eLife, PREreview and partners develop course to involve more African researchers in peer review

The training course adds to ongoing efforts to promote greater diversity in scholarly review.
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eLife and PREreview are working with AfricArXiv, Eider Africa and the Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa) on a new peer-review training programme for early to mid-career researchers in Africa. The course aims to raise awareness around preprints and foster the participation of African researchers in peer review, especially the open review of preprints.

The project follows the announcement from eLife and PREreview earlier this year that they had partnered in their common commitment to bring greater diversity to the peer-review process.

Kora Korzec, eLife Head of Communities, says: “While having a mix of voices in scholarly review significantly benefits everyone, not all groups have equal opportunities to participate in the process. Part of the problem is the current networking system of building editorial boards and inviting reviewers to evaluate new findings. Providing access to these functions for everyone will help overcome this barrier, and we hope that our workshop will be a step in the right direction.”

PREreview had previously joined forces with AfricArXiv, Eider Africa and TCC Africa to bring together researchers from Africa and scholars engaged with Africa-related research in a series of collaborative preprint journal clubs, a project supported by a ‘Research Enrichment – Diversity and Inclusion’ grant from Wellcome. During the project, the interest among African scholars to learn more about preprints and preprint review was expressed. Now, under a new Wellcome grant, and in partnership with eLife, PREreview is continuing the collaboration with Eider Africa, TCC Africa and AfricArXIv to deliver the workshop series on open review.

Daniela Saderi, Co-Founder and Director of PREreview, says: “With our pilot Open Reviewers program we began developing resources, training and mentorship opportunities for researchers to get involved in open preprint reviews. But the context in which these were developed was very North American-centric, and cannot be expected to fit the needs and expectations of all research communities. We are honoured to be partnering with organisations that best know and have been active in supporting their research communities for a long time, and joining forces in co-creating resources and opportunities to best sustain capacity for scholarly peer review among African researchers.”

Johanssen Obanda, Communications Manager at AfricArxiv, says: “Through this collaboration, we envision scholars from all African institutions being confident and actively taking part in peer review during their scholarship and research careers. While taking part in peer review is not mandatory, adopting peer review participation as a common practice in higher education will grow the community of reviewers and contribute positively to quality assurance of research outputs from African higher education institutions. Our role is to create awareness among researchers and scholarly institutions, build the capacity of researchers as reviewers, and promote transparency in the review process.”

For the workshop, researchers will be invited to join a path of guided learning to build their profile as constructive peer reviewers. To ensure the scalability and maximise the impact of the course, the organisers will introduce a ‘train the trainer’ model, where the first cohort of researchers will be recruited to the workshop and given the opportunity to learn how to instruct others in peer review. The participants will also be invited to help co-create the training materials, adapt these resources to their needs and contexts, and deliver the workshop to their own research communities.

Aurelia Munene, Executive Director at Eider Africa, says: “The African continent, like any other locale, is endowed with a rich diversity of experiences and knowledge. Inclusive and constructive peer-review processes are one of the ways to ensure that these diversities are visible and African researchers’ contributions count. We endeavour to collaboratively develop the peer review capacities of African researchers and expand with them spaces where they can lead meaningful and responsible knowledge production and utilisation.”

Joy Owango, TCC Africa’s Co-Founding and Non-Executive Director, adds: “Peer review is an important aspect of the research lifecycle when it comes to academic publishing. There is a need to decolonise the peer-review process to allow equitable academic publishing processes that give similar opportunities to researchers from Africa that would be afforded to their peers in the Global North. Capacity building in this process, highlighting best practices in peer review, is essential to bridging the unequal divide between the Global North and Africa when it comes to scientific publishing.”

As part of the course, eLife and PREreview will also offer the participants the chance to join eLife’s Early-Career Reviewers Pool as well as the communities reviewing preprints on the PREreview and Sciety platforms. “With these efforts, we hope to establish a rich representation of African scholars among reviewers in both the traditional and ‘publish, then review’ systems of scientific publishing – adding to the overall diversity of voices we wish to see in peer review,” Korzec concludes.

To read more about eLife and PREreview’s partnership to promote greater diversity in peer review, see https://elifesciences.org/for-the-press/3071bfea/elife-and-prereview-partner-to-promote-greater-diversity-in-peer-review.

To read more about AfricArxiv, TCC Africa, Eider Africa and PREreview’s perspectives around the importance of building community and increasing peer-reviewing capacity among African researchers, visit https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2021/08/23/guest-post-best-practices-and-innovative-approaches-to-peer-review-in-africa, and to access video recordings of co-hosted events: https://africarxiv.pubpub.org/pub/o4u5mm2f/release/8 and https://info.africarxiv.org/african-perspectives-on-peer-review-a-roundtable-discussion.

To read more about PREreview Communities, see https://content.prereview.org/introducing-prereview-communities.

And for more information about groups on Sciety, visit https://sciety.org/groups.

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About eLife

eLife is a non-profit organisation created by funders and led by researchers. Our mission is to accelerate discovery by operating a platform for research communication that encourages and recognises the most responsible behaviours. We seek to promote a research culture that supports collaboration, diversity and inclusion, and openness, and we support preprints and open-science practices. eLife receives financial support and strategic guidance from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Max Planck Society and Wellcome. Learn more at https://elifesciences.org/about.

About AfricArXiv

AfricArXiv is a community-led digital archive for African research, working towards building an African-owned open scholarly repository; a knowledge commons of African scholarly works to catalyse the African Renaissance. We partner with established scholarly repository services to provide a platform for African scientists of any discipline to present their research findings and connect with other researchers on the African continent and globally. Find out more about AfricArXiv at https://info.africarxiv.org.

About Eider Africa

Eider Africa is an organisation that conducts research, co-designs and implements collaboratively, offline and online research mentorship programs for scholars in Africa. We train mentors to start their mentorship programs. We believe in peer-to-peer learning, learning research by practice, caring for the whole researcher and lifelong learning. We have grown a vibrant community of researchers in our research journal clubs and work with university lecturers to develop transformative inclusive research training. Learn more at https://eiderafricaltd.org.

About the Training Centre in Communication (TCC Africa)

TCC Africa is the first African-based training centre to teach effective communication skills to scientists. TCC Africa is an award-winning Trust, established as a non-profit entity in 2006 and is registered in Kenya. TCC Africa provides capacity support in improving researchers' output and visibility through training in scholarly and science communication. Find out more about TCC Africa at https://www.tcc-africa.org/about.

About PREreview

PREreview is an open project fiscally sponsored by the non-profit organisation Code for Science and Society. Our mission is to bring more equity and transparency to the scholarly peer-review process. We design and develop open-source infrastructure to enable constructive feedback to preprints, we run peer review mentoring and training programs, and we partner with like-minded organisations to organise events that provide opportunities for researchers to create meaningful collaborations and connections, defeating cultural and geographical barriers. Learn more about PREreview at https://prereview.org.