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Q&A with Publons' ECR Reviewers' Choice Award Winner

We have a winner! We're excited to announce Dr. Xinyan Huang has been awarded our 2018 ECR Reviewers' Choice Award for his exceptional contribution to peer review.

This early-career researcher award is part of Publons' global Peer Review Awards celebrating the world's top peer reviewers. See all the winners here.

Mechanical Engineer Xinyan Huang is an Assistant Professor at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and will receive US$1,500 in Amazon vouchers for his win.

Nominated by his PhD professor, Dr. Guillermo Rein of the Imperial College London, Xinyan is recognized as being an "active, careful, enthusiastic, constructive, and responsible reviewer," and having a long list of peer review awards from Publons, and Springer, and Elsevier to prove it.

Publons: Congratulations for winning Publons inaugural ECR Reviewers’ Choice Award? Can you tell us what this award means to you?

Xinyan: Reviewing papers has always been volunteer work and no one gets paid for doing so. It is a natural thing to do as part of the scientific community. I am very happy to get this award and will continue to do good reviews.

Can you tell us a bit about your research?

I am a Combustion Scientist and Fire Protection Engineer. I have studied the smouldering combustion of peat (the largest wildland fire on Earth), fire dynamics in the International Space Station, and the thermal safety of new energy technologies (like hydrogen and battery). Thus, my research is also related to heat transfer, fluid mechanics, chemistry, and applied energy.

You’ve achieved a lot in peer review over a short time. Can you tell us how you started out in peer review and some of the challenges you’ve faced along the way?

I started to publish when I was an undergraduate, and I published good papers in different journals because of my multi-discipline research. That may be the reason that I got many review invitations during my graduate school, and I always try to do it in time. Some editors may like my reviewing comments and even send me personal thank-you emails, so I got more review invitations. It has always been challenging to control my emotions when seeing some low-quality papers, and I try to keep objective and give constructive comments.

"It has always been challenging to control my emotions when seeing some low-quality papers, and I try to keep objective and give constructive comments."

What is it about peer review that makes you so dedicated to improving it as a system?

I like the peer-review system because it is a good chance to learn different research topics. Also, after submitting our own review comments, we have the chance to read other reviewers’ comments. It is a quite unique opportunity to know how different people think of the same paper and see what I have missed.

How do you feel your own research benefits from your peer review activity? Reviewing many papers has definitely helped improve the writing of my own papers and makes me think from the perspective of potential reviewers when I am writing. For this reason, my papers rarely got rejected or required a major revision.

"Reviewing many papers has definitely helped improve the writing of my own papers and makes me think from the perspective of potential reviewers when I am writing. For this reason, my papers rarely got rejected or required a major revision."

How did you hear about Publons and what’s the most useful aspect of your Publons profile? My PhD supervisor, Dr Guillermo Rein from Imperial College London, recommended Publons to me. It is great to have Publons to manage my review records.

Do you include your peer review activity in your promotion and/or funding applications? Why / Why not? If you do - can you tell us about a successful application?

I will include in my promotion, but not funding application. Promotion is about impact, and peer review activity certainly has an impact on your research community. For funding application, it is always good to show in my CV that I have a good review record or award.

Do you think holding editorial positions in academic journals is helpful for your career development?

I believe that you have to first be a super reviewer before joining the editorial board. Being an Associate Editor and Editor-in-Chief will have the opportunity as well as the responsibility to direct the research areas of the community. I hope to be an Editor-in-Chief in the future.

What advice do you have for other early-career researchers wanting to break into the world of peer review?

Peer review is an excellent learning experience. Start as early as possible when you are a student and when you still have much free time to learn about different areas.

Thanks and congratulations again, Xinyan!

And now, a word from Xinyan's PhD Supervisor, Dr. Guillermo Rein from the Imperial College London, who put him forward for the award:

"I am delighted to learn that Xinyan’s vast contributions to peer reviewing are being celebrated. Peer reviewing is an essential service to science and the duty of any scientists. Celebrating our champions is especially important during their early careers so to inspire young talent."


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