Over the year, many DMR reviewers have made 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.
Nicolas H. Dreifuss, University of Salvador, USA
Marion Bouchecareilh, Univ. Bordeaux, France
Amanda B Cooper, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, USA
Nandita Kachru, Gilead Sciences Inc., Foster City, USA
Nicolas H. Dreifuss
Nicolas H. Dreifuss received his medical degree with honors (first in class) at the University of Salvador, Buenos Aires, Argentina, USA. He then completed his general surgery training at the Hospital Alemán of Buenos Aires. He currently serves as a Research Fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Dr. Dreifuss’ research is focused on clinical outcomes after minimally invasive and robotic surgery, surgical simulation, and training. For more information about Dr. Dreifuss’ research, please visit here.
In Dr. Dreifuss’ opinion, peer review is of utmost importance to ensure the quality, validity, significance, and originality of the research published in scientific journals. A robust peer review system starts from a solid editorial board that ensures the process is performed in a fairly, effectively, and timely manner. They should be able to screen potentially relevant articles and invite the most appropriate reviewers for the topic in question. The type of peer review also influences the process. To him, a double-blind peer review system is ideal as it prevents bias related to the author’s origin and previous work. In this way, the work will be judged solely on its quality. On the other hand, the reviewer blinding might help reviewers to be honest without fear of retaliation.
To Dr. Dreifuss, however, problems exist in the existing peer review system. The rising number of journals and the vast number of papers needing revision surpasses the number of qualified reviewers. This often results in undesired delays in the process or a superficial scientific assessment. Standardization of the journal’s peer-review process, academics’ training in peer-review, and inclusion of young surgeons with a strong research interest might help to improve the system.
Dr. Dreifuss further lists out various key points that he thinks a reviewer should follow, “A good reviewer should be professional and able to provide an objective analysis of the scientific work. The reviewer should try to be organized, realistic, and constructive by providing the authors with recommendations to improve their work, not just criticisms. Moreover, the reviewer should provide clear explanations to back up his recommendations and only comment on areas of his/her expertise.”
Dr. Marion Bouchecareilh (Univ. Bordeaux, CNRS, INSERM, BaRITOn, U1053, F-33000 Bordeaux, France) is a young researcher from France whose work is focused on a genetic disorder named: Alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency (AATD) mediated liver disease. This deficiency is the most common metabolic liver disease in childhood, often presenting in the new-born period as cholestatic jaundice, a feature that predispose patients to develop AATD severe liver disease. Dr Bouchecareilh obtained her PhD from the University of Bordeaux (France) in 2008. Then she has spent more than 3 years in the Balch Lab (The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA, USA) as post-doctoral fellow where she had the opportunity to set up and develop the AATD project. In 2013, Marion came back to France in Bordeaux and was succeeded and hired as CNRS Researcher in 2014 to set up her own independent research group and pursue her work on AATD. She is now the head of the only basic research group in France to focus on this pathology. Her major aim is to identify modifiers involved in AATD-mediated liver damage in order to develop new therapeutic approaches and early non-invasive diagnostic methods. To achieve these goals, she has established strong collaboration with academic and medical groups, but also companies and patients’ associations. To learn more about Dr. Bouchecareilh’s research, please visit here.
DMR: Why do we need peer review?
Dr. Bouchecareilh: In the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the need and the importance of peer review process have been particularly highlighted over the past few months. Given this unprecedented health crisis that the world is facing, rapid dissemination of relevant scientific knowledge is crucial but conversely the need of quick delivery of new data should not challenge the ability of this process for ensuring the trust and integrity of studies. Spreading through journal articles incorrect or invalid findings (even if these discoveries are corrected or retracted in the future) are dangerous and damaging in medical practice and then people’s lives but also in the society by feeding misinformation and conspiracy theories, leading to a mistrust of the population towards the scientific community.
Thus, it is necessary to subject reviews and articles to peer review process to improve manuscripts, filter incorrect or invalid findings, check against malfeasance and maintain the standard quality of the journal. In this process, the role of the reviewers is crucial. The goal of all reviewers is first of all improve the manuscript whenever possible by being helpful in evaluating the work of the authors and providing thoughtful comment, using their own knowledge and expertise in the field, via constructive exchange between authors and peer reviewers/editors.
DMR: What do you regard as a constructive/destructive review?
Dr. Bouchecareilh: As I mentioned above, a constructive and ethical review with reasonable/applicable advice have to be the gold standard of each reviewers in order to improve the quality of a study and evaluate its appropriateness for publication. It is essential to indicate any major concerns by constructive criticism to help the authors improve their articles. The reviewers have to advice and share a clear and constructive expertise.
However, peer review process is not perfect and sometimes reviews are more destructive than constructive. This happen when a review is led by other issues or aims. Indeed, the purpose of the peer review is lost when reviewer comments are purely negative, such as when reviewers do not help the authors to improve their article but are trying to find reasons to reject it, or when reviewers seem to have missed the take home message of the paper and made some rather odd requests or again where one reviewer said the opposite of another. Unfortunately, these negative peer reviewer comments and experiences that authors could face might damage their motivation and confidence levels.
So what are the solutions – what to do to avoid destructive review? First of all, journals could have a peer review feedback form filled out by the authors. Another solution could be the “open peer review” process. Given that reviewer’s comments are open to public viewing, this could avoid harsh comments and destructive reviews.
Currently, peer review process is performed following a single blind process, this means only the identity of reviewers are kept hidden. Thus, what is the best, single or double blind? Single blind has some limitations such as anonymous may represent an opportunity to be unusually critical of authors. Thus, double blind peer review, when the identities of both the authors and reviewers are kept hidden, may reduce the possibility of reviewer bias. Consequently, the author’s reputation, the country of origin of the authors, their academic status or again their previous publication history should not influence reviewers.
DMR: Reviewing papers is often non-profitable, what motivates you to do so?
Dr. Bouchecareilh: As a young PI, I regard it as a privilege because it shows editors consider me as an authority in my field and that makes me feel part of this scientific community. In addition, when I am asked to peer review, I gather some satisfaction in knowing that I can have input into improving an article, a study. I really consider constructive peer review as an opportunity for discussion and mutual help in our research work. To follow up this idea, as a reviewer or also as an author, receiving feedback contributes greatly to my training and development as a researcher. That helps me to think more critically about my own work.
Amanda B Cooper
Dr. Amanda Cooper is currently an Associate Professor of Surgery at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where she has been on faculty since 2014. Her clinical practice is in acute care surgery. Her research interests are acute care surgery and medical education. You may follow her on Instagram @Cooper_AB78.
In Dr. Cooper’s opinion, peer review is critical to medicine to ensure that high-quality research from appropriately designed studies is available to help us answer questions that will inform our patient care and the education of our trainees. She adds that a constructive review is a type of review that provides a thoughtful analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of a study and offers actionable suggestions for improving the quality of the work.
From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Cooper believes that all authors should follow reporting guidelines to ensure that their research is meeting standards accepted and agreed upon by the scientific community and to facilitate the comparison of their research to other similar studies.
“I appreciate thoughtful and constructive comments from reviewers on my own manuscripts, so I feel that it is part of my professional responsibility to provide similar comments to other researchers, both to improve their papers and the quality of medical research as a field,” says Dr. Cooper.
Dr. Nandita Kachru, MS, PhD, works at the Global HEOR (Health Economics Outcomes Research) Lead for few Hepatology indications (NASH, HBV, PSC), a leading research-based biopharmaceutical company. Dr. Kachru has worked extensively in geriatric quality of care issues. She also equipped with a skill set in comparative effectiveness research studies, retrospective database cohort and case-control studies. You can learn more about Dr. Kachru here and you may also follow her on LinkedIn.
DMR: What role does peer review play in science?
Dr. Kachru: Peer review works as the linchpin of quality control mechanisms within the scientific process by reviewing a manuscript from experts. The purpose is two-fold – One is to ensure the publication of high-quality research by determining its validity, significance, and originality. Another one is to improve the quality of manuscripts that are suitable for publication. Often, reviewing submitted manuscripts teaches us about new areas and corrects doubts in our area of expertise. Most importantly, reviewers can make substantial bias-free contributions to the research because they could be the first pair of eyes on novel research findings besides the author panel.
DMR: What do you regard as a robust peer review system?
Dr. Kachru: A robust peer review system ensures the scientific manuscript to be experimentally sound and meets the journal’s standards of quality and originality before publication. One important thing to keep in mind is to include scientific experts with specialized knowledge for the manuscript. If these guidelines can somehow be tailored to every individual manuscript, depending upon the research question addressed within, it will enhance the robustness of the peer review system.
DMR: Would you like to share your insights about the “Data Sharing Statement”?
Dr. Kachru: “Data Sharing Statement” is a critical element in scientific research and should be disclosed clearly in all publications. There is increasing acceptance that sharing data serves as a key strategy for continuous and real-time improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of patient care and the enhancement of research transparency and reproducibility. The caveat here is that not all types of research have the flexibility to share data transparently in their publications, often due to patient confidentiality clauses or protection of personal information.
DMR: What is so fascinating about peer-reviewing?
Dr. Kachru: Peer reviews are very exciting for me. Sometimes, I get peer review invitations for studies in the therapeutic areas, which allow me to provide my expertise to improve the study by highlighting weaknesses in the current study design and making suggestions to improve the study design accuracy. Most importantly, being selected as a peer reviewer is very encouraging as it showcases our own expertise and recognition by the esteemed journal editors.