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What does peer review and diversity mean to you?

Publons Peer Review Awards are back for 2018, bringing you the top reviewers and editors who’ve gone above and beyond in improving scholarly communication!

To celebrate the arrival of the Awards (announced on September 12th during #PeerReviewWeek18), and to give you insight into what it takes to win a top spot, we interviewed some of the winners from our 2017 edition.

Up this week, we speak with Publons Academy graduate, Maria Bostenaru Dan.

Maria is a Research Scientist in Urban and Landscape Design, at Ion Mincu University of Architecture and Urbanism in Bucharest, Romania. She’s well travelled, having started out her research career in Germany, with short and long research stays in Italy, Portugal, Hungary, and Canada.

We asked Maria about how she’s used her prize in applications, her thoughts on review, and what diversity in peer review (the theme of this year’s Peer Review Week) means to her...

Publons: In 2017 and 2016 you won a Publons Peer Review Award for being in the top 1% of reviewers in your field. What did these awards mean to you and have you used them in any job or funding applications?

Maria: I was happy to receive these Awards and I listed them in the reporting at my university, which we're asked to do. I also listed it in an application for my year abroad prize in Italy, where I got a mention (I came 2nd place in my category).

Why do you think peer review is important and what makes a good quality review?

Peer review helps spot any points that are unclear or have been missed by the authors, who are sometimes too deeply involved in their research. This is useful to help improve the paper and make it useful to the readers as well. A review is much more important than just saying whether the paper is acceptable or not - and it should be constructive, not critical. I know my first journal articles would not be as good as they are today without peer review, and I’m proud to say they’ve since become ISI Q2 articles.

“A review is much more important than just saying whether the paper is acceptable or not - and it should be constructive, not critical.”

This year's Peer Review Week theme is Diversity and Inclusion. Why do you think diversity in peer review is important and critical to improving the system?

I very much welcome diversity. I am myself from a national minority in my own country (double even, I am 50% Romanian and 25% German and 25% Hungarian, and peers tend to see me as Hungarian in Romania and as foreign in Germany and Hungary) and so I’m very aware of what the term means. Also, I have been active in working groups on women in science. I think it is important to include minorities and women (women, although discriminated many times, are not a minority, they are half of the population!) to avoid bias in peer review. For example, the prestige of a good university tends to positively bias a paper from a researcher from that university. I've seen it myself, when I was affiliated in Germany, although very young, I had more chances of being accepted. This wasn't the case in Italy and it was even more difficult in Romania.

“I very much welcome diversity... When I was affiliated in Germany, although very young, I had more chances of being accepted. This wasn't the case in Italy and it was even more difficult in Romania.”

Where do you see the future of peer review?

I think that peer review is moving towards open discussions, like what we see in Copernicus publications. That is, of course, if the European Commission's tendency towards open access tendency persists.

Do you have any tips for up and coming reviewers?

For all reviewers, not only of articles, but also of book chapters or projects, it is important to have basic knowledge of evaluation. For example, this can mean from a pedagogy or a project management course. I've done courses and worked in project management and this has been very useful because articles often derive from projects.

Thanks, Maria!


Will you be named one of our 2018 Sentinels of Science?

To give yourself the best shot at becoming a Sentinel of Science, make sure you upload all your reviews to Publons by September 1st (winners will be announced on the 12th). Stay tuned for updates by following our Awards page, our blog, and our #SentinelsofScience hashtag on Twitter.

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