Focus on peer review: Dr Christian Beck is JPhysG’s Reviewer of the Year

Here at IOP Publishing we are proud to recognize the invaluable service that our reviewers provide the scientific community. To celebrate their contribution, last year we awarded 1391 Outstanding Reviewer awards, and 39 Reviewer of the Year awards across our journals. Here, we interview Dr Christian Beck of Universite de Strasbourg, France, 2016 Reviewer of the Year for Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics

Tell us how you go about reviewing an article?

Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics is one of the highest-ranking nuclear physics journals, and includes both experimental and theoretical articles. Considering its high impact factor, I demand that the papers I review are rigorous and original; authors must be meticulous in the presentation of their results and include a bibliography as complete as possible.

If any of these requirements are lacking, I have no hesitation to suggest rejection of the manuscript.

What do you find most challenging about being a peer reviewer, not just for JPhysG, but in general?

One of the most interesting aspects of being a peer reviewer of JPhysG is that a second referee is also involved in the review process unlike many similar journals. Therefore, it is less challenging to address strong recommendations to the authors and the editor.

In general, when one of the leading authors is a close friend or a former collaborator on the topics under consideration, it might be preferable not to accept the invitation to review the article if a journal has overlooked this.

 And what is the most rewarding?

Interestingly, one paper I particularly enjoyed working on was not accepted for publication. Although both of my reports were positive, a second referee did not share my views. This type of opposition does not deter me, however; on the contrary, I find it rewarding to come across differences in opinion. I am also gratified when authors take on board my suggestions and implement changes

Do you have any advice to younger researchers on how to peer review?

Both surprised and proud to have been awarded the Reviewer of the Year accolade, I have three pieces of advice for those who are embarking on the peer review process of a regular article for the first time:

i) Look out for originality with enough significant new physics and accuracy. The article must be scientifically sound and should not contain misleading arguments;

ii) Write a full report that includes a list of typos, false statements which need correcting. Begin with a general overview of the topics and suggest the authors to formulate hypothesis of how open questions might be solved in forthcoming publications;

iii) And finally, assess how the work advances the field, both experimentally and theoretically, and whether it offers a fresh perspective.

The first piece of advice is obviously the most important for a referee report of a Letter to the Editor: the work has to significantly advance physics and to appeal for a very broad audience.

It is essential to check that all references are well listed in the bibliography of review papers and/or topical review article.

As a former member of the Editorial Board of the Physical Review C, I would add that, for obvious ethical reasons, it is recommended not to refer articles which may imply inappropriate conflicts of interest as mentioned earlier in my answer to the second question.

What research projects are you currently working on?

The investigation of light clusters in nuclear physics as well in nuclear astrophysics is among the main topics of interest of our experimental group named “Des Noyaux aux Etoiles” at the Institut Pluridisciplinaire Hubert Curien (IPHC) and Universite de Strasbourg (UNISTRA) of IN2P3/CNRS. The importance of cluster structure of light nuclei, for nuclear astrophysics and beyond, has been demonstrated in a spectacular and well-publicized fashion for the Hoyle state in carbon-12, a long-lasting challenge to nuclear theory.

Our knowledge on physics of nuclear molecules has also increased considerably and nuclear clustering remains one of the most fruitful domains of nuclear physics, facing challenges and opportunities in the years ahead.

In the last few years our group has been involved in: i) the organization of a series of workshops on the state-of-the-art in nuclear cluster physics (SOTANCP), the first one was held in Strasbourg in 20081; ii) the edition of three volumes of Lecture Notes in Physics entitled “Clusters in Nuclei” between 2010 and 20142; iii) the research programme of the STELLA (STELlar LAboratory) Project which aims to measure reaction cross sections at very low incident energies in the Gamov peak region in reactions induced by light heavy ions such as C, B and O isotopes at the ANDROMEDE Facility of Orsay, France.

What motivated you to pursue this field of research?

The motivation of our group focuses on the multidisciplinary aspects (nuclear instrumentation, experimental nuclear structure and nuclear reaction studies, mean-field theory, theoretical astrophysics, etc …) of this field of research that was always of the highest priority of our Institute IPHC. The topic of clustering in nuclei benefits of intense theoretical activity where new experimental information has come to light very recently.


Different types of clustering behavior identified in nuclei (C. Beck J. Phys.: Conference Series 569 (2015) 569).

The research of clusters is of particular interest for both nuclear physicists and nuclear astrophysicists who are not afraid to collaborate in the framework of large international and pluridisciplinary (or interdisciplinary) projects such as STELLA. Since the pioneering discovery of molecular resonances in the 12C+12C reaction more than half a century ago a great deal of research work has been undertaken in alpha clustering. Our knowledge on physics of nuclear molecules has increased considerably and nuclear clustering remains one of the most fruitful domains of nuclear physics and nuclear astrophysics, facing some of greatest challenges and opportunities in the years ahead.

It is now well established that nuclear clustering plays a key role in understanding the process of stellar nucleosynthesis. The occurrence of “exotic” shapes3, such as alpha linear chains, nuclear “pasta” phase, “neutron stars” (possible residues of supernova explosions) crust, as well as Bose-Einstein condensates is being presently perfectly well investigated.

Where do you think the field is heading?


Schematic illustration of the clustering arrangement of five alpha particles in the nucleus 20Ne (Martin Freer, Scholarpedia, 5 (2010) 9652;

The link of alpha clustering, quasimolecular resonances, and extreme deformations, such as superdeformation and/or hyperdeformation4, emphasizes the general connection between molecular structure and deformation effects with the shell model, or rather the Nilsson model. However, the Bose-Einstein condensation picture of light (and medium-light) alpha-like nuclei appears to be an alternate way of understanding most of properties of nuclear clusters.

New experimental results regarding cluster and molecular states in very neutron-rich nuclei, far from the valley of beta-stability, begin to be analyzed to solve open issues raised by the theory. Marked progress has been already made in many traditional and novels subjects of nuclear cluster (astro)physics (nuclear “pasta” phase, “neutron stars” crusts, etc…).

The developments in these subjects show the importance of clustering among the basic modes of motion of nuclear many-body systems. All these open questions will require precise coincidence measurements coupled with state-of-the-art theory.


  1. International Journal of Modern Physics E 17 (2008)
  2. C. Beck, Clusters in Nuclei, Vol.3 (2014), (ed.), Springer Verlag Berlin Heidelberg
  3. J. P. Ebran, E. Khan, T. Niksic, and D. Vretenar, Nature (London) 487, 341 (2012)
  4. D.G. Jenkins, J. Phys. G: Nucl. Part. Phys. 43 (2016) 023003.

We want to recognise and reward the contributions of our fantastic reviewers, so we are also helping all our reviewers to track, verify and showcase their peer review contributions through our recent partnership with Publons. To find out more about Publons and join over 75,000 other experts committed to recognising peer review, visit:

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

Categories: Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics, JPhys+

Tags: , ,

%d bloggers like this: