive suggestions and comments. I also think the whole process of peer review enhances the sense of collegiality and belonging to the scientific community, where we all strive to achieve excellence in research and eventually contribute to society.”
Dr. Florencia Assaneo is a cognitive neuroscientist and postdoctoral fellow at New York University. She will soon become a professor at Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and is interested in studying the neurobiological mechanisms involved in language acquisition and speech processing. To learn more about Dr. Assaneo’s work please check out her latest publication at Nature Neuroscience.
When asked about her thoughts on the peer-review process, Dr. Assaneo says, "I consider reviewing a paper to be a very delicate process. You are asked to evaluate the (probably years of) work of your colleagues, and your decision has repercussions not just for the publication of the paper, but potentially also for subsequent job and grant applications. Keeping that in mind, I complete my reviews trying to be as professional and as kind as possible. For me, reviewing a paper does not mean desperately looking for flaws in the study, but rather thinking about possible suggestions to enrich the work."
Dr. Sissel Jentoft is a research scientist at the Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, University of Oslo. Her main research interests are within marine comparative genomics, behavioral and functional genomics as well as population genomics, where she uses recent advancement in high-throughput sequencing technologies to understand how genomes are influenced by adaptation to changing climates and environments. Most of her research focuses on Atlantic cod and some of its close relatives within the order of Gadiformes in relation to their adaptation to different environments. Recently, she has also focused her research northwards as part of The Nansen Legacy research team to investigate the roles of spatiotemporal population structure and possible local adaptations in key fish species in the northern Barents Sea ecosystem. You can learn more about her research here and follow her on Twitter here.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Jentoft says, “being part of the scientific community, I do feel obliged (as many others I hope) to take my share of reviewing papers if they are within the scope of my own scientific interest and knowledge. Especially if I feel I can contribute in a good way and come with suggestions that can improve the paper even further. Always nice to see when the authors have picked up some of your ideas and suggestions. And I would say that I learn something new every time I review a paper – so you get something back as well.”
Dr. Danielle Tullman-Ercek is a protein engineer, synthetic biologist, and Associate Professor at Northwestern University. She and her team are interested in engineering multi-component systems in biology – such as protein and small molecule secretion machinery and bacterial microcompartments – using tools and techniques from protein engineering and synthetic biology. You can check out her research group here and follow the lab on Twitter at @DTElab. Dr. Tullman-Ercek has won numerous career and leadership awards for directing undergraduate programs and workshops on science communication. Outside academia, she also enjoys discussing her research and ethics of science with lay audience.
Dr. Tullman-Ercek says, “Peer review is one of the most important services that a PI can do, because it is our chance to contribute ideas and thoughts to making science better and more reproducible for our respective fields. Communications Biology has an easy, streamlined process for reviewers and receives quality manuscripts, so I try to accept whenever the manuscript is on a topic for which I have expertise.”
Dr. Janet Young is a Staff Scientist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, working in Harmit Malik’s lab using her bioinformatics skills to address a diverse range of questions related to evolutionary arms races. She has also previously worked with Stephen Tapscott on the human muscle disease FSHD, and with Barbara Trask on the evolution of the mammalian olfactory and vomeronasal receptor gene families.
About peer review, Dr. Young says, “Peer review is such a vital part of establishing and maintaining trust in published scientific findings. As scientists, we often don’t have the time or necessary skills to scrutinize every paper we read closely, so we’re relying on our peer reviewers to take on that burden for us. It’s important for us all to set aside some time to take on some of that burden when we can. The ideal review process is not a test of whether a paper is ‘good enough’ for publication, but an opportunity for reviewers to provide constructive feedback to the authors to help them bolster their case, and make sure their story is communicated well. I try to provide the sort of review I would like to receive: rather than just pointing out strengths and weaknesses, it’s useful to receive specific suggestions for improvements. Of course, I love it if I review a paper that needs very few changes before acceptance, but it is also very satisfying to suggest areas for improvement and have the authors embrace those suggestions.”
Dr Kelly Manthei is a Research Investigator at the Life Sciences Institute, University of Michigan. She uses biochemical and structural biology to investigate lipoprotein complexes relevant to coronary heart disease. In particular, she is interested in lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase, which is a plasma enzyme important for the metabolism of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. You can follow her on Twitter: @khoadley.
Dr Manthei says, "Peer review is a critical part of the scientific process and I really value how it strengthens papers. I am grateful to those who have put time into critically reviewing my work and hope to also help others in a constructive way. It has been extremely rewarding to me to be able to participate as a postdoctoral fellow, as I've gained new insight in how to prepare my own papers and expanded my knowledge of adjacent research areas."
Dr. Taj Azarian is an Assistant Professor at the Burnett School of Biomedical Science, University of Central Florida, College of Medicine. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the Department of Epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Dr. Azarian's research investigates the epidemiology of bacterial pathogens, with emphasis on antibiotic resistant organisms including Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus. Dr. Azarian and his team apply a variety of genomic, phylogenetic, and population genetic approaches. To learn more about his work you can visit his website at https://azarianlab.science/ or follow him on Twitter (@EpiDemos82).
Regarding the peer review process, Dr. Azarian says, "Peer review is an integral component of the scientific process. Contributing to science in this manner is time consuming but extremely rewarding, and I encourage researchers to participate in the review process as early in their career as possible. Gaining experience from the reviewer's perspective will significantly improve your own manuscript writing skills. I am also excited about the recent improvements to the peer review process, including the publication of unblinded reviews with accompanying response to reviewers."
Dr. Jinju Han is a molecular neurobiologist and Assistant Professor at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea. She and her team are interested in identifying noncoding RNAs that account for immediate responses of neural cells, which regulates brain function. You can check out her research and publications here. Dr. Han has received numerous fellowships and awards for her identification of mechanisms underlying recognition/maturation of primary microRNAs and their regulatory function in adult neurogenesis.
Regarding peer review, Dr. Han says, “I can expand my knowledge a lot by reviewing manuscripts, as I need to understand the manuscript completely to give comments on it. By reviewing manuscripts, I can also communicate with authors to discuss their ideas and experimental results in depth. I hope my feedback helps authors to improve their manuscript.”
Dr. Mark Walton is Associate Professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford. He is interested in studying the biological mechanisms that guide decision-making and reward-motivated behaviors. To do so, Dr. Walton and his team combine real-time neurochemical readouts and whole-brain functional imaging of rodents performing different behavioral tasks. To learn more about his work you can visit his website at (www.waltonlab.org).
When asked what he thinks of the peer review process, Dr. Walton says, “Although it can be very time consuming, I really enjoy being a reviewer. I learn a lot from being forced to read manuscripts closely and also from seeing what other reviewers have picked up on. Even though nearly everyone grumbles about reviewers' comments, I know that every single one of my published articles has been improved by the peer review process; I hope the authors of papers I have reviewed at least sometimes feel the same!"
Chiea Chuen Khor
Dr. Chiea Chuen Khor is Group Leader and Senior Principle Investigator at the Genome Institute of Singapore. He also holds appointments at the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Eye Research Institute. Although he qualified as a medical doctor, he realized his calling was to pursue medical research in a full-time manner. The Khor lab focus spans many areas of human genetics studied across diverse human traits and disease conditions, with the long term goal of translating genetic findings into predictive medicine to improve healthcare.
About peer review, Dr. Khor says, “I feel it keenly that the peer review process has helped very much in improving the quality of the manuscripts which I have submitted for publication. The improvement was seen not just in the scientific content, but also in the manner which the findings were communicated. Having benefitted so much from the help of many anonymous peer referees over the past 10 years, I feel honor– and duty–bound to pay all of this help forward.”
Dr. Jeanette Mumford is a biostatistician and Associate Scientist at the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. As a scientist and consultant, Dr. Mumford focuses on developing new methodologies to improve fMRI data analysis. She also researches best practices and common problems associated with correlating activation patterns in fMRI analyses. In addition to having an impressive publication record, Dr. Mumford, is also the co-creator of fMRIpower, a power analysis toolbox for fMRI data.
When asked why she chose to review for us, Dr. Mumford says, “After 3 years serving as a handling editor with many manuscripts at a time, I’m enjoying having more time with fewer manuscripts as a reviewer so I can really dig into the details again. I’m not going to lie, I also enjoy that I no longer have to repeatedly ask people to submit their reviews in a timely manner.”
As a side note, the editors at Communications Biology attest that Dr. Mumford always sent in her thorough and thoughtful reports on time – she likes to lead by example we suppose.
Dr. Wen Huang is a quantitative geneticist at the Department of Animal Science at Michigan State University. He has a Ph.D. in animal breeding and genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and completed postdoctoral training at North Carolina State University. His lab studies the genetics of complex quantitative traits, in particular context-dependent effects such as genotype by environment interactions and gene gene interactions, in livestock animals and the model organism fruit flies using a combination of laboratory and computational approaches.
Dr. Huang says, "I see peer review as an indispensable part of doing science and if done correctly can greatly improve a paper. Over the years I have benefited tremendously from the reviews of my own papers and the only way to pay back is to pay it forward."
Dr. Peter Friedl is a cell biologist and Professor with joint appointments at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen. He and his team are interested in the mechanisms of collective cell migration in physiological (immune defense) and pathological context (cancer invasion and metastasis). He also studies the cross-talk between cancer cell migration and its response to radiation- and chemotherapy. You can check out a complete list of his published work here and find more information about him here. He has received numerous awards including those from the German Cancer Society, Netherlands Science Foundation, and European Society for Molecular Imaging for his contribution to the identification of a kinetic mechanism of T cell activation and the discovery of collective cell migration in cancer.
Dr. Friedl says what motivates him to review a manuscript is to combine a personal committment to science and a needed service with an opportunity to gain further insight into the topic of his interest, sometimes even beyond his own direct comfort zone.
Shaun Killen & Jack Hollins
Dr. Shaun Killen is a Research Fellow at the University of Glasgow in the Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine. Dr. Killen's review for Communications Biology was completed together with PhD student Jack Hollins. The Killen lab studies how physiology and behavior effect the ecology of marine and freshwater species. Dr. Killen's recent research has included studies of the mechanisms underlying fisheries-induced evolution as part of the Physfish project. Mr. Hollins's PhD research is aimed at understanding how physiology in wild fish influence patterns of habitat use and behavior, and how these patterns affect susceptibility to capture in commercial fisheries. Research from the Killens lab has also been covered recently in the New York Times.
The Communications Biology editorial staff selected Dr. Killen and Mr. Hollins for Reviewer of the Month on the basis of their constructive review and we are excited to highlight them as an example of peer review mentoring.
Lucia Di Marcotullio
Dr. Lucia Di Marcotullio is a molecular biologist and Professor at the University of Rome "La Sapienza". She and her team are interested in understanding how dysregulation of signal transduction pathways, such as the Hedgehog signaling, can lead to tumorigenesis. She is also interested in identifying and developing novel treatment strategies for Hedgehog-dependent tumors. You can check out her latest work published in Nature Communications.
Dr. Di Marcotullio says she “chose to review for Communication Biology because it is one of the latest Nature Research Journals publishing innovative and high quality works in diverse disciplines of biological science offering useful and significant advances to scientists in their research field.”
Dr. Sandra Rieger is an Associate Professor at the University of Miami where she uses zebrafish as a model system for wound repair and peripheral neuropathy. Her group investigates axon-keratinocyte interactions with a focus on the role of hydrogen peroxide signaling in wound repair. She has been named by Journal of Cell Science as a Cell Scientist to Watch.
Dr. Rieger on peer review: “I see my role as a reviewer as being fair and fast. I often experienced myself that reviewers ask for unnecessary experiments that are unjustified… My goal therefore is to ask for minimal and reasonable experiments that contribute to the conclusions, and help the authors to publish their data relatively fast. Another important aspect for me is that the criticism of all reviewers involved in the review process helps me to better understand strengths and weaknesses of manuscripts, which can assist me in writing my own manuscripts.”
Rebecca J. Howard
Dr. Rebecca Howard is a biochemist and Lab Manager of the Molecular Biophysics Stockholm group at the Science for Life Laboratory, a national center in Stockholm, Sweden. She manages a team using biochemistry, electrophysiology and molecular simulations to understand the structure and function of ion channels and the molecular interactions between proteins and behavior-altering drugs. Learn more about Dr. Howard's research at her website.