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Demystifying the Peer Review Process: Why Researchers & Writers Should Not Take it Personal?


The Peer Review Process. Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a conversation on the Clubhouse app where the topic was on the peer review process. The organizers of the session were from diverse academic backgrounds including education and artificial intelligence (AI). Also, participants in the Clubhouse room were from different disciplines such as the biological sciences, engineering, cultural studies, etc. And, of course, consistent with the Clubhouse community, the room was packed with people from all over the world which was really cool! The gatherers spent nearly two hours questioning the peer review process. (My video is shorter!)


Judging from avatars (or profile pics) and people's voices, participants were also representative of diverse racial, ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups. Nevertheless, I listened to students and tenure-track professors raise questions and comment on the state of the peer review process. For the most part, the session might've been described as an informational session on the peer review process, but some of us who are more familiar with the peer review and publication process might've described it as a venting session. I am going to place the tone of the conversation into two categories:

  1. The review process is unfair or bias; and

  2. There is a lack of transparency of what actually is involved in the peer review process.

What is the problem with the peer review process? Honestly, I am grateful that the organizers of the Clubhouse room decided to host the discussion. I learned a lot as a research scholar and a person invested in the peer review process. What did I learn as an insider/outsider? What were some sentiments expressed? I would say that much of the sentiments from the conveners and participants (or those making comments and asking questions) were that certain disciplines are harsher in criticism, bias toward so-called newcomers, and/or scientists who present novice ideas are automatically rejected for those ideas. Also, some people seemed to believe that the peer review process itself lacked organization and consistency across organizations. I personally learned that many people are not really aware of the purpose of the peer review process and that there is a lack of trust in the process.

Is the peer review process intimidating for scholars? In some cases, I could also sense a feeling of intimidation or worry about the expectation to participate in the peer review process. Eventually, I did raise my hand to "go on stage" to attempt to provide some insight into the peer review process from two perspectives: as a Black woman scholar and someone who has extensive experience serving behind the scenes in a variety of capacities in the peer review process (e.g. Associate Editor, Series Editor, Review Board, author, conference chair, etc.). I am not sure that I am ready to state unequivocally that there is a lack of transparency in the peer review process, but I do believe that there is a lack of knowledge of the peer review process, which could be related to issues of equity and access. With that said, I created a video to demystify the peer review process. We all can benefit from knowing what the peer review process entails!

Tips for navigating the peer review process. Take notes! After viewing the video on YouTube (and please subscribe so I can continue to make such content free and accessible), be sure to take a look at the list of tips under the video that I provide for graduate students, new authors, and tenure track faculty for navigating the peer review process. ​Finally, check out my book, "Black Feminism in Qualitative Inquiry: A Mosaic for Writing Our Daughter's Body" for a straight-forward discussion on bias in the academic/scientific research process itself! ?


Please leave comments here (below) or on Youtube, if you have more questions about the peer review process. In the struggle for our humanity, ​Dr. V

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