When patient partners and scientists team up for peer-review: Strengths and challenges
Patient partners and researchers involved in a joint peer-review process came together to share the successes and challenges of their experience, the results of which were published in the Canadian Journal of Kidney Health and Disease.
The Kidney Research Scientist Core Education and National Training (KRESCENT) is a nation-wide training program for Canadian kidney scientists. Each year, scientific reviewers convene to assess applications, but in 2017, for the first time, patient partners were invited to contribute to the peer review process as well. Eight patient partners underwent training to learn about the function and processes of a peer-review committee, and then helped to evaluate 26 applications alongside the scientific reviewers.
Elisabeth A. Fowler et al. conducted interviews with patient partner and scientific reviewers to understand their perceptions of this experience. Both patient and scientific reviewers reported generally positive views about the process. For example, patient reviewers provided suggestions on how to incorporate patients into the research projects – this feedback was found to be concrete, insightful, and helpful. Some challenges that arose during this joint review process include: some conflicting opinions among patient partners on how much weight their ratings should carry compared to the scientific reviewers; more time than usual was required to discuss the applications among the group; and patient partners had different levels of comfort and desired involvement, highlighting the need to take the time to work with individual patients to find the role that suits them best. However, some patients found their participation to be inspiring and enlightening, and they generally did not show biases against research on rare diseases or preclinical science.
Inclusion of patient reviewers into the peer-review process for the KRESCENT program was challenging, but feasible, and added value for some scientific and all patient reviewers, the authors conclude.