Peer Review in the Life Sciences

Spring 2020 Syllabus

Course Days/Hours: 4-6 PM on April 20, 23, 27, 30, May 1, 4, 7, 8

Location: Zoom!

Instructors: James Fraser

Course Description:

By far, the most widely accepted means of communication is through publishing papers in scientific journals. The process of peer review plays an important role in refining the body of work prior to final publication. Yet, peer review is rarely taught to students in a formal setting, and is largely dependent on individual labs and mentors, leading to variable standards of peer review. Reflecting the evolution of technology, society and scientific culture, preprints have gained popularity in the life sciences in recent years, resulting in a shift in how progress in the life sciences is communicated, and raising questions of how we, as a scientific community, may work towards optimizing the peer review process in the life sciences. This class will use preprint servers (for example, BioRxiv) as a platform for formally teaching students how to peer review manuscripts in a critical and constructive way.

We have modeled this class based on a course at NYU organized by Gira Bhabha, Damian Ekiert, Liam Holt & Timothee Lionnet.

Course structure

Each students will serve as Discussion Leaders for one manuscript topic. Everyone should be prepared for class by having read the paper carefully. The Discussion Leader will prepare a talk similar in content and quality to a Tetrad or QBC Journal Club presentation, with an estimated 30-40 minute duration (noting that interruptions and discussion may take us closer to an hour). After, the student will compose a review, reflecting both their original thoughts and what emerged in the discussion, that will be posted (either named or anonymously through James Fraser acting as an “editor”) as comments associated with the preprint on BioRxiv or other servers.

Some good guidelines for reviewing

April 20

April 23

April 30

May 1

May 4

May 7

May 8