In this Editor Spotlight, Dr. Lindsay Bottoms shares with us why she enjoys her experience as a PLOS ONE Academic Editor and…
For this month’s Editor Spotlight, we talked to Dr. Achraf El Allali who shared with us his approach to a fair and thorough peer review process, his career path to the field of computational biology, and PLOS ONE‘s role in promoting multidisciplinary research.
Dr. Achraf El Allali is an assistant professor of bioinformatics at the African Genome Center, University Mohammed VI Polytechnic. With over 40 peer-reviewed papers published, his research focuses on the integration of experimental and computational research, specifically in the field of computational genomics and metagenomics. He is dedicated to developing algorithms and tools for omics data analysis, aiming to bridge the gap between biological experiments and computational analysis.
Prior to joining UM6P, he had the privilege of serving as an assistant professor at the Department of Computer Science in King Saud University. This esteemed department is recognized as the number one computer science department in the MENA region, according to US News rankings. During his tenure, he gained valuable experience and further his expertise in the realm of computer science and computational biology.
In his current role, he is entrusted with leading the Bioinformatics Program at the African Genome Center. It is his responsibility to spearhead initiatives that advance research and education in computational biology and bioinformatics within the domains of agriculture, environment, and health. By leveraging his strong background in computational biology and his publication record, he strives to make significant contributions to the field and foster scientific progress in his institution and beyond.
PLOS ONE‘s multidisciplinary approach welcomes contributions from various fields, enabling researchers to publish and communicate their work across disciplinary boundaries.Achraf El Allali
What constitutes a fair and thorough peer review process? What is your approach to achieving one?
A fair and thorough peer review process is essential for maintaining the quality and integrity of scholarly research. There are several key components that contribute to the peer review process and the editor’s job is to figure out a way to balance between them. As in the real world, it is often hard, if not impossible, to find all these requirements in one person. The best-case scenario is to find an unbiased and independent reviewer that is expert in the subject of the paper and can provide an objective review while respecting confidentiality. This reviewer should also be able to offer clear and constructive feedback to help authors improve their work and do this in a timely manner. Some of these points can be found in the reviewer’s CV, publication record and profile on the editorial system. However, the other key components are hard to measure, which is why a good review process ends with a synthesis from the editor to make sure that the reviews contain all the required elements.
My approach to the review is to focus on my expertise and offer a quality check of the work that is directly in my line of work, while providing background information and alternative perspective when it comes to the aspect of the paper that are not in my direct expertise. I often support authors by offering suggestions for strengthening their research and helping them clarify their arguments.
Your research combines experimental and computational methods to study a wide range of topics in biology. How did you get interested in the field? What excites you about it?
As a computer scientist, I was drawn to problem solving and was constantly looking for even more difficult challenges. I was introduced to the fascinating field of biology during my doctoral studies, where I made a significant transition from computer engineering, which had been my focus throughout my undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
Knowing that my work is helping to solve problems that are critical to health, agriculture, and the environment gives me the strength to continue doing what I do and to strive every day to do it even better.
The turning point occurred when I attended a presentation by my PhD supervisor to current students in the college of computing. This event piqued my interest, as I had been actively seeking a more fulfilling application of my computer and algorithmic knowledge at that time. I found out that we, as humans, have much more to figure out about cell biology and that computational approaches can help biologists complete the big picture. So I knew I had found the right challenge.
Witnessing the potential of computational biology, I realized that it provided the perfect avenue for combining my passion for computing with the intricacies of the biological world. This pivotal moment inspired me to pursue a PhD dissertation in the field of computational biology. Knowing that my work is helping to solve problems that are critical to health, agriculture, and the environment gives me the strength to continue doing what I do and to strive every day to do it even better.
What role can PLOS ONE play to contribute to multidisciplinary research such as yours?
By providing an open and inclusive platform for scientific communication, PLOS ONE can play a vital role in promoting multidisciplinary research in computational biology. It can facilitate knowledge sharing, data accessibility, methodological advancements, and interdisciplinary collaborations, ultimately contributing to the advancement of computational biology as a field.
Many research challenges in computational biology require expertise from multiple disciplines, such as computer science, statistics, genetics, and bioinformatics. PLOS ONE‘s multidisciplinary approach welcomes contributions from various fields, enabling researchers to publish and communicate their work across disciplinary boundaries. This inclusivity can foster interdisciplinary collaborations and encourage the integration of diverse perspectives to tackle complex problems in computational biology.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.