SAGE Advice: Tips From Top Peer Reviewers

SAGE has just announced an extended partnership with Publons, adding a massive 1,000 journals to the network for automated peer review recognition. To help us celebrate, psychology professor Ronald Fischer, and a handful of other top reviewers for SAGE, shared their background in research and review, and offered some tips for reviewers new to the scene...

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Psychology professor Ronald Fischer explains the value of review

            Prof. Ronald Fischer

          Prof. Ronald Fischer

Professor, editor, peer reviewer, and self-confessed geek, Ronald Fischer is one of our favourite researchers on Publons. The psychology professor at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, is one of the top 10 most cited researchers in culture and psychology, and the top reviewer for SAGE's Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology on Publons.

We asked Ronald a few questions about how he started out in peer review and what he thinks the world would look like without it.


Publons: Can you start off by telling us a bit about yourself and your research?

Ronald: I am a Professor at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. I was born in East Germany, but have spent much of my adult life exploring various remote corners of the world, carrying a laptop and camera. My main academic interests are in the interplay between culture and human functioning in diverse ecological settings and the role of evolution for human well-being. I am a bit of a geek at heart, so I love tackling big questions about culture and evolution by using lots of data and applying multivariate statistics. A lot of my current work focuses on personality and value dynamics across cultures and the psychology of rituals. I love both reading and writing and as a result have published more than 100 articles and book chapters. A few years ago, I was named as one of the top 10 most cited researchers in culture and psychology. I also feel very passionate about improving the scientific process, which is one of the reasons why I feel so strongly peer reviewing.

You're the top reviewer contributing to SAGE's Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology on Publons - how do you feel about that?

It is pretty amazing. This journal was my first intellectual home, I published my first empirical article in this journal and research that was published in this journal strongly influenced my early research work. I have worked as an Associate Editor for JCCP for 10 years and during that time, I have been responsible for a pretty significant number of articles each year. I stepped down a few years ago and wish the journal all the best for the future. I hope the current studies published in JCCP are as influential for the next generation of scholars as they were for me when I started off in my research career.

This journal was my first intellectual home, I published my first empirical article in this journal and research that was published in this journal strongly influenced my early research work.

What was your first peer reviewing experience like?

I reviewed my first paper when I was a graduate student. My supervisor gave me a paper that was submitted to the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology and asked me about my opinion. It was not directly related to my PhD research, but still in my general area of research. It was not a strong paper unfortunately and I spent a long time providing comments and arguments in response to the paper. After I wrote that review, I had a chat with my supervisor about the paper. It was a good first experience, even though the paper was not that strong.

What would the world look like without peer review?

I am pretty sure the world would continue. But science probably would not be as strong as it is today. Peer review in a broad sense is fundamental to the scientific process. Individual thinking becomes sharper and more focused when we have to convince others of our opinion and when we have to evaluate the argument of others. I really like Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s recent book Enigma of Reason, which in my opinion provides an excellent case for peer review in the scientific process.

Peer review in a broad sense is fundamental to the scientific process. Individual thinking becomes sharper and more focused when we have to convince others of our opinion and when we have to evaluate the argument of others.

How do you believe editors are important to the quality assurance process?

Editors are at the core of the quality assurance process in publishing. Through communicating journal procedures, inviting reviewers, managing the review process, and providing guidance and advise to authors, the work of editors is central for ensuring quality of research publications. Timely and constructive feedback is crucial for authors and editors are centrally important in the larger quality assurance process.

The theme for 2018's Peer Review Week is "Diversity and Inclusion" in peer review. What does this mean to you?

Science is unfortunately still dominated by white men. I have been working hard to help women and non-Western scholars to get their work polished and published. Especially for a journal that specializes in cultural research such as JCCP, this has to be a top priority. We have made some progress, but especially in terms of a broader cultural representation of authors, we have a long way to go.

Main photo courtesy of Neil Conway (CC BY 2.0).