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Peer Review Excellence online course

Build your peer review competency through the Peer Review Excellence online course. The fully interactive learning experience allows you to boost your peer review knowledge and expertise at your own pace and in your own time.

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Case study : Nkosi Muse

Nkosi Muse, our 10,000th IOP Trusted Reviewer, tells us why peer review education is important and what this recognition means.

Nkosi Muse is an Environmental Science and Policy PhD student at the University of Miami’s Rosentiel School for Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Sciences and Abess Center. 

Could you tell us a bit about your career to date and your current research interests?

My undergraduate degree is in meteorology, and my research focussed on things like extreme weather and climate disasters. My Masters research served as my entrance into the field of climate environmental injustice. My thesis focused on climate hazards in the city of Atlanta, most specifically heat, which resulted in the paper that was recently published in Environmental Research: Climate. I’m now studying for my PhD at the University of Miami, where I’m applying the work that I did in Atlanta to Miami, a place known as ground zero for climate change.

How would you describe your peer review experiences so far, both as an author and as a reviewer?

The paper I published in Environmental Research: Climate was actually my first and I received some really thorough, constructive reviews that helped take my research to another level.  One of the reviewers in particular really scoured my article and a lot of their comments opened my eyes to different aspects of the science that I could use for my dissertation.  So that peer review experience was enriching. Of course, sometimes when they go through your paper in real detail and you end up with lots of additional work to do, it can be disheartening at first. But it really pays off and I’m looking forward to seeing the benefits of the peer review process in future papers that I write.

When it comes to being a peer reviewer myself, having experienced someone put so much time into reviewing my article meant that my standards were set It takes a lot of time to write a good paper, and I wanted to go above and beyond to help get good science published.

Why did you decide to do the IOP peer review excellence training before starting to review?

When it’s your first time reviewing at a certain level, having access to a free course to learn about the peer review process is really beneficial.  It helped to boost my confidence, particularly having an expert look at my review to confirm that it met the journal standards.  It gave me reassurance that as someone new to this level of peer review, that I was more than qualified enough to do this review.  So I went forward with it feeling very comfortable.

Which element of the training did you find most helpful and why?

The peer review fundamentals were really useful, giving a really solid overview of how to approach the review.  There’s also a big focus on peer review ethics and what to look out for in terms of misconduct.  The training answered a lot of questions that I wasn’t sure about previously.  Simple things like “Am I allowed to say or do this?” or “Am I allowed to cite something like this?”. It was things like this that really helped me push through the more difficult parts of the review.

How important do you feel this kind of peer review education and training is in the physical sciences?

The training gave some examples of what bad peer review looks like, or what would be considered a bad report. I was taken aback by some of the comments.  No matter whether the science should be published or not, there’s no need to put people down or discourage them from ever publishing again. I found myself wondering if not being able to provide constructive feedback is synonymous with not really knowing how to review properly. Having an understanding of what good peer review – even if just a basic understanding – can help understand what is and isn’t acceptable.

Ensuring that peer review is a recognised and rewarded is really important to us. How do you think that something like IOP Trusted Reviewer status helps with this?

The fact that there are now 10,000 IOP Trusted Reviewers means something. That’s a lot of people that have written a lot of good reviews! The more you promote scientists and the good work they are doing, the more people will want to participate. I think it also helps to boost careers. I’m amazed at somehow being the 10,000th recognized reviewer on the dot, but very thankful for it!