Insider insights on peer review and my role on the editorial board of Communications Physics

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The New Year has just started and this is the right time to look back over our past achievements and make resolutions that can propel us with enthusiasm into the time ahead. I’ve been serving as editorial board member (EBM) of Communications Physics since the early opening phase of the journal. I am therefore eager to share my vision and thoughts about the EBM role. I am sure that this blog is the proper dissemination venue.

Then why serving as EBM and why now? I think we are at the verge of an entirely new era, in which the well-established paradigm of publication under the paywall restriction is being disrupted by the free distribution of the research results. As a matter of fact, the soaring interest of the scientific community in making research outputs publicly available is now strongly supported by policy makers. I thus felt the need of giving my contribution and foster the establishment of a trustable and renowned forum that can host free and open access publications for the wider physics community.

But before continuing further, let me just make a quick detour by focusing on panel discussions, i.e. conference events where experts offer differing perspectives regarding a specific topic. Following our own experiences, we might have developed contrasting opinions about this format, but I am sure we can all agree about one point. The exchange of ideas among panelists is engaging and informative for the audience only if suitably and critically guided by a moderator. In my view, panel discussions nicely resemble the peer review process. The moderator is indeed the editor who is expected to stewardships the presentation and scrutiny of the research outputs by the authors, the reviewers and, finally, the journal’s readership. This pivotal task is suited best, in my opinion, by the shared editorial model proposed by the Communications journals. In this rather unique approach, in-house editors can oversee and guarantee the overall quality of the editorial process, while the accompanying involvement of active scientists as EBMs brings into the equation also deeper insights and proximity to a specialized research community. Potentially, this well-matched mix of competencies can be effective and robust, eventually accelerating the dissemination of important findings.

The first challenge I typically face as EBM is to secure distinguished scientists, i.e. the panelist, that can advise and carry out the manuscript assessment. That is likely related to the increasingly common issue that everybody experiences nowadays: it is becoming more and more difficult to allocate time to review papers due to the multiplication of academic and administrative duties. Under such circumstances, I have found that a large network and a direct personal knowledge of prospective reviewers can provide me with a prompt and well-educated guess to cherry-pick qualified people to sit on my panel.

I believe that guiding a constructive, reasoned dialog between authors and referees is a privilege even when the topic stretches me outside my comfort zone. The readers certainly benefit most from a rigorous selection process, but I have no doubts that an open discussion will results in professional growth of all the panelists and the EBM alike.

Serving as EBM means to be part of a limited group of people that aims at disseminating influential and impactful research. While this is challenging, and dauting to some extent, it is certainly stimulating and eventually rewarding. Therefore, I hope that the new year will offer to all of us exciting peer review time and new professional achievements.

Go to the profile of Fabio Pezzoli

Fabio Pezzoli

Prof., University of Milano-Bicocca

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