Companies and organisations often rely on scientific expertise for research or consultancy projects. But besides scientists’ creative abilities and willingness to share opinions on technical problems, there is one skill in particular that is often underappreciated in the business environments, and that is the ability of scientists to independently review ideas, concepts and proposals.
Scientists are trained to carefully analyse and review new ideas and provide detailed feedback on technical aspects. They also tend to do this in an unbiased manner and not shy away from asking critical questions. To understand why, it is important to understand the way in which scientists operate and peer review each others research results before these are published in a scientific journal.
Scientists and reviews
The word scientist was first coined in the 19th century to describe Mary Somerville (Jedburgh 1780 – Napoli 1872), whose interests covered a variety of disciplines ranging from mathematics to astronomy to scientific writing. Nowadays, the word scientist is typically used to describe someone who conducts research to advance knowledge and understanding on specific topics.
To explain complex phenomena, scientists create hypotheses and then design experiments or calculations to test those. To accurately describe their findings, they are used to discuss in order to reach consensus with their peers on the validity and meaning of their results. When a team believes that a piece of research is worth publishing, they send a manuscript describing their work and their findings to a scientific journal.
Once the editor of a scientific journal decides that a manuscript is worth considering for publication, a peer reviewing process starts, in which experts on the topic read the manuscript and provide feedback on the quality and novelty of the work. Amongst other things, they review to which extent the research was conducted properly and the results were valid and reported accurately and truthfully. Within their review report, which is provided back to the editor, reviewers can also suggest avenues for follow-up experiments or research. In case a manuscript does not meet the standards of scientific rigour and novelty it gets rejected and is not published.
Interestingly, the concept of peer reviewing is used in almost all research fields ranging from natural sciences such as physics, chemistry and biology to social sciences. Most scientists care deeply about the quality of publications and consider peer reviewing a part of their scientific duty to which they dedicate their time voluntarily and free of charge.
At the PhD level, a scientific expert typically has reviewed at least one or two papers. Further on in their career, as their reputation and publication record grows, this number typically increases dramatically. Therefore, scientists are not only specialists in analysing content, but also in providing this content with accurate, fair, and constructive criticism. What’s more, to obtain funding for their research and explain their results, scientists are also experienced in describing proposals to implement new ideas related to complex topics.
Does this mean that once an article is peer-reviewed published, it is always 100% correct? The simple answer is: no, but also that is mostly not a problem. After a work is published, other scientists can cite it, critically read it, try to reproduce it, confirm or invalidate parts of it, point out mistakes, and further build upon it; this is how scientific knowledge evolves.
Applying reviewing skills
While scientific experts typically cannot properly weigh the economic factors and market dynamics that are important to make business decisions, they often are able to provide incredibly useful feedback on the technical or scientific aspects of a plan against reasonable costs. These are examples of documents for which it can be useful to have a review by a scientific expert:
- Scientific papers
- Research planning
- Grant proposals
- Project summaries
- Policy documents
- Technology designs
- Patents (patent attorneys are often scientific experts)
Scientific expert reviewing tasks on QuestPair
Although scientists can be useful to help companies critically review ideas and documents, we have found that many companies find it difficult to find the right experts. QuestPair strives to make scientific expertise more accessible to companies and organisations, large and small. If you are registered on QuestPair, post a case and select Expert review. Scientific experts will be able to apply to your case, or you can browse through the list of experts on QuestPair and invite them yourself.
If the materials to review are confidential you can require experts to sign a non-disclosure agreement before they receive access to the case. Before embarking on a project, however small, always make sure to establish a clear mutual agreement on the expectations and deliverables of the project. QuestPair has a dedicated negotiation environment where these can be specified. For reviewing projects, deliverables are typically a review report. In some cases, it can also be useful to plan a short video meeting with the expert to discuss the results of the review.
We hope that QuestPair can help companies and organisations to find scientists who wish apply their reviewing skills for commercial purpose. If there is sufficient interest we will further develop reviewing tools across our platform. Please let us know any ideas or suggestions here.