This week, we were fortunate to interview one of the top rated reviewers for MDPI in 2017, Dr Gyorgy Szekely. He is currently a lecturer at the School of chemical engineering and analytical science at the University of Manchester, UK. His multidisciplinary professional background covers many fields, including supramolecular systems, molecular recognition, process development, and nanofiltration, what opens up a broad range of papers which he can review.
His numerous reports were highly rated by our editors. We decided to catch up with him to know the key aspects of a good and timely review report , and get his views on the peer review process. Through our conversation, we were able to find out more about his motivations and the key to crafting a good report.
MDPI: You were one of the most highly rated reviewers for MDPI in 2017. What are the key aspects of a good review report? What is your approach?
GS: Although all manuscripts are different and consequently cannot be reviewed in the same way, there are some key aspects to follow. First, I check whether the described work is scientifically sound. Second, I look for the novelty to understand the potential contribution of the manuscript to the research field. I expect the experimental descriptions to be reproducible, and the conclusions to be supported by experimental evidence. A good review needs to be clear, detailed, critical, structured, professional, precise and submitted on time. Even if I recommend rejection of a manuscript, I try to be as constructive as possible so that the authors can improve their work and learn from their mistakes. The authors must have done their best to write the manuscript prior to submission. Therefore, the comments they receive during the peer review process should be sufficiently detailed and clear to guide them during the revision. I give the same consideration to all manuscripts that I would want my own manuscript to receive.
MDPI: We put a great deal of effort into making the latest research available as quickly as possible, and reviewers play a key role in this. Do you think that the time allowed for reviewing is sufficient?
GS: Waiting for months to get your comments after the submission of your manuscript is frustrating. MDPI Editors request the reviews within a week, which is reasonable. As a reviewer I decline to review a manuscript if I do not have sufficient time to do it within a week. Some reviewers who take weeks or months to submit their reviews after several reminders by the Editor, usually spend the last one or two days to actually read the work and write their comments. Since scholarly peer review works on voluntary basis, invitations should only be accepted if comments can be provided in the time requested by the Editor.
MDPI: As a reviewer, what motivates you the most? Do you believe that peer-reviewing contributes to your field of research? MDPI offers APC discount vouchers to acknowledge reviewers work, do you find these rewards beneficial?
GS: I look at my peer review activity as a voluntary contribution to the scholarly community. Over the years I have received numerous good reviews that helped to improve the quality of my own manuscripts. In some cases I received general comments which helped me to prepare better manuscripts later on. A good review is critical but fair at the same time. I do my best to provide constructive reviews so that the authors can learn from my comments. The peer review process is necessary and its contribution to the scholarly community in various ways such as ensuring that erroneous research does not get published, and improving the quality of the publication. Moreover, both the authors and the reviewers can learn a lot during the peer review process. To be honest I have not taken advantage of my reviewer rewards yet but I will look into them now.
MDPI: What are your views on the future of the peer-review process? Do you find the open peer-review gaining ground in the future?
GS: Open peer review is an interesting concept and it has both pros and cons. The increased transparency of the process is a plus but the reviewers might decide not to be as rigorous as they should be. I think the future is the double-blind peer review process where the reviewers do not know who the authors are. In this way solely the quality of the manuscript determines the outcome of the peer review process, because the reviewers are less biased.