I have known Robert for a long time. Actually, I remember doing a physics lab with him, in the first year of medical school, back in 1995. Since then we have always been very good friends, so have always been (and are) our wives and, now, are our 3+3 kids.
Our friendship has been probably strengthened by the fact that we had somewhat “parallel” careers. We were fellows at MGH more or less in the same period (around 2004) and despite being MD we both loved research, albeit in different fields (Critical Care and Gynecological Oncology, respectively). We faced analogue struggles and challenges (and satisfactions) at the beginning of our academic career, and I must admit that Robert became Associate professor a few months before me.
Many times we spoke about peer review and we always realized how this activity is poorly recognized, despite its invaluable role. As scientists, we felt, often, hard to devote time and energies to something which has no metrics or repository or publicity. Of course, we are not so small-minded to deny that, as part of the scientific community we are all devoted to this “common effort”. At the same time it is tempting to spend an afternoon writing your own papers or preparing lessons or analyzing data (where you are more likely to get an “immediate” reward) rather than peer reviewing someone else’s paper.
Moreover we chatted, many times, of how interesting and stimulating would have been to do something out of the box. Quite different from our daily activities. And here the idea of ReviewerCredits came: a platform, independent from publisher, done from scientist, for scientist, where the effort of peer reviewers could be (at least) objectively measured. We chatted about this one night after dinner, maybe a year ago or so, and before Robert left my place to head home we had registered our domain. Reviewercredits.com first investment 5 €. But as they say in the cult movie “Big trouble in little China” (seen maybe 30 times!): “That was nothing. But that’s how it always begins. Very small.”
We were (and probably still are!) quite naive, knew very little about how to start any activity. But we had a sharp idea on the project. We met Fulvio Castelli, a chemist (very proud of it!), now devoted to IT, and his colleagues at JOINS, who liked the idea and made the beautiful website we have now. It took us maaaaaany (sometimes painful, sometimes frustrating) iterations to get to the point where we are, but we are proud of the website we have now.
And then while we were in Sicily, for a beautiful vacation, July 8th 2016 we said: OK, let’s go online! And we were online. As I said we were naive, we expected our numbers to grow fast and furious, but that was not the case. Who cares: if the Idea is good it is going to happen! And then we got our first claim approved, and the journal begun to know about us and opened profiles…. and sometimes I am still thrilled like a kid, playing with a new toy. But this is not a toy: this is a real, huge project.
And then we went on, met so many people, many liked the idea, others didn’t, but we always tried to get all the good suggestions. We received many emails, some nice, some odd, some aggressive. Sometimes there is a natural difference toward new ideas.
At some point, even if we are in the very early phase, we rapidly realized that we were in the need of help: a key aspect is that of “marketing” and promotion (even if we do not make any profit!), and that’s why Vera and Riccardo joined us!
One of the most important meeting, for us, was that with Bonaria Biancu, the head of the web developers of our university. After a long meeting, discussing the new website of our department I simply told her “maybe you might want to look at our website, reviewercredits.com”. And I’ll never forget her expression, a mix between surprise and enthusiasm: “Then it’s you!”, she said, “I know the website already and it’s great!”. We chatted a couple of hours over the next days and we immediately realized that Bonnie could be our “magic bullet”. We immediately offered her the position of Head of the Editorial and Advisory board (which she accepted!) and since then she brought us an invaluable contribution, in terms of ideas, networking, and opportunities, such as this meeting.
Now, after a long talk with our university, we are bout to face a new challenge (or adventure, if you will!): that of transforming ReviewerCredits from something done at a “personal” level, to a small company, able to sustain itself. Perhaps we still do not realize all the obstacles that we will encounter, but I want to close this article with the closing of the aforementioned “cult movie”:
Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old
storm right square in the eye and he says
“Gimme your best shot, pal. I can take it.”