In recent times, science has become less about specific scientists working in specific disciplines, and more about different disciplines working together to come up with complex solutions to complex problems facing humanity. When it comes to peer review, this growth in cross-disciplinary science means it is no longer sufficient to send such a manuscript to two or three peer reviewers working in the same area. Today, a cross-disciplinary manuscript needs to be assessed holistically, which means bringing in experts from both sides of the physical and life science divide. Professor David Hu, from Georgia Institute of Technology, tells us why the Journal of the Royal Society Interface is his preferred journal and why, when it comes to peer review, it’s not just what you know, but who you know.
Tell us about your research
I’m a mechanical engineer who works on the movement of animals. When I’m ready to submit my research, Interface is my preferred journal. I have published on wet dogs shaking (2012), the movement of snakes (2012, 2013), the aerodynamics of eyelashes (2015), the sticky saliva of frogs (2017), how elephants can pick up piles of grains with their trunk (2018), and how maggots can eat a pizza in two hours (2019). I’m proud that we had the beautiful face of a maggot make it to the cover of Interface. The alumni from my lab also continue to publish in Interface.
Why do you submit to Interface so regularly?
I choose Interface because I like having reviewers from both biology and engineering. Having suggestions from both sides can be important for work in emerging fields.
My favourite scientists such as L Mahadevan at Harvard, David Lentink at Stanford, Orit Peleg at Colorado, Sharon Schwartz at Brown and many others, also publish in Interface on a regular basis.
If my paper involves a mathematical model, Interface will do a better job of publishing it correctly than some biology journals. This attention to detail saves me time in the proofs. Interface also accepts LaTeX, whereas some other journals require me to convert to Microsoft Word.
Also important to me is that Interface is one of the few high-quality journals in which it is still free to publish. I hope this financial model continues. I would rather spend my funds on science than on publishing costs.
“I choose Interface because I like having reviewers from both biology and engineering. Having suggestions from both sides can be important for work in emerging fields.”
How do you find the review process?
The reviewers give fast and useful feedback, which is helpful to graduate students who are publishing their first paper.
Have reports helped improve the quality of your paper?
I often learn new things from the reviewers. Our last review on elephants grabbing food was from a roboticist, who suggested a few state-of-the-art papers on robots that can perform similar tasks. We were not aware of these papers, and his work helped increase the paper’s audience. When there are reviewer comments from different fields, it becomes possible to highlight application of the work that were not even known to the authors.
“When there are reviewer comments from different fields, it becomes possible to highlight applications of the work that were not even known to the authors.”
How do you define quality in peer review?
Good reviews can’t just be a general sentiment of quality. They should be justified by the appropriate citations and logical arguments. Interface papers receive between two and four high-quality reviews.
And finally… are you a regular reader of Interface?
The journal Interface is always full of surprises. I have been an avid reader of Interface, because I have reviewed for them regularly over the last decade. One of my favourite papers is the one on the jumping of popcorn, which also made the cover of Interface.
Interface publishes high quality research articles, reviews, and short reports on topics at the interface of the physical and biological sciences. It offers fast, constructive peer review with both sides of the interface considered equally. If you value high-quality peer review that bridges the scientific divide, please consider submitting your next cross-disciplinary paper to Interface.
Professor David Hu, Georgia Institute of Technology