Multifaceted Identities in Peer Review and Science

As highlighted by Peer Review Week 2021, identity is increasingly recognized as a key component of peer review. Even when peer reviewers are anonymous, “who” is providing the review can be almost as important as the review itself. Editors must recognize the biases, perceptions, and experiences of reviewers and ensure that diverse voices are solicited and considered. 

When considering identity, it is crucial to remember that identity is not singular, and individuals are multifaceted, representing various irreducible identities at any given time. This point is emphasized by Sophie Staniszewska and Richard Stephens, co-editors of the journal Research Involvement and Engagement (RIE) in their interview in this issue of Science Editor, “Democratizing Science Through Public Involvement.” RIE is focused specifically on patient and public involvement in research, and patient and public reviewers are involved in all aspects of peer review, including their co-Editor-in-Chief Richard Stephens, who brings his expertise as an “involved and engaged patient.” However, the line between academic and patient is not always clear as researchers may become patients or caregivers at any time, shaping their expertise and perspective. By accentuating the importance of both perspectives, these editors hope to encourage researchers to explore that aspect of their identity in ways that will improve their science. Likewise, in her article “New Identities in Peer Review: Who Are They and Why Are They Important?,” Janaynne Carvalho do Amaral discusses how the inclusion of early career researchers and nonscientists in peer review can help increase the reach and applicability of science. 

Identity is also a double-edged sword, and peer review can be shaped by the prejudice and bias about authors as much as the content of the manuscript. As a potential corrective during a time when journals and organizations have increased their focus on ensuring equitable and fair review for a diverse range of authors, double-anonymous peer review has gained new salience. Implementing this workflow, wherein the identity of authors and reviewers remains anonymous to both parties, was discussed in a CSE Peer Review Week webinar as covered by Martha Keyes in her report on “The Road to Double-Anonymous Peer Review.” This report covers factors to consider during implementation and how to measure success, along with valuable resources for those interested in determining if double-anonymous peer review would be right for their journal.

In the Science Editor interview series, the backgrounds and identities of editors and publishing professionals are explored and examined. In her interview in this issue, “Shaping Critical Thinking About Science,” Sabina Alam, Director of Publishing Ethics and Integrity at Taylor & Francis Group, explained to Anna Jester how working with authors as an editor for many years led her to focus on research ethics and supporting researchers to help “disseminate verified and trustworthy content.” Working with authors is also the focus of Joseph Mills as described in a profile by Anna Cho Walker, “An Author’s Editor.” Mills describes the unique challenges of editing authors prior to journal submission, where he does not have the authority to require revisions or reject a manuscript. This position forces him to be persuasive and communicate to authors why certain revisions will improve the quality and impact of the manuscript. 

A key aspect of the editorial identity (in my opinion) is a continual focus on improvement and refinement, and the mission of Science Editor is to help provide the knowledge, skills, and concepts they may need. That goal is also found in the article by Diana Burke on “Best Practices in Table Design.” Building on recommendations from CSE’s Scientific Style and Format and other style guides, Diana provides a useful overview of the best ways to present data and information in tables along with some examples of what not to do. Because tables are likely one of the elements a reader skimming an article will check first, authors and editors need to ensure these data are presented as clearly as possible. 

CSE members and the CSE Editorial Policy Committee are a fount of knowledge, and a new series, “Since You Asked… Advice from the CSE Editorial Policy Committee,” will collect and share some of those experiences and insights. As Jill Jackson states in her introduction, “working in an editorial office can be very routine as there are policies in place to answer most questions. But what about those times when you have a question but are unsure of the answer or where to even begin the work to find the best possible solution? Your colleagues at CSE have most likely encountered a similar situation and are a great resource for answers. In this section, we will highlight a few of the questions that may have come up in your editorial office recently.”

This spirit of learning from each other is also exemplified by Jennifer Regala in her latest social media column, “It’s Time to Stop Reinventing the Wheel. Let’s Connect Those Dots Instead.” It can seem daunting to start (or restart) a social media strategy for a journal or portfolio, but there is a lot of help available, from colleagues and the broader scholarly communication community, including Jennifer’s ongoing column.  

Likewise, CSE Annual Meeting Reports are an excellent way to learn from colleagues, both from the original presenters and the reporters who volunteer their time and expertise to translate the session into an article. The final group of reports from the 2021 meeting are published in this issue including the following: “Alternative Ways to Tell the Story of Science” by Casey A Buchta; “The Ethics of Data Sharing” by Simona Fernandes; “Artificial Intelligence-Assisted Editorial Tools: Case Studies” by Ellen F Lazarus; “Open Access: A Global Conversation” by Judy Connors; and more.

Finally, we end this issue, and the year, with “A Book Review 30 Years Late” by former Science Editor editor and long-time contributor Barbara Gastel. Back in the early 1990s, she passed up the chance to review Editing and Publication: A Training Manual, by Ian Montagnes, but over time, she has found it to be a valuable resource, especially once it became freely available online. Although the work of an editor continues to evolve, the core responsibility of selecting, shaping, and improving works for publication remains a constant aspect of the editor identity.


Jonathan Schultz is Editor-in-Chief, Science Editor, and Director, Journal Operations, American Heart Association.

Sections of this Viewpoint are adapted from the October, November, and December 2021 editions of the Science Editor Newsletter.

Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the Council of Science Editors or the Editorial Board of Science Editor.