Dissecting the peer review system: theory and practice


Research & Valorization

Target Group

The course is specifically targeted at PhD students, but the course can benefit master students, and postdocs are welcome.


All PhD students


Peer review is the main gatekeeper for quality in today’s academia. However, researchers rarely receive formal training on how the system works. A good understanding of peer review is important to give useful feedback, as reviewers, but also to make the most of other people’s reviews, as authors. This course aims to give an exhaustive explanation of how peer review works, the different types of peer review, the weak spots of peer review, and how to structure a good review.


  • Dr. Federica Bressan, Department of Art History, Musicology and Theatre Studies

Marie Curie alumna (Ghent University, BE)
Fulbright scholar (Stony Brook University, NY)
Contact: federica.bressan@ugent.be

Dates & Venue

  • Thursday 19 September 2019 from 13:30 - 16:30 + Thursday 26 September 2019 from 13:30 - 16:30

De Krook, Miriam Makebaplein 1, 9000 Gent - Co-creation room (-2)



  • DAY 1 (3 hours) - Thursday 19 September 2019 from 13:30 - 16:30

Part 1. Lecture


Getting to know the audience: background, expertise with peer review, etc.

What is peer review

Standard publishing process

Rationale behind peer review

Historical considerations on peer review in science

Benefits of being a reviewer

Types of peer review

Emotions around peer review: reviewer’s anxiety and author’s anxiety

Alternatives to peer review

Part 2. Guided discussion

Some questions to start the discussion:

-Should reviewers be rewarded?

-Should reviewers be able to see other reviewers’ comments?

-Should the reviews be published with the article?

-Do we live in a high-trust or low-trust society? What are the consequences for peer review?

-Can or should peer review detect plagiarism? Etc.

Part 3. Workshop

Guidelines to be a good reviewer.

Standard structure of a review.

What to look for in an article: title, abstract, bibliography, match with journal/conference, etc.

Practical considerations: How much time should I spend on an article? How many times should I read it? Etc.

Explanation of homework.

Homework: review an article. Two-three (published or not) articles per discipline will be selected, in order to cover the participants fields of expertise. A few standard templates for the review will be provided, taken from real world reputed journals.

  • DAY 2 (3 hours) - Thursday 26 September 2019 from 13:30 - 16:30

Part 1. Discussion on homework

Participants present and compare their review, as if they were the reviewers of a paper. One is appointed to act as the editor or meta-reviewer, and a discussion follows. Were the reviews conducted in a satisfactory manner? Were they consistent? Is a second review round necessary? Is the final decision easy or another opinion is needed?

What problems/doubts did you encounter?

Part 2. Lecture

Peer review in the public eye: Science communication and peer review systems outside academia

Part 3. Final discussion

What is your opinion on peer review after this course? Are you pro peer review or a skeptic?

Questions and comments from the participants.

Registration fee

Free of charge for Doctoral School members. The no show policy applies: no-show policy UGent


If the course is fully booked, you can ask to be added to the waiting list by sending an e-mail to: . Please mention your student ID nr.

Please read the cancellation policy: cancellationpolicycourses


“Peer review. The nuts and bolts” by Standing up for Science, 2014 (digital version updated in 2017): https://senseaboutscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/peer-review-the-nuts-and-bolts.pdf

“Global state of peer review” by Publons, 2018: https://publons.com/static/Publons-Global-State-Of-Peer-Review-2018.pdf

“Peer review: benefits, perceptions and alternatives” by Mark Ware, Publishing Research Consortium, 2008

Number of participants

Maximum 20



Evaluation methods and criteria (doctoral training programme)

Active participation in the sessions, including discussion on the homework.