My name is Natalia Bielczyk. I have a passion for writing! In daily life I am a Founder, Director & Chairperson @ Stichting Solaris Onderzoek en Ontwikkeling, and an Owner @ Welcome Solutions. I am also just completing my PhD thesis within the Donders Graduate School, Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Reviewers

I have been a weirdo from the very beginning; often enjoying things commonly believed to be annoying while at the same time, dodging activities commonly believed to be pleasant. As a child, I enjoyed doing my homework the most, while at the same time, I was not a fan of summer vacations as I felt isolated and unnecessary in absence of duties and tasks to fulfil. Sunny weather was the worst, as it meant I was supposed to sit in the garden and play with toys instead of sitting at home and reading books. And that was a nightmare to me. 

Nothing changed since then: I still enjoy annoying stimuli the most. For instance, in the whole process of conducting a research project - from project planning, through combining a team, doing actual research, submission, review process, production and promotion - I actually enjoy the review process the most. There are at least three separate reasons for this. 

The first reason is that in the review process, the team flocks together in order to rebattle the reviewers’ comments in a group. On such a ‘war mode’, even people who tend to be cold to each other in other circumstances, become much more eager to support and defend each other’s point of view. The herd instinct is a very human thing; nothing works better for creating bonds between people than a combat arm in arm on the same battlefield. And, this is also a good way of ending projects on a good note: even if something goes wrong during the project on a personal level, at the end of the day, a rebattle together brings back a good vibe. 

The second reason is that, once I read a review, I always feel like a I getting a treat; someone is just working on me, and this feeling is alike visiting a dentist or a hairdresser. Except, this someone is doing it in their free time, without even meeting me in person, and free of charge. Some reviewers can be overcritical or biased, that’s actually true. However, reviewers can also be very helpful, and sometimes, I regret that I cannot shake their hand, and thank them in person for the fact that they have spent so much of their free time sweating over my paper, not even being paid or acknowledged in any way for this.

The third reason is that in the review process, you need to switch to the ‘little psychologist’ mode, and often, you need to guess what answer or attitude is expected from you. There are different types of reviewers, the same as different types of people, therefore, there is no winning algorithm for rebattling a peer review; what will satisfy one reviewer, might disgruntle another one and vice versa. Among all the social activities in free time, playing psychological games such as Werewolf or DiXiT, has always been my favourite. In those games, you need to read other people’s intentions, and the same as in the game, I simply enjoy reading reviewers’ comments and trying to guess what answer to the question would actually be appreciated the most. 

Also, I believe that in general, the review process has too bad press. My prediction is that today, in times of globalisation and decentralization in all the social networks, the review process is going to shift towards a crowd-review mode, in which reviewers’ comments and associated names will be public, and in which peer review history will be the same important part of CV as supervising students or presenting at conferences. 

And you, do you like being reviewed?

The three-legged stool

A villain is a hero of another side