Walking in a fellow scholar’s shoes
A peer review complete with kindness and understanding
As a doctor, I was invited to peer review abstracts submitted for our annual international professional meeting in my areas of expertise. I was assigned several papers submitted from authors from places as diverse as Iran, Mexico, U.S., Nepal, India, Turkey and Vietnam.
There are criterion and rubrics to guide the review process. In my heart I understood the importance of the abstracts to the authors and consequently the importance of my reviews and comments. These are professionals, colleagues showcasing their work and trying to contribute to knowledge. Every peer reviewer could equally have been the person whose paper is being assessed.
I had two questions: How would I feel if I were awaiting feedback on my own paper? Second, what would be important to me? After a personal internal debate, I decided to place myself in the presence of God and prayed.
I found answers to the questions. First, I would have been glad that I made the deadline for submission and that my abstract made it to the reviewer’s desk. Second, although I would prefer a positive outcome and acceptance of my paper, if it were otherwise rejected, it would be important to me that my reviewer spared a moment to write a line, clearly indicating why, even if it was his or her opinion.
So this was how I proceeded to read and assess the papers. I read each with kindness, patiently trying to understand what the writer was communicating. I noted how culture could affect language, and thus started to appreciate the real messages being passed. Then, very important to me, I gently explained why any abstract should be rejected (or accepted).
I learned vital lessons from this process. And I am at peace.
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