Modern peer review, science communication and this week’s science news

Modern peer review

At the time of writing this blog post, I am enjoying the lunch provided by the organisers of a workshop on “How to get the most out of modern peer review?” (it is being filmed so you can benefit from it, too!). I have learned a lot, and some things are worth sharing. The first presentation by Wei Mun Chan, Editorial Manager at eLife, offered valuable insight into consultative peer review where reviewers engage in a discussion with each other and feed back to the editors. The final decision letter and the author feedback is also openly accessible to promote greater transparency. This is just one example of a great initiative to promote faster peer reviews, less bias during the process and increased transparency. On to the second presentation, Dr Sabina Alam from F1000 introduced their open-science publishing platform where the paper/data comes first, followed by a transparent peer review process. The whole life-cycle of the paper can be followed openly by the readers who are also invited to comment and review the paper publicly. F1000 allows the publication of multiple types of data, including single findings, as long as it is reported correctly and meets scientific standards. So if you have old reagents gathering dust in the lab and projects that were terminated prematurely, why not share it with the rest of the world? Someone might be able to take it up and build on your efforts. You will get recognition for it, too! In the same vein, F1000 promotes the dissemination of scientific posters and PowerPoint slides; these do not undergo peer review, but are assigned a DOI and are therefore citable – GREAT!

Next we heard from Dr Laurent Gatto from the Proteomics Research Unit here at Cambridge. He gave us some tips for good reviewing, and you can view those online as Dr Gatto shares his material openly. In summary, make sure that the data is always there, that the names and numbers match up, that the metadata is available and the science reproducible!

The final talk before lunch was given by Tom Culley, Marketing Director at Publons. This is my first encounter with Publons, and I am impressed. What a great initiative to give scientists recognition for their peer review work! This can only improve the quality of the published science because reviewers have an incentive to do well and will be recognised for it. Publons creates a complete track record of all your reviews and you can even add past reviews to obtain the deserved credit for them. Another great initiative to foster trust and integrity in research!

I am looking forward to the last sessions and a workshop by Dr Varsha Khodiyar, Data Curation Editor at Scientific Data!

Writing for non-scientists

I have recently had to write a grant application which forced me to think carefully about wording when describing my research to the general public. I quickly realised that I will need much more trial-and-error experience to become as good as my supervisor (who has the added benefit of being a clinician who talks science to non-scientists all the time!). Luckily, there are many good guides available on the internet, and I have just come across a very useful collection provided by eLife on how to write plain language summaries! Looking forward to putting these into practice as I will be writing a guest blog for the Biochemical Society which is quite exciting.. Also, if I have time, I would really like to have a go at writing a story for the Biochemical Society’s Science Communication Competition!

Finally, a bit from the research world…

I haven’t had a chance to look at these in detail yet, but here are some papers that caught my attention this week. Fingers crossed for solid data reporting!

Phosphorylation of the exocyst protein Exo84 by TBK1 promotes insulin-stimulated GLUT4 trafficking (

Dynamics of embryonic stem cell differentiation inferred from single-cell transcriptomics show a series of transitions through discrete cell states (

Synergistic drug combinations for cancer identified in a CRISPR screen for pairwise genetic interactions (

Lysosomal cholesterol activates mTORC1 via an SLC38A9–Niemann-Pick C1 signaling complex (

Large-scale design of robust genetic circuits with multiple inputs and outputs for mammalian cells (

The cold-induced lipokine 12,13-diHOME promotes fatty acid transport into brown adipose tissue (


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