The community behind eLife is keenly aware of the challenges faced by early-career researchers and we are committed to providing opportunities to address them. One issue that is frequently raised is the need for experience in the peer review process.
Choosing to involve early-career researchers in refereeing manuscripts can have advantages. They are often active in research or have only recently transitioned to a desk role. This means they can sometimes be better placed than some senior colleagues to comment on technical details of papers, with greater appreciation of the challenges involved, and the ability to provide valuable insights into the pitfalls of analyses.
In addition, with the growth in research output over the last couple of decades, the burden of reviewing is becoming a serious issue for established academics who are already stretched by the demands on their time. This can lead to difficulties in identifying suitable, willing reviewers to handle manuscripts. The result is delays for authors and occasionally reports which fall below the expected quality. Calling on more early-career researchers may ease pressure in the system.
In 2016 we introduced an early-career reviewer pool to provide increased opportunities for researchers in the earlier stages of their careers, and a means of gaining credit for their contributions using ORCiD. After the first 18 months, around 100 reviews have been performed by this group.
While pleased with the progress, we believe more can de done. We have learned several lessons, including the need for a deep pool of reviewers to call upon in any given subject area and the necessity of highlighting the expertise of potential reviewers.
Following feedback from our editorial board and Early-Career Advisory Group, we are launching a trial with a small group of editors in Genomics and Evolutionary Biology to include an early-career researcher in the review of every paper they handle. The initiative will be led by eLife Reviewing Editor George (PJ) Perry, of Pennsylvania State University (USA).
The trial is open for self nominations. To be eligible, you must be either a postdoc or have spent less than 5 years in an independent research position (e.g. Group Leader) with a background in Evolutionary Biology or Genomics. If you fit this criteria and wish to get involved, please fill out the following form:
Nominations will be open until April 15, 2018. Candidates will be screened by the relevant eLife editors and selected based on their expertise.
If you're interested in finding out more about opportunities, events and issues that are important for early-career researchers, sign up to the eLife Early-Career Community newsletter or follow @eLifeCommunity on Twitter.