Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-09-21 16:23:33

In 2023, JGO reviewers continue to make outstanding contributions to the peer review process. They demonstrated professional effort and enthusiasm in their reviews and provided comments that genuinely help the authors to enhance their work.

Hereby, we would like to highlight some of our outstanding reviewers, with a brief interview of their thoughts and insights as a reviewer. Allow us to express our heartfelt gratitude for their tremendous effort and valuable contributions to the scientific process.

February, 2023
Karine Rizzoti, Francis Crick Institute, UK

March, 2023
Qian Yu, University of Chicago, USA

May, 2023
Michael Soulen, University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center, USA

June, 2023
Jaewon Hyung, University of Ulsan, South Korea

July, 2023
Takeshi Kawakami, Shizuoka Cancer Center, Japan

August, 2023
Nancy Saad, Ohio State University, USA

September, 2023
Kimberly Kopecky, University of Alabama, USA

October, 2023
Yoshan Moodley, Stellenbosch University, South Africa

November, 2023
Giuliano Ramadori, formerly University Clinic Göttingen, Germany

December, 2023
Shamar Young, University of Arizona, USA

February, 2023

Karine Rizzoti

Dr. Karine Rizzoti is a research scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London, in the laboratory of Stem Cell Biology and Developmental Genetics directed by Robin Lovell-Badge. She is a stem cell biologist with a developmental biology background. The questions that fascinate her concern the mechanisms of cell fate acquisition. She is particularly interested in pituitary stem cells, which her team, along with others, characterised some time ago. These cells are mostly quiescent in the adult mouse, but they have developed paradigms to follow their activation and subsequent acquisition of endocrine cell fates. She hopes this will give us clues as to what happens in exceptional physiological situations when these quiescent stem cells are activated and also guide the development of regenerative therapies. Connect with Dr. Rizzoti on X @Krizzoti.

JGO: Biases are inevitable in peer review. How do you minimize any potential biases during review?

Dr. Rizzoti: First, make sure that there is no conflict of interest (COI)! Secondly, as a non-native English speaker, I think that imperfect syntax should not be penalized. Therefore, I will try to understand what the authors mean and suggest proofreading if necessary. Getting to the stage where a manuscript is reviewed represents a lot of work and expertise, so being respectful to the authors, even if we disagree/are critical of the results, is important. So, reviewers should be constructive rather than just critical. Open peer review, where reviewer names are disclosed, has been shown to be a good system to minimize bias because it removes the cover of anonymity. However, it is not always easy to disclose your identity as a reviewer, especially as an early career researcher. The system is surely not perfect, and the emergence of preprints has changed everything. It is interesting to see different models of publication being tried.

JGO: Is it important for authors to disclose COI? To what extent would a COI influence a research?

Dr. Rizzoti: Yes, of course. COI will likely induce biases, so they are important to disclose. When a research program has been financed by an entity that has an interest in the outcome of the project, or if individuals involved in the research may benefit from a particular outcome, in particular financially, we should be aware of these facts. They could affect the design of the project, for example, by favoring a particular outcome or ignoring/not examining an important but non-desirable aspect, but also the quality of the results and the way they are analyzed, interpreted, and communicated.

JGO: What is so fascinating about peer reviewing?

Dr. Rizzoti: It is exciting to be one of the first to discover a new piece of research. There is definitely for me a curiosity aspect; when I accepted to review a paper, I was excited by the abstract and wanted to find out what the story was. You then have a responsibility to assess its validity along with the other reviewers. It is important to have reviewers with complementary expertise to be able to cover the different aspects of the study and share this responsibility. As a reviewer, you also have a chance to help improve a study, which is a very gratifying aspect of the task. Sometimes, coming from a different viewpoint with a different knowledge, you may spot something interesting. As a reviewer, you are also learning a lot! In conclusion, I find it indeed fascinating to be involved in this process, share expertise, learn new things, and sometimes contribute to improving a manuscript.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

March, 2023

Qian Yu

Qian Yu (Clark), MD is a vascular and interventional radiologist at the Department of Radiology, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA. His clinical and research interests focus on image-guided therapy of primary and secondary liver tumors. His recent work concentrates on personalized dosimetry of transarterial radioembolization (TARE), TARE-induced future liver remnant hypertrophy, combination therapy using TARE and immunotherapy, and hybrid imaging guidance during percutaneous thermoablation. You could follow him on Twitter: @EndovasClarky.

Speaking of the importance of peer review, Dr. Yu points out that it is a crucial pillar of the scientific publishing process, serving multiple vital purposes. For authors, it ensures the integrity and credibility of their research, guaranteeing that only high-quality, well-founded work is published. As a reviewer, he sees the reviewing process as an opportunity to contribute to the scientific community by identifying significant contributions and assisting authors in improving the quality of their manuscripts, so that the published work will be more impactful and helpful to readers. This process also allows him to stay abreast of the latest advancements in his field, fostering a sense of collaboration and shared knowledge.

While peer review is invaluable, it does have some limitations. Dr. Yu states that identifying motivated and qualified reviewers within tight timeframes can be challenging. To address this, efforts can be made to train and nurture a pool of proficient reviewers. Initiatives like a monthly reviewer spotlight can be instrumental in inspiring researchers to actively engage in the reviewing process. Furthermore, he emphasizes that reviewers must prioritize completing review assignments in a timely manner while ensuring that the quality of the review remains uncompromised.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Yu believes that a reviewer should possess a solid understanding of scientific methodology and effective communication skills. Beyond assessing the manuscript's scientific rigor, a good reviewer also provides constructive feedback to help authors enhance their work. Dedication to carefully read and analyze the manuscript is crucial, as a thorough review requires time and effort.

Finally, there are a few words Dr. Yu would like to share with other reviewers, “Reviewing is a labor of passion and commitment, and it plays a pivotal role in maintaining the standards and credibility of our scholarly community. Together, our collective efforts in peer review foster a culture of excellence and propel scientific knowledge forward. I am incredibly proud to be a part of this process and encourage all reviewers to continue their exceptional work in shaping the future of academia.

(By Nicole Li, Brad Li)

May, 2023

Michael Soulen

Michael C. Soulen, MD FSIR FCIRSE is Professor of Radiology and Director of Interventional Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center and Director of Research in the Division of Interventional Radiology. His expertise is image-guided cancer therapy (interventional oncology), with a specific focus on embolotherapy and ablative therapy of solid tumors. His clinical trials focus on embolotherapies for primary and metastatic liver tumors and renal cell carcinoma. His current investigations explore synergy between locoregional and systemic therapies including pharmacologic modulation of the metabolic stress response under conditions of embolic ischemia, embolization as an immunostimulant combined with immune checkpoint inhibition, radioembolization with radiosensitizing drugs, and the first global randomized trial comparing bland and chemoembolization for neuroendocrine tumor liver metastases. Dr. Soulen serves on the Board of the Society of Interventional Oncology and Chairs the ECOG-ACRIN Interventional Oncology working group.

JGO: What do you regard as a healthy peer-review system?

Multiple reviews by true content experts – I learn a lot from reading the other reviewers’ comments, who often perceive nuances of the paper I may have missed. Getting the right multidisciplinary expertise is a challenge. As an author, it is frustrating to read comments from reviewers who are not knowledgeable on the subject.

JGO: In your opinion, how do we give a constructive review?

Focus on the key elements that will improve the manuscript. Point out but do not belabor critical flaws that are not fixable (these are more important in comments to the Editors). Ignore the fluff and minor stylistic issues. Above all, be professional and impersonal. Do not make accusations or cast aspersions directed at the authors.

JGO: The burden of being a doctor is heavy. How do you allocate time to do peer review?

I decline about 90% of review requests. It must be a topic that interests me and in which I have expertise and/or wish to be apprised to the latest developments. I look at my calendar to be sure there is sufficient time to complete the review before the deadline.

JGO: Is it important for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI)? To what extent would a COI influence a research?

100%! The influence of industry money is insidious and pervasive. Disclosures do not go far enough. Personal payments should be distinguished from institutional grants for research, and magnitudes of gifts should be reported. There are peer-reviewed publications in which authors have received six- and seven-figure industry gifts. Readers need the opportunity to assess the degree of bias which may be present.

(By Nicole Li, Brad Li)

June, 2023

Jaewon Hyung

Jaewon Hyung, MD is a medical oncologist under clinical fellowship training at Asan Medical Center, College of Medicine, University of Ulsan, Seoul, South Korea. His current interest is in translational research to investigate predictive biomarkers of cancer immunotherapy and to discover potential targets for new drugs in solid tumors.

Dr. Hyung believes that peer review stands as a vital process ensuring the quality and reliability of research. Expert reviewers meticulously assess new studies before publication, guaranteeing scientific rigor and ethical conduct. Constructive feedback from reviewers aids authors in refining their work, maintaining the journal’s reputation for excellence.

In Dr. Hyung’s mind, reviewers should prioritize scientific rigor by assessing methodology and analysis, and consider the research’s originality and contribution to the field. In addition, they should provide constructive feedback to authors for improvement.

Finding time for peer review can be challenging to many doctors due to the huge burden of works. Dr. Hyung usually does peer review on the weekends and aims to finish them promptly to manage the time effectively.

Lastly, Dr. Hyung reckons that it is critical for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI), as they can potentially impact research in various ways. COI out of the research should also be stated as it may lead to unconscious favoritism, which can potentially compromise the objectivity and integrity of the research. Thorough disclosure of COI allows readers and reviewers to assess the potential influence and helps maintain transparency and trust.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

July, 2023

Takeshi Kawakami

Takeshi Kawakami currently serves as a senior staff at Division of Gastrointestinal Oncology, Shizuoka Cancer Center, Japan. His main research interest is in gastric cancer and colorectal cancer, immunotherapy, and cancer genomic medicine. Recent project focuses on prospective observational study investigating the impact of treatment sequence using regorafenib and FTD/TPI for metastatic colorectal cancer on overall survival.

Dr. Kawakami believes that peer review plays an important role in science. He points out that it aims to critically evaluate whether the study was conducted in an appropriate manner and the interpretation of the data.

When reviewing papers, Dr. Kawakami focuses on reviewing the quality of the research and the impact it has on clinical practice. He tries to interpret the result from both negative and positive perspectives before his own conclusion comes out. Furthermore, he strives to provide constructive feedback in his comments rather than mere criticism. In addition, he would like to encourage other reviewers, “Through the process of reviewing, you can learn the perspectives of reviewers. I believe that the experience of peer review can enhance the quality of one's own papers, so I encourage you to give it a try.”

In Dr. Kawakami’s opinion, reporting guidelines such as STROBE and CONSORT are created to enhance the quality of research reporting. He thinks authors should make use of them because reviewers use these guidelines as well as references during the review process.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

August, 2023

Nancy Saad

Dr. Nancy Saad is a Research Scientist at the Ohio State University College of Medicine, with a Ph.D. in Cardiac Physiology and Cell Biology and an M.S. in Pharmaceutical Sciences. Her research focuses on the study of the contractile and kinetic properties of the failing human myocardium, and how various diseases and drugs influence cardiac function. She also investigates the differences in contractile protein expression at various ages in human myocardial tissue. She extends her research to investigate the impact of dysfunctional skeletal muscle relaxation on muscular dystrophy disease in mice. Dr. Saad is a member of several scientific societies, such as American Heart Association and Heart Failure Society of America. Her research objectives are to elucidate the molecular and cellular mechanisms that underlie human heart disease, particularly heart failure, and to develop new preventive and therapeutic strategies against this leading cause of global mortality. Connect with her on LinkedIn and learn more about her here.

According to Dr. Saad, a constructive review is characterized by its balanced approach, because it provides clear, evidence-based feedback that not only points out weaknesses but also suggests ways to improve the work. Such a review should be detailed, objective, and respectful, aiming to support authors in enhancing the quality of their manuscript. It focuses on the science, rather than the scientist, and offers insights that are actionable and precise. In contrast, a destructive review lacks the intent to improve the work and may be vague, dismissive, or overly critical without providing specific advice or direction. It can be discouraging and may include personal criticisms or biases that do not pertain to the quality of the research. Such reviews can undermine the confidence of authors and fail to contribute to the advancement of science. In summary, constructive reviews aim to build upon the work presented, while destructive reviews often tear it down without offering a path forward for improvement.

In Dr. Saad’s view, a reviewer should possess several key qualities to provide valuable and fair evaluations. They include expertise, objectivity, thoroughness, constructiveness, clarity, timeliness, confidentiality, ethical vigilance and communication. Among them, expertise, i.e. familiarity with the subject matter, is essential for understanding the nuances of the research and for providing informed critiques. In addition, reviewers must assess manuscripts impartially and without personal or professional bias. What’s more, a careful examination of all aspects of the manuscript, including methods, data, logic, and conclusions, ensures that the review is comprehensive. These qualities ensure that the review process is not only fair and constructive but also supports the integrity and advancement of scientific research.

As a reviewer, Dr. Saad reckons that it is crucial for authors to disclose any potential Conflict of Interest (COI). Transparency regarding COI is fundamental to maintaining trust in the scientific process. COI can come in many forms, such as financial ties, personal relationships, academic competition, or intellectual passion, which could potentially influence an author’s work. The disclosure of COI allows readers, reviewers, and editors to critically evaluate the potential impact these interests might have on the research’s design, conduct, interpretation, and reporting. She points out that while a COI does not necessarily imply that the research is biased or flawed, non-disclosure can raise questions about the credibility of the research and the integrity of the researchers. In her opinion, to what extent COI influences research can vary. In some instances, it may have no noticeable impact; however, in others, it may lead to conscious or unconscious bias that can skew results, influence conclusions, or affect the study’s design and methodology. She points out that the mere presence of a COI does not diminish the potential value of the research; rather, it is an acknowledgment that allows others to weigh the findings appropriately.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

September, 2023

Kimberly Kopecky

Dr. Kimberly Kopecky, MD, MSCI is a dual-boarded physician in general surgery and hospice and palliative medicine and an incoming Assistant Professor in the Division of Surgical Oncology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She graduated from medical school in 2014 and completed her general surgery training at Stanford Hospital in 2021. In addition, she spent two years in Madison, Wisconsin where she completed a Hospice and Palliative Medicine fellowship, earned a master’s degree in Clinical Investigation, and participated in the Clinical Medical Ethics Fellowship program within the University of Chicago. She has tailored her clinical and non-clinical training in order to understand and research the surgical experiences of patients with advanced cancer. She is developing a program of research focused on understanding patient and caregiver expectations and the ways in which these expectations influence peri-operative decision-making and the experience of recovery from major abdominal cancer operations. Connect with Dr. Kopecky on Twitter @kekopeckMD.

Dr. Kopecky believes that an effective peer-review system relies on conscientious reviewers who are thorough and willing to provide constructive feedback to enhance the quality of reviewed manuscripts. A well-executed peer-review process holds the potential to bolster the medical literature, offering authors valuable insights they might have overlooked during their initial writing. It often encourages authors to think beyond their initial findings, contemplate the necessity of additional studies, and consider how this information can influence clinical decision-making and enhance patient-clinician interactions. Peer review also plays a crucial role in upholding the standards of established research and reporting methods.

Speaking of the current limitations of the existing peer-review system, Dr. Kopecky thinks that they are primarily related to competing time demands and the rise of illegitimate/predatory journals. For her, peer-review is something that she enjoys as it gives her the opportunity to both learn, keep up with the literature, and offer thoughtful constructive feedback to peer-researchers. Given the rise of illegitimate/predatory journals, it can sometimes be difficult to confirm the legitimacy of peer-review requests. As an early reviewer, she started by speaking with trusted colleagues in order to differentiate credible peer-review invitations from illicit ones. Reputable online guides are also available to help authors and peer-reviewers identify whether or not invitations are coming from trusted sources.

Dr. Kopecky emphasizes that Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosure plays a vital role in exposing concealed influences that carry potential to impact data analysis and research reporting. In the modern age, most reputable publishers - as well as academic lectureships and conferences - mandate COI disclosure. It is important to recognize, however, that there are subtle and pervasive ways in which hypotheses, expectations, and assumptions also influence data analyses and the conclusions that are drawn from them. While it is commendable that COI disclosure is now routine, other forces (including enthusiasm and fixed understandings and expectations) can also unintentionally influence the reported findings. For this reason, researchers must remain mindful in order to avoid drawing conclusions that are unsupported by data.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

October, 2023

Yoshan Moodley

Dr. Yoshan Moodley is an epidemiologist and senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. He is also an honorary senior lecturer with the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. He has shown a strong, sustained commitment to addressing public health problems in South Africa, particularly the increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as colorectal cancer. His research on epidemiological aspects of colorectal cancer in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa spans over five years and he has contributed to improving the understanding of the condition in this HIV hyperendemic setting.

JGO: What are the limitations of the existing peer-review system?

Dr. Moodley: A major limitation of the existing peer-review system is the quick turn-around time during which reviewers are required to complete their assessment of a submitted manuscript. Peer-review might be compromised if the process is rushed. On the other hand, long delays during the peer-review process frustrate authors and discourage them from submitting their manuscripts to journals in appropriate subject areas where their research is likely to generate the most interest. A pre-print service under the auspices of the journal would allow authors to make their work publicly available and citable, while the peer-review process is ongoing.

JGO: Biases are inevitable in peer review. How do you minimize any potential biases during review?

Dr. Moodley: I try to minimize potential biases during my review by always adhering to the editorial guidance for reviewers.

JGO: Why is it important for a research to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval?

Dr. Moodley: A research study involving human participants is required to undergo ethical review by an IRB, usually consisting of an appropriate panel of experts and other stakeholders, to ensure that the human participants in the research are not unnecessarily subjected to harm. As such, editors and reviewers might have concerns around a submitted manuscript which does not provide satisfactory evidence of IRB review, resulting in the manuscript being rejected. Therefore, researchers should always seek IRB approval prior to commencing their research and retain the IRB approval letter for future reference.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Giuliano Ramadori

Dr. Giuliano Ramadori is Professor of Medicine, Gastroenterology, Diabetology, Infectious Disease University Clinic Göttingen from 1992 to 2020. After being the research fellow at Harvard University, Children’s Hospital, Cellular and Molecular Biology (Head Harvey Colten) from 1984 to 1985, he became Fellow in internal Medicine and Gastroenterology in Mainz Germany from 1986 to 1992. His research areas focus on liver cell biology, clinical liver virology, immunology, clinical and experimental liver damage and repair studies including animal models, clinical and experimental studies of inflammatory bowel diseases, gastrointestinal oncology including pathology (immune cells of the microenvironment in GIST and neuroendocrine cancers) chemotherapy, immunetherapy and endoscopic interventional therapy, in vitro and in vivo experimental radiobiology, acute-phase reaction in experimental models including iron metabolism. His special interest focuses on COVID-19 consequences (cause of death) diagnostic and prognostic markers.

Dr. Ramadori thinks that it is quite laborious to be exhaustive to be helpful for the authors especially in consideration of the pressure due to the increasing number of journals. “It is very important to work as reviewer to guarantee some plausibility drown from the experience both clinical and experimental and to avoid mistakes especially by the interpretation of research results,” adds he.

More and more research money is given by the industry according to Dr. Ramadori. Independence of research is in real danger also because career progress mainly depends on the number of publications. There is at the same time a decrease of the quality of the publications especially because of the time pressure.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Shamar Young

Dr. Shamar Young is currently an Associate Professor and Chief of Interventional Radiology at the University of Arizona. After graduating from the University of Florida Medical School, he finished a Diagnostic Radiology Residency at the University of Florida as well. He then went on to complete an Interventional Radiology Fellowship at the University of Minnesota, after which he joined the staff. During his time in Minnesota, he was able to develop and lead a strong clinical and translational research program in the Division of Interventional Radiology. He went on to become the head of Interventional Oncology at the University of Minnesota and also served in a number of other leadership positions. He accepted the position of Chief of Interventional Radiology at the University of Arizona in 2022 and continues in this position. He has published more than 80 peer-reviewed articles, given numerous invited talks, and presented over 100 scientific abstracts. Learn more about him here.

In Dr. Young’s opinion, it is important for reviewers to “safe guard” the literature by ensuring that only scientifically sound research is published. It is important that they have a strong grasp on the scientific method and statistical analysis to ensure the voracity of a reviewed work. It is also vital for them to have a deep understanding of the published literature in the area of the reviewed article so they can determine the novelty of the study. Finally, they must always remember that often junior authors are writing and submitting articles and overly harsh wording of criticism can deter these researchers from further academic pursuit to the determinant of the scientific community.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Young thinks it is important to follow widely accepted reporting guidelines whenever possible during manuscript preparation. While often when compiling a manuscript abiding by and filling out these various guideline sheets can feel laborious, at their heart they help ensure that critical data which readers and reviewers need to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a study are included. This allows for better assessment by the scientific community of the importance of any given manuscript.

Performing reviews is often an unappreciated task. While it can take significant time, be quite tedious in some instances and seem thankless, it is also a critical portion of the academic process. If we all stopped reviewing then the peer-review process could not move forward. Therefore, I would encourage all of my fellow reviewers to remember and take pride in the important role they play in the advancement of science in the realm of health care,” says Dr. Young.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)