TU Delft | Applied Sciences
TU Delft | Applied Sciences faculty- Taken by Frederique Belliard

The Minor Collaborative Science for Biomedical Breakthroughs (Nanobiology) invited TU Delft OPEN Publishing to conduct a workshop on the paper review process in science. The workshop aimed to introduce students to the merits, challenges, and advantages/disadvantages to the review process, as well as to provide hands-on practice with open peer review using students’ own work. 

We were happy to be considered to give a workshop on peer review. We see it as our role as publisher to advise and help guide the community on best research practices. Our activities can be done through individual or group meetings, but why not through a workshop to engage future scientists? We gladly took this opportunity! 

The audience for this workshop consists of 16 students (3rd year BSc) working on a research project in neuromedecine, supervised by researchers from Erasmus MC. Additionally, those same students are engaged in developing collaboration, communication, reflection, and research skills through various workshops. The workshop took place at the TU Delft Applied Sciences Faculty.

Prior to the workshop, the students were given homework:  

Workshop Overview

The workshop which lasted 3 hours, was divided into three parts:  

  • Introduction to peer-review: We covered the peer-review history, the type of peer-review (including open peer-review and preprint) and the ethical guidelines. 
  • Peer-Review in Practice: we had three groups, each with their own project. Every group submitted an introduction for their project prior to the workshop. Then,
    students were asked to review individually the introduction of another group. They used a review guidance to write a peer-review which they shared with the original authors.  
  • Feedback: the participants were encouraged to reflect on the peer-review process 
  • Students shared insights, and lessons learned as a reviewer and as an author 
  • Students discussed their emotional response to the review process 

  Student Engagement

Students welcomed the exercise of peer reviewing their fellow students’ work. The review process involved reading instructions, reviewing the paper individually, and discussing feedback within groups. After group discussions, feedback was shared with the authors, who then shared their thoughts in a collaborative effort. 

  • Reviewing and Feedback: Students enjoyed discussing feedback with peers and sharing insights with authors, resulting in high engagement throughout the session. 
  • Content and Structure: Most feedback mentioned issues such as lacking aims, unclear methodologies, or missing components, highlighting the importance of a well-structured and comprehensive paper. 
  • References: Students stress the value of including references in papers as an essential aspect of writing and research integrity. With missing references, the authors cannot support their allegations, therefore they can be easily invalidated.  
  • Language and Grammar: All mentioned grammar and language issues in the reviewed work, despite these aspects not being the primary focus of peer review.  

  Student Feedback on the Workshop

  • Students liked the guidelines for their clarity and easiness.  
  • Time allocated for reading and reviewing was insufficient. 
  • Getting familiar with the topic took a lot of time. 
  • Some had to reread the introduction multiple times. 
  • Not having the knowledge of the topic posed a challenge. 
  • It can be difficult to give feedback, even with deep knowledge of the project. 
  • Potential conflicts of interest arose due to familiarity with the project and colleagues. 
  • Participants appreciated the reviewer’s knowledge of the topic.  

  Take aways 

  • Stress the importance of being aware of biases when assessing a work 
  • Knowledge gap in scholarly publishing practices 
  • Students had a limited understanding of how peer review works, and the processes involved before an article is published.  
  • Students were unfamiliar with archives and preprints, 
  • Students lack awareness of the type and credibility of source material they encounter 
  • Students recognized the importance of language clarity and proper grammar in academic writing, even though they acknowledged that focusing on content and structure is more critical during peer review 
  • Students liked the opportunity to reflect on and review each other’s work. The participative character of the workshop was appreciated. 
  • Preprinting was helpful for students to receive feedback from their peers as authors and to learn how to give feedback to their peers 

 Final thoughts

While this is the first peer review workshop that we give to students, a big lesson for us is the importance of the preparations prior to the workshop and the communication with the teacher for setting up the session. During the workshop, the time required for reading and writing needs to be adapted to the level of the students and the text that the students need to analyse. The input of the teacher is crucial to estimate the time needed for the students to read other works.  Regarding the results of the workshop,  we were surprised by the quality of the responses and the respectful, critical but constructive approach of all students. Finally, even if we advise to ignore the grammar and the language mistakes in their review, it is impossible for students to ignore it, as the language quality is responsible for the message clarity and easiness of the transmission of the information.  

We learned a lot from the students, and we are now more convinced than before that workshops on peer review should be an integral part of our activities. 


Contributors: Paige Folsom, Erifyli Kokkalidou, Dirk-Jan Ligtenbelt, Esther Plomp,
              Martijn Wackers, Lisanne Walma