Paleontology, preprints and researcher’s career path – A conversation with Gareth Dyke

Published by Ebuka Ezeike on

Gareth Dyke is a writer, researcher, and educator with deep experience at the interface between publishing and academia. He is the Director of Global Content at Research Square Company.

He shares his wealth of experience on paleontology, preprints and the career paths of researchers with Jo.

To see all episodes, please go to our CONVERSATIONS page.

He has authored over 300 articles in peer-reviewed journals over the last 20 years (including in Nature and Science). As an author of educational contents, he emphasizes young researcher outreach; He helps ESL authors write, communicate, and publish research effectively in English and have well-developed networks most notably in China and Central Asia (Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan). His face-to-face training workshops in 2019 were attended by more than 6,000 ECRs and his online training events in 2020-22 have been very popular. He has gathered extensive experience creating, growing, and managing high impact academic journals working with Taylor & Francis and Eurasia Academic Publishing.

Gareth Dyke can help you get the best out of your research, write great papers in English, and get them published in amazing journals to advance your career!

Gareth Dyke

Personal profiles

ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8390-7817 

Twitter: @researchsquare




Jo: Gareth, good to see you on the show. Welcome. 

Gareth: Hi, Jo. How are you today? 

Jo: So everybody, here is Gareth Dyke for you. A long term acquaintance or friend, I think we consider each other friends. We’ve never met in person, not that I remember, but we have very much engaged over various digital tools and devices around the topic of open access, preprints, scholarly publishing. You’ve invited me to co-facilitate a webinar to Saudi Arabian medical researchers, which was quite interesting and a nice opportunity. Thanks again for that. And, yeah, here we are to talk about preprints today. So thanks for joining. 

Gareth: Oh, cool. Thanks for inviting me. Preprints are everybody’s favorite subject, of course, so yeah, thanks, Jo. Great to be here.

Jo: They should be.

Gareth: That webinar we did was for the IVPN Network, which is a big Gulf region network of pharmacists and medical researchers. So, yeah, it was great talking about open science, open research. But, yeah, brilliant. 

Jo: So starting off, would you mind sharing a little bit about yourself, how your career went from paleontology and now being, how you consider it, like, communications person previously or until recently for Addons. And we can also spend some time talking about Addons and their services and what they offer. And now for Research Square, both of which are companies who are very much of service to the scholarly community. But starting with yourself. So who are you? What are you doing here and why? 

Gareth: Yeah, great. I got involved in author services in around 2015, 2016, starting off as an editor, working on other people’s papers, which I greatly enjoyed and got, like, a really good, I hope good appreciation for the process and the amount of work that people put into education. Jo: Can I put it on a break for a second? Can we start with paleontology? Because what I often ask people in my workshops is, why did you become a researcher in the first place? And often enough, it’s a deep passion they have for the subjects or deep curiosity. And paleontology is like, it’s not far fetched for young boys, you would think. Everybody loves dinosaurs. Also girls. Gareth: So I went to university to study biology, and I didn’t really know that paleontology was even a thing. Like, throughout my childhood, I was interested in insects mostly, actually. 

Jo: Okay. Not a fossil person. 

Gareth: No, I wasn’t really interested in fossils when I was a kid, although I am just well, I mean, I used to read dinosaur books and things like that, I suppose. But my big passion when I was a child was animals, especially insects. I used to breed and keep, like, lots of different kinds of stick insects and moths and butterflies. So that was my kind of hobby when I was a kid. So I went to university to study biology or zoology. And my father didn’t want me to study zoology, really. He thought it would just mean that I would become a zookeeper. He wanted me to study something more hardcore, like chemistry or physics or mathematics or something like that. Anyway, I went to university to study biology, and I didn’t even know that paleontology was really a thing you could study at university. And so I kind of got into it, actually, when I went to an open day at Bristol University and I discovered that you could study geology and biology in the same degree. And at that point, I kind of thought, oh, wow, that sounds cool. And so I really got interested in geology when I was at university because I could study it together with biology and then through that I became more and more interested in fossils. But not so much in the fossils, actually, but in the way that they moved in the past. Really, my subject, my expertise, my interest was in biomechanics of fossils and in particular, like, trying to understand how birds and dinosaurs, how birds develop the ability to fly. And birds evolved feathers and how they started to use feathers to fly around. So I did a lot of work and published a bunch of papers on feather evolution. Dinosaurs with feathers. The early evolution of birds. 

Jo: I remember Archaeopteryx. 

Gareth: Many others. Yeah, archaeopteryx is the most famous from Germany. From Bavaria. In that region of Germany or Bavaria. Yeah. So that’s my story in a nutshell. But, yeah, I like the finding of the fossils part of paleontology too. So I used to do a lot of field work and still do, actually, some field trips every so often looking for fossils, collecting fossils, digging them up. 

Jo: So you still have it in you? 

Gareth: Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. 

Jo: Once a scientist, always a scientist. That’s also what I feel, even though I might not practice biology research anymore. But you never lose the skill set and the curiosity and enthusiasm for research. 

Gareth: Right. And I think that that is a huge transferable skill that lots of people probably could take more advantage of when they finish PhDs or post docs. People often end up leaving academia. The skills that you learn, like, as an academic, should be much more transferable to other lines of work. I kind of discovered that by accident now that I’m doing content marketing, creating the kinds of things that we hope will help researchers with their problems, with their pain points, as business people like to say. So that’s what I do now is training, content creation, content delivery. I mean, in the business world, it’s content marketing really helping people to learn about our products and services, but doing it in such a way that they’re getting information, helpful information, content from us that helps them to overcome problems. Selecting a journal, writing a paper, dealing with English language writing and communication skills like managing the publication process, dealing with peer review, all that great stuff. 

Jo: Sorry for interrupting, because at the age of the general services, they have at research gate. It seems that even though you’re a native speaker, or maybe especially because of that, you seem to have quite a lot of empathy for non native English speakers. Like in the way you market the services and the way you explain in your webinars how they can be of use.

Gareth:  I spent a lot of time as an academic, as a researcher working on papers and working with colleagues and friends who were not native speakers. I worked a lot in Kazakhstan. I worked a lot in Russia, for example, in particular. And people would always send me their papers to correct, and I’d always do it. Of course. I remember working a lot on some papers that an old friend of mine, though dead, was the head of paleontology at the Russian Paleontological Institute in Moscow and I would always edit his papers and often we published papers together. And then after I started working for a company called Charlesworth Charlesworth Author Services, I got the chance to travel to China. Ended up spending quite a lot of time in China working with researchers, doing workshops. So people tell me that my English is quite easy to understand and I have some experience writing and publishing so I can give tips and tricks and solutions to problems and stuff like that. Yeah, I love it. It’s great. Lots of fun.

Jo:  How did it come as you travel more to the east of the planet? Like, if we consider Europe and Great Britain as a center, which is also a little bit Eurocentric by its nature. 

Gareth: Well, most of our business, most of our customers, most of the researchers that we work with are in Japan and in China, depending upon the company that you work with more or less in Asia, Southeast Asia, that kind of region. But that’s where most of the research is also being done these days. I mean, huge amounts of great research is being done in China because people are not native speakers and often need help to understand the publication process. We find that there’s often the same kinds of issues that many researchers will ask us. So we’ve been able to develop, like, banks of questions, frequently asked questions and webinars and training and other products and services that help people with those specific things. 

Jo: And given the language barrier, especially in Asia or other world regions, do you see that there’s various bubbles, like science communication bubbles, despite the Western and Anglophone research bubble, which is presumably the biggest? Do you really think that’s the case in the Western context? It’s often said as such.

Gareth: Yeah, definitely. My friends in China, for example, tell me that it’s much less of a thing, science communication, talking about your research, presenting your research, like outside of the publication cycle, it’s just done less well. We hope that it will be done more and more, of course, but it’s just been less of a priority, I think, up until quite recently. 

Jo: But isn’t it also quite recent for us in Europe and North America? And relatively speaking, of course, we’ve been growing into it for the past decade or so. But before that, even when I was a PhD student, I don’t think there was a lot of science communication awareness. 

Gareth: Yeah, we never bothered with it when I was working at universities, or at least I never bothered with it. I had colleagues and friends who were really into being on TV and communicating their science and talking about dinosaurs and becoming famous and all that kind of thing. And we had people at our universities and of course, this is still a very important and ever growing part of UK University life, but they contact us rather than the other way around, if that makes sense. I mean, I was not really doing all that much science communication. I would publish papers and then move on to the next research project. 

Jo: And then in China, you learned about Adams, the company, or was it a smooth transition from the other one? 

Gareth: Well, I mean, I had no idea that this kind of business even existed when I was working as an academic and of course, being a native speaker and hopefully not needing much help with writing and publishing my own work because I love to write. And actually that part of the publication process was the bit that I really enjoyed and I still enjoy, like, the writing up of papers and dealing with editors and peer reviewers. And I’ve been an editor myself for almost 19 years now, like, working with Taylor and Francis on another academic journal that’s called Historical Biology. So I still kind of bounce around and do all these kinds of different things. But yeah, I was working as an editor and then one day I got a call from the team at Charlesworth Author Services asking me, like, would I be interested in doing some workshops for them. I did that and I went to China and I did some workshops, and this whole kind of new alternative area of work opened up. And through that work, I learned about the other companies that do this kind of work. InArgo, Editage, Addons, AJE, which is part of the company that I work for now. And there are many others working in different areas, different regions. Some specialized in Korea, some specialized in China. Top Edit, the company that I also used to work for is a Chinese company. Almost 100% of its customers are in China. So I learned a lot about Chinese researchers, the problems that they particularly face, as well as Chinese social media and how to talk to people using the different platforms that people use in China. Not LinkedIn, for example.

Jo:  I heard about it, like, it’s massive with also not TikTok, but they have their own social media. Gareth: TikTok is the Western version of a Chinese platform called Doyen. My pronunciation will be terrible and people will be laughing at me when I say these words.

Jo:  In Russia, they also have similar channels, but for Russians and  Russian made. Yeah. Do you see ways to intersect and have these systems interoperate so that some of the knowledge and expertise can spill over from one bubble to the other?

Gareth: Well, we tried to do that. We do try to do that. For example, when we create content at Research Square, we would use that content in a variety of different platforms, on a variety of different platforms to try and reach people who are using different media. I don’t think the problems that researchers face around the world vary all that much depending upon where you work. A lot of it has to do with the English language, of course, but the kinds of issues that people ask us about, the kinds of questions that they have are universal. I mean, everybody struggles with finding a journal for their research papers. Everybody struggles with getting started on a research project. Big question that people always ask is how to come up with a good question for my research, like how to identify what we call a knowledge gap or that kind of thing. So the problems are universal. It’s just that the ways that people consume the content that we create and the help that we try to provide them, very some people use Telegram, Instagram, WeChat, TikTok, you name it. And so we have to kind of stretch ourselves as thin as possible and try to engage with these different platforms. And since the Pandemic, when I started working for a top edit, this Chinese author services company, at the beginning of 2020, everything went online almost entirely. And I’ve still, even though everyone else is bouncing around the world again and quite happy about it, I’m actually preferring to stay online. And that became my kind of specific area of expertise, I guess, like webinars and online training, online engagement. I mean, I used to do and still do a lot of face to face teaching and obviously being an academic, working at universities, got some teaching experience over the years. But yeah, I mean, I kind of prefer webinars and I kind of feel that we learned as an industry, or at least in our auto services, helping people, industry, coaching industry basically, is that we don’t need to do so much rushing around when we can provide quite a lot of engagement and the same kind of help in an online environment.

Jo: Yeah. Thanks for sharing these insights. Let’s talk a little bit about Research Square and the kind of work you do there and then finally come to the topic of the day, which is preprint and what they’re good for and why they’re so awesome. 

Gareth: What are they good for? We should call this session, preprints, what are they good for? Jo: Many things. Okay, about Research square. 

Gareth: What is it and why should you be interested?

Jo: That’s a good reason. 

Gareth: Research Square Company, founded in 2004 by a wonderful man called Shashi Mudunuri. It’s got two parts to it now. Research Square Company. Part number one is the Research Square, the preprint server. Okay? And that’s now, as we’ll talk about in a minute, that’s the biggest preprint server in the world in terms of number of submissions to It. I might be wrong. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what we tell people, the biggest in the world. And that’s largely because of the pandemic or at least the acceleration in submissions to Research Square. The preprint server happened because of all the work that people were doing on Covid and related topics. So that’s part one. Research Square. The Preprint server. We call it the platform within the business. And the second is AJE, the professional services company. AJE American Journal Experts. Now,, and that’s part of the company that provides editing, translation services and other professional services, like making posters, formatting references, making tables, all that kind of stuff. So if you need help with a paper and you’re working on a paper for submission to a journal, then AJE can help you with all of that kind of stuff. So that’s the company. Yeah. 

Jo: What I like about the AJE services is that they have products for every pocket size in the sense of affordability. So there is editing. There is hands on editing, and the automated editing is already pretty good. 

Gareth: Yeah, I forgot to mention, like, a big part of AJE is the digital services. So AI editing, artificial intelligence, get your paper edited by a robot, you upload your paper, and then literally six minutes later, the website spits out an edited version with the track changes and stuff. So, yeah, it’s pretty cool. I like it because compared to the other kinds of services that you see in this space, this particular tool actually helps you to understand why the changes were made, which is really helpful for academics.

Jo: May I just add to that. The editing algorithm. How does it compare to grammarly? 

Gareth: How does it…

Jo: Is it, like, simpler in its approach? And how well can it read into research discipline, specific terminology? I think that’s the trade off or where there’s still a need for hands on editing. Obviously.

Gareth: I mean, people use this editing AI tool at different stages of the editing process. So some people might use it at the start, the first thing to do with a paper, get it edited with the AI tool, save yourself some time. Or it’s also useful if you’ve done an editing job, like if you’re working for a journal or in the production process, for example, you’ve got a document that you think is ready to go into production, you can run it. You can run the document through this tool just to make sure there are no silly mistakes, no spelling mistakes, no inconsistencies between American and British English so that it’s useful at the two different ends of the editing process. How does it compare to grammarly? Other editing tools are also available. Other AI editing tools are also available. Other supermarkets are also available. Grammarly, of course, is the most famous. But that’s a tool that you would use to check your general writing so you can use it when you have to write an email or a document. So it’s very good at checking regular writing and giving you suggestions for different phraseologies that you might use when you have to write an email. So I know lots of people, for example, who are not native English speakers that use that tool to check that their emails that they send to other people are not riddled with errors, for example. 

Jo: Also because I’m not a native speaker, but mostly because I talk so fast and then autocorrect makes silly sentences out of my writing and then grab is an easy way to correct on the fly. But what I hear from you is that the algorithm is more research specific or better. 

Gareth: Yeah, well, it was trained; the algorithm was trained on academic papers. So if you’re a chemist and you upload a chemistry paper, then it’s going to give you edits, suggestions and changes that are very specific to your academic discipline. And so that’s what makes it different from the alternatives. Right? 

Jo: Sure. 

Gareth: People like it too, because the comments that come back actually help researchers to understand why the tool has made a change rather than just making the change. You can actually see why the change was made. So the idea is that if you use it enough, you’re going to learn and improve your own writing at the same time, which is great because everybody wants to get better. They don’t just want to throw something into a machine and get something back. They want to actually learn and get better and improve their writing too. It’s also super affordable. One year subscription, just $106. I know, amazing, right? That’s not bad. $100. Use it as many times as you like over the course of a whole year, 365 days, good value. Go over to and check it out now. 

Jo: Yeah. Cool. Okay, let’s talk about preprints. 

Gareth: Okay. 

Jo: What are most submissions that come into Research Square as a topic and discipline presentation. 

Gareth: Yeah. Okay. So as you know yourself, Joe being, like, an expert on preprints and open science, like, most of the submissions that we get are STEM discipline specific. So science, technology, engineering, medicine. Still, unfortunately ,or fortunately depending on your perspective, very few researchers overall use preprint servers. I think the percentage is still about ten to 12%. 

Jo: It’s not bad compared to just recently.

Gareth: Yeah. When you sit in our position and you know, like, the huge benefits to a researcher, to their career, to their visibility, to their impact, to their citations, to the peer review process of uploading a preprint, like, I can’t now myself believe that everybody just doesn’t do it automatically. But in my research career, I never did it ever. Like I’ve not preprinted anything. I never did that. It was never a thing. I was never even encouraged to do that. So I think we’ve got a lot of work to do and it’s kind of our responsibility to educate and provide some kind of support and training so that researchers will understand why it’s such a hugely beneficial thing that they could be doing. But like we were talking before, we always get the same questions about preprints. We always get the same concerns from authors about preprints. But to answer the question that you actually asked me, yeah, like most of our preprints are in those STEM disciplines with a strong bias towards medicine. 

Jo: But I also think that the publication pressure is the highest in STEM disciplines and might not have such an urge to publish the heck out of their research. So let’s see five footprints for a second. So my definition is manuscript that’s deemed ready for submission to a journal to a standardized scholarly repository, which and that’s the important part, you can also upload it to your website or to the institutional website. But the beauty with preprints and preprint repositories is that the discoverability will increase dramatically by the repositories assigning DOIs and also open licenses so that scholarly literature search bots can detect them. And based on the, sorry getting technical, based on the keywords and metadata that you add to the submission, it has quite a high chance of being discovered through a literature search in whichever scholarly literature database. And there’s more than the two usual suspects, but we may come to that later on. OK, sticking to preprints. So that’s basically how I normally describe a preprint and it can also stay there. You may still submit your journal at this point. And then a question for me to you would be how do a journal editor see that and wouldn’t it seem redundant from their point of view. But of course, most journal have now embraced the idea of preprint and they might also get better quality submissions as a benefit. Okay, so first of all, do you have anything to add to that kind of rumbling definition? Just post or maybe a smaller, more concise and more accurate one? 

Gareth: No, that’s a good description for researchers. And of course that should be the description of what a preprint is because there are sites, of course, where you can put anything, like at any stage, you can upload anything that you’ve done. You can upload just a title or just an abstract. And I’m thinking of one platform in particular, but I wouldn’t encourage that as a supervisor, as somebody mentoring young researchers to develop their careers. I’d rather say to people, if you’re going to preprint, I think you should preprint your work. You should put your work on a preprint server. But let’s put up onto the preprint server what we’re ready to submit to a journal. Because otherwise putting up stuff too early could be detrimental to your career, your reputation. I think that we should be encouraging people to preprint their work, but in a state, in a draft, in a version that’s final in their mind. And that’s why we have actually most of our submissions to the Research Square Preprint Server come in through a platform called In Review, which is a Springer Nature review platform, peer review platform. So you might go, for example, with your draft, with your final draft of your paper to, let’s say, Scientific Reports, just to pick one Springer journal at random. Other journals are available, other publishers are available, and in fact, quite a lot of other publishers are also in the In Review system, other journals. So not just spring and nature journals. And we should say as well at this point, for full disclosure, I didn’t mention this earlier, but Research Square Company is almost entirely part of Springer Nature. It’s at the moment, like, almost completely owned part of the Springer Nature Group. So that’s why I’m mentioning Springer Nature in this context. So I’m going to submit scientific reports. I’m in the scientific reports submission system. And as I make my submission to Scientific Reports with, of course, a draft of my paper that I feel is ready to be submitted to Scientific Reports, I am at that point when I submit the paper to the journal, I’m also able to pre print the paper through the In Review platform. So my submission goes to the editor. The editor gets a little email saying, gareth just sent a paper into your submission system, and simultaneously it goes onto the editorial flow at the Research Square Preprint Server. And that’s great, and I encourage people to check it out because that’s great because now your paper is getting reviewed. Like, it’s gone to Jo and Jo and Jo for, like, peer review, right? But at the same time, other colleagues in your research area can see it on the preprint platform. They can comment on it on the preprint platform. Those comments that they might make could be used by the editor at Scientific Reports to help them make a decision about what to do with the paper that’s In Review. And that’s why the platform is called In Review, because as an author, you can see what’s going on. You can see the comments being added to the preprint. Obviously, you can respond if you want. They can help you to enhance the paper if you want. I mean, somebody might make a comment saying, well, why didn’t you do the analysis in this way as well as the way that you did? And you might think, that’s a great suggestion. I’m going to do that. And that actually makes the final published version of the paper better, more information, more outcome for other researchers. So it’s very transparent. But people have some difficulties, especially journal editors who sometimes like accepting it. I mean, it’s still considered to be quite a new thing. 

Jo: Yeah, it looks a little bit redundant, but will you just explain the scenario that editors and reviewers can use the in review, community review commenting approach to inform their own decision making and their own reviews to make their own decisions on accepting or rejecting and recommending to the authors of a particular manuscript. But then the other scenario that you just mentioned is submitting an improved version of the manuscript after the public commented to the editorial body as an option in your system to submit the journal and then I don’t know what time scale they apply for the review process. But then you can still let them. Hey. Now we have a few comments and we actually made a few more experiments. Can we? Gareth: Yeah, that’s the way it works. I mean, I put a preprint up and that preprint stays there, right? That first submission that I make to the preprint platform is going to stay on the platform so people can see the process. So I might upload a second or a third version and depending upon the editorial control, which is a very light touch at Research Square, I mean, we just check papers to make sure that they’re not completely out there before we preprint them. But then what that means is that you’d end up with or you could end up with a whole series of versions of my paper culminating in that final published version that comes out in Scientific Reports, the example that we’re using for this discussion. And so that’s great. Of course, every paper that gets published in a journal, in a peer reviewed journal has probably gone through multiple drafts. I mean, some of my papers that got published were like 20, 30 drafts before they finally got published, but we just chucked away all the previous versions. We just deleted the files or emptied the paper recycling. This is good for open science because this way everybody can see the evolution of the paper to the final published version. And I think it’s good also for the record, imagine if we had that kind of information for Einstein’s Papers or pick your famous scientists. It’s really valuable for us to have to understand the evolution of the thought processes and also where the ideas came from. I’m just thinking aloud. But all kinds of other avenues for research could be opened up by this process because we can see things that didn’t work. We can see ideas that didn’t go anywhere, that didn’t end up in the final published version. So if you’re looking for the relationship between open research and preprinting and preprint servers, there you have it. Like what could be more open than that? 

Jo: And open the square with police from anywhere in the world. So what is the added value that then the journal published version, the. Version of the record inner journal is the layout thing. Maybe additional comments by the reviewing board of editors, then the peer reviewers they select. 

Gareth: Yeah, I mean, that’s the final accepted, fully peer reviewed version of the record, as you just mentioned. So that’s what should be cited in subsequent studies. But of course, the other great thing about preprints is that as you mentioned earlier as well, they get assigned DOI numbers, document object Identifier numbers, they get assigned the fantastic Creative Commons license identifications also, so I can cite them. And that makes my subsequent work also much richer because I can say, well, even though Jo published this paper saying this, if you look at her preprint from the year before, you can see that she didn’t think that when she first wrote the paper. And I think that’s hugely important, usually valuable.

Jo: Yes, I think it opens up a level of transparency, obviously, for the specifics, of course. 

Gareth: Well, there’s the other side to that coin as well, unfortunately or ffortunately, and we saw this in the pandemic with all of the Coronavirus preprints, there has to be this clear understanding, of course, that we’re doing this, we’re pre printing, we are advocates of open research and open science. But the final peer reviewed version is the version that we should be promoting, talking about, basing our decisions on, basing other research upon. And so, for example, during the pandemic, lots of preprints that appeared on the Research Square platform and ended up not in the peer reviewed literature, but we’re still talked about a lot, especially in the media and on Twitter and whatnot because they were focused on aspects of the Coronavirus. So that’s another piece of education and training and awareness that we have to work on. When I’m a journalist working for news magazine X and I see stuff coming out on a preprint server, I need to be aware that that stuff that’s coming out on the preprint server is different and potentially different in reliability and quality to the final peer review version of the article.

Jo:  I agree and disagree to some extent, just mentioning or adding that we should treat any piece of information with caution because we never know. Depending on how closed or open the review process is and how rigorous being conducted which enclosed and often journal settings, we have no insights to. I think that’s also a matter of it to the extent that most peer reviewers commit to rigorous review and conduct it in the most possible, fair and transparent and informative manner. And yet there has also been literature shares on the biases in peer review which are less there off if the peer review process is open and also on a preprint level. So, as you say, I think whatever aspects we talk about there’s pros and cons and I just personally think we need to address a level of question to either approach and then eventually can make an informed decision making based on information that we gather and we’re comparing different systems and to a feasible extent, obviously. 

Gareth: Yeah. That’s one of the reasons why open research and pre printing is a good thing because everything becomes much more transparent. Right? Of course, because in normal traditional journal publishing, you just have the final published version. You’ve got no idea what kind of process, if any, that article really went through on the road to publication. I know from my work as an editor that massive differences between the kinds of peer review that you might get for different papers depending upon the reviewer, depending on their level of interest, and everybody working as an academic and maybe paleontology is one area where people do get very angry and upset with each other if they disagree about something. So I’ve got some horror stories from peer review, maybe not for this discussion, but people get really angry. This is the worst paper I’ve ever seen. This person is a complete idiot. Like this paper should never be published. I don’t know how you’re supposed to maintain your composure and confidence in the face of some of the stuff that happens, especially to younger researchers through the peer review process.

Jo: Which reminds us that even researchers are still human beings with all the good and all the bad that comes with it. 

Gareth: Right? Exactly. So I mean, that’s actually, in my opinion, if you ask me, what’s the biggest thing that young researchers should receive training and support in during their PhDs or early stages of their research careers? I think peer review. Managing yourself as a peer reviewer, managing the peer review process. My experience, this was never taught to us as PhD students in the UK at least, and I’ve encountered it a lot, like around the world in different countries, but people are not trained to do it. They might get some training in academic writing or article construction, but managing peer review now you’re just expected at some point in your career to start doing it. Like after you’ve published a few papers maybe, or you start to appear on some of those databases that editors use to find peer reviewers. You start getting invitations to peer reviewing. 

Jo: Well, it’s true what you said, like most people never undergo training in peer review and it’s so important to have that because there are so many aspects to consider. And one major aspect is also the level of accountability and friendliness in the way the review is being communicated or conducted. We just concluded trying to train our peer review program with E-live and TCC Africa, Africarchive, Eidar Africa and Pre Reviews are company which specializes in preprint based peer review and they have compiled an extensive list of training materials for the peer review process and also all the major publishers, but for sure the big five publishers, one of which is for your nature. Plus they all have on their websites training materials and guidelines for peer reviews so it is possible to acquire the necessary knowledge and best practices and how to approach not saying that in the awareness of most researchers who actually do the peer review. So people like us, you and I, can also further sanitize on the opportunities and share the best practices that we do most relevant.

Gareth: Stay tuned because the fantastic Peer Review Week is coming up. The week of 19th September. Yeah, nobody really knows about it outside of the industry. The industry, I mean, at least researchers that I talked to have never heard of Peer Review Week. I’d never heard of Peer Review Week when I was a researcher. But we are going to be releasing, like letting out of the cage, like, quite a lot of content and other helpful stuff during Peer Review Week. And something that I do plan to do I keep talking about this, but I never actually get round to it is to put together all of the resources that there are available from different companies, different publishers, different trainers, like Access 2 Perspectives, for example, in one place for people to be able to find it all on one place.

Jo: For the aforementioned program we did just that. So I can give you a list. 

Gareth: There you go. Brilliant. I don’t need to do that anymore. Then if you could just give it to me, I could just take your name off it and pretend. 

Jo: Let me first preprint the whole thing with our yeah, 

Gareth: There you go. Pre printing is great because it protects absolutely. That’s the number one question that researchers ask. If I pre print my paper on your platform, won’t somebody steal it and publish the work in a journal? Number one question, big concern about preprints. Of course they could. But you’ve got your preprint, you’ve got proof of priority, you’ve got that DOI number. I mean, it could happen with a published paper too, of course. And it does happen with published papers all the time. Jo publishes something in German, for example. I translate it and publish it again in English. 

Jo: And that has happened, not between you and I, but it actually happened that somebody just translates something from another language and publishes in the name without citing the original source. And that’s when people feel too comfortable with the language barriers which we are also trying to dismantle. 

Gareth: Yeah, that’s all part of what we’re trying to do. We don’t want to get too bogged down in the commercial stuff because that’s not why we do what we do. I do what I do because I want to help researchers with their problems. And hopefully I think that this is becoming more and more of a thing in scholarly publishing or in author services or whatever you want to call it. And that’s great. I think it’s really great. 

Jo: Yeah, I really think that it’s great. I’ve had several guests on this podcast now, and more to come who represent researcher services. Right. But researchers are expected and grow into developing a skill set of professional expertise that’s humanly impossible to carry. Really? And why not diverge and delegate some of that to professionals who can actually make our lives as researchers easier and how much better and what they do have specialized and know the whole portfolio of options that are available? 

Gareth: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. I wish I’d known about all of this resource and all of these different organizations and companies when I was working as an academic because it would have helped a lot for me. Journal selection would have been great. I just picked journals based on where I was seeing other colleagues and other researchers publishing their work. I knew about impact factors, of course, everybody who’s an academic knows that.

Jo:  That’s like, why do most of our researchers know later? And for some time, at least four for impact factors, like the biggest misconception ever has really changed the economic system. Gareth:That’s a whole different podcast. We could have another podcast. What is the other lag of impact factors? 

Jo: And we can also talk about the benefits that impact factors have because they make things measurable. But the originator of the impact factor wrote a paper announcing it or kind of describing it, which was then taken further into a product or product development.

He explicitly made clear in his paper that there’s too many unknowns that lead to whatever is considered an impact factor and too many variables across disciplines. It doesn’t say anything, really. It’s a number with no meaning. But, yeah, we use it as a scholarly community. And, yeah, let’s totally talk about it, why it’s become so important and such a decision maker for careers and also for the success of journals, for the rankings of universities, like, where it has its influence. And also let’s talk about the benefits, because there’s a lot like, I am all up for bashing and I do that wherever I can. But there’s also reasoning and a need for a level of comparison, for quality assurance and what alternatives do we have if not the impact factor? And maybe the impact sector has some value to it if we look at it from a balanced viewpoint. I don’t know. Let’s find out. 

Gareth: Yeah, let’s have another chat about that because I’ve got lots of stories about impact factors. 

Jo: I know, and I know, like you said, our friendly disputes around especially that topic. Let’s totally take this for another conversation at this show. 

Gareth: Yeah, absolutely. Well, thank you very much for inviting me to join you on your podcast today. 

Jo: Thank you for being here and for sharing all your insights on your experiences and also for your sales pitches here and there. 

Gareth: Check out Research Square I didn’t mention that yet, but check it out everybody. 

Jo: You will find all the links in the show notes and blog post. So, yeah, we’ll come back here to the show to meet Gareth again. And thanks again, Gareth, for joining.