FAQ: How do you assess novelty and impact when peer reviewing?

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Go to the profile of Professor David Rueda
Sep 05, 2017
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Answered by Professor David Rueda, Chair of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at Imperial College London.
  • - Two of the key aspects in peer reviewing 00:04
  • is assessing novelty and impact. 00:06
  • And those are probably the most difficult aspects 00:08
  • to comment on. 00:12
  • Starting with novelty is perhaps a little bit easier 00:14
  • because novelty comes from either 00:18
  • a technical novelty, what's the difference 00:21
  • in the technique that's being used, or the system. 00:24
  • Is it a new system that's being used 00:26
  • with a given technique? 00:29
  • For someone with experience who's been reading 00:32
  • the literature for many years 00:35
  • and attending meetings for many years 00:37
  • it's perhaps a little bit easier to make this assessment. 00:39
  • For a young peer reviewer, such as a PhD student 00:41
  • or as a post-doc, perhaps the best way 00:46
  • to assess novelty is to compare that paper 00:49
  • to the papers that the person is reading on a regular basis. 00:52
  • How much newer, what does this paper bring 00:56
  • that's not in those papers? 00:58
  • What's new about it? 01:00
  • Regarding the impact, it's a little bit more difficult 01:03
  • to comment on. 01:07
  • It's not always easy to assess whether 01:10
  • a paper is incremental or makes a significant 01:15
  • paradigm shift in the field, and this is where 01:17
  • the young peer reviewer needs to pay attention. 01:23
  • Does this, does the final conclusion of the paper, 01:26
  • does the final outcome of the paper 01:29
  • represent a major step forward in the field, 01:32
  • or is it just incremental 01:35
  • evidence or incremental proof 01:39
  • of something that was already well known 01:42
  • and well characterised before that? 01:44
  • There is not many ways to do this for the young 01:47
  • peer reviewer that hasn't read a lot of papers 01:49
  • and hasn't attended a lot of meetings. 01:51
  • Perhaps the best way is to look at other papers 01:54
  • in the field and see how much different 01:55
  • and what's new and what's 01:58
  • the major conclusion compared to what was known before. 02:01
  • A young peer reviewer that is not confident 02:04
  • about the impact or the novelty of a paper 02:07
  • could very easily talk to their group leader 02:09
  • or PI and discuss the paper 02:12
  • in broad sense and how that paper 02:18
  • fits within the community 02:21
  • or with other members of the group, 02:22
  • but for those doing that, I would recommend 02:24
  • remembering that the paper needs to be kept 02:26
  • confidential and those conversations 02:29
  • need to stay confidential within the group 02:31
  • and not with the general public 02:33
  • or other members of the community. 02:36
Go to the profile of Professor David Rueda

Professor David Rueda

Professor and Chair of Molecular and Cellular Medicine , The Imperial College London

David is Professor and Chair of Molecular and Cellular Medicine at the Imperial College London in London, and Group Head at the London Institute of Medical Sciences of the Medical Research Council. He was initially trained as a Chemical Engineer (1997) and received his DSc in Physical Chemistry from the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland (2001). He switched to Single Molecule Biophysics of nucleic acids during his postdoc at The University of Michigan at the interface of Physics, Chemistry and Biology. His research consists of developing and applying single molecule approaches to study the mechanisms by which protein and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA) work together to regulate cellular functions such as DNA replication and repair.

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