Over the year, many SHC 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.
Maged Hassan, Alexandria University, Egypt
Zhizhou Yang, Washington University, USA
Takashi Suda, Fujita Health University Okazaki Medical Center, Japan
Dr. Maged Hassan is a lecturer of chest diseases at Alexandria University, Egypt. He obtained his Master degree in 2015 studying the role of comorbidities in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease undergoing pulmonary rehabilitation. His research for PhD focused on the role of thoracic ultrasound in prognosis and choosing therapeutic pathways for patients with malignant pleural effusion. Dr. Hassan’s current research focuses on pleural infection and the role of thoracic ultrasound in personalized management of patients with lung diseases. He regularly reviews respiratory papers for journals such as Thorax, European Respiratory Journal and Expert Review in Respiratory Disease. Dr. Hassan’s Publons page can be accessed here.
Peer review is the main warranty that quality is maintained in scientific literature. Peer reviewers, particularly when they are experts in the subject of a manuscript, provide a much needed outsider look and are able to give insightful remarks and suggestions to improve the quality of the manuscript and clear any ambiguity that authors may not appreciate. To ensure a review is objective, Dr. Hassan strives to always focus on the research question of the study, the quality of conducting the experiment and how this contributes to knowledge on the subject and not to pay attention to the name of the authors or their institutions.
From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Hassan urges authors to disclose any potential conflict of interest (COI). To him, the presence of COI completely compromises any value or weight for a given study. Failing to declare relevant COI would substantially reduce the general confidence in the veracity and accuracy of research findings and scientific reports.
“It is often challenging to fit voluntary reviewing tasks in between different clinical and research commitments. Most of the times this is done in private non-work time. I acknowledge the importance of peer review and therefore I sacrifice leisure time willingly to participate in the process,” says Dr. Hassan.
(By Brad Li, Eunice X. Xu)
Dr. Zhizhou (Jason) Yang is a 4th year MD student at Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, USA. He is the recipient of the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association Carolyn Reed President Award in 2019 and the James W. Brooks Medical Student Scholarship in 2021. He is a member of the Washington University thoracic surgery outcome research team as well as the Thoracic Immunobiology Lab. His research focuses on general thoracic surgery clinical outcomes and the immune regulation of lung transplant allograft. You may connect with Dr. Yang on Twitter @zhizhouyang.
The ultimate purpose of peer review is to help improve the manuscript rather than to give mere criticisms, even when the manuscript had significant flaws from the reviewer’s standpoint. Regardless of the reviewer’s level of expertise in the particular topic, Dr. Yang thinks it is important to try understanding the rationale behind the author’s choices of analysis methods/ways of presentation and find out what might make them better. The reviewing process could also be a great opportunity for the reviewer to explore different viewpoints and to mitigate their own bias in future research. Both the authors and the reviewers should be able to benefit from a high-quality review.
It is critical to bear in mind a few things during the review process, according to Dr. Yang. Reviewing a manuscript is much like discussing a study with the colleagues rather than teaching others how to do things in our way. Being able to explain the criticisms in detail and to recognize the advantages of the study are essential in providing constructive feedbacks.
Viewing from a reviewer standpoint, Dr. Yang indicates that reporting guidelines such as PRISMA and STROBE are great tools for authors during manuscript preparation, especially for the methods and results sections. Presenting methods and data in a standardized and organized way can effectively eliminate any unnecessary confusion during the review process and can help reviewers focus on the key points of the study. The guideline checklist also reminds the authors to ensure the accuracy as well as the appropriate handling of the critical information that needs to be presented.
“As someone very junior in my career, I keep myself extremely humbled during the reviewing process and see every review as a precious learning opportunity to go over relevant literatures. I also consider peer reviewing as a unique way of seeing different practices at places other than my home institution,” says Dr. Yang.
(By Brad Li, Eunice X. Xu)
Takashi Suda M.D. is the Professor of Thoracic Surgery, Fujita Health University Okazaki Medical Center, Japan. His specialty is minimally invasive surgery for lung cancer and mediastinal tumor. In 2007, he devised VATS to treat malignant mesothelioma. It was the first successful case in the world. In 2009, he performed the first da Vinci robotic surgery in Japan for a lung cancer patient. In 2012, he developed single-incision thymectomy using a subxiphoid approach, performed through a single 3-cm long incision in the abdomen to treat thymoma. This is a ground-breaking surgical technique that minimizes patient burden. In addition, in 2014, he devised a method for using a subxiphoid approach with a da Vinci robot to perform thymectomy. In 2019, he performed SVC replacement using subxiphoid robotic approach.
The primary goal of peer review, to Dr. Suda, is to identify what is missing in the paper, in order to improve it. Peer review also requires credibility for the purpose of determining whether it is worth publishing. It is said that reliability requires objectivity, fairness, and transparency. Reviewers tend to evaluate a paper generously if the author is an acquaintance or a well-known author. The double-blind review approach is thus preferred for a more rigorous evaluation.
Stressed once again by Dr. Suda, peer review requires objectivity, fairness and transparency. Even if the author’s idea differs from one’s own, it should not be completely denied if the idea is generally supported (objectivity / transparency). Whether the author is a celebrity, a young man or a woman, it should not influence the reviewer’s decision (fairness). Also, when a new idea that the reviewers have not done is presented, they tend to give a negative opinion. However, reviewers should welcome new ideas rather than denying them just because they differ from the traditional methods, and the ideas should be peer-reviewed to see if they have the potential.
It has been reported that the compliance rate of reporting guidelines such as STROBE and CONSORT is low. In order to improve the quality of research reports, Dr. Suda believes that it is necessary to disseminate these guidelines. Without following these guidelines prior to starting the study, mistakes in the study design might be pointed out at the time of peer review, and it might already be too late. Therefore, Dr. Suda recommends authors to follow the guidelines strictly before starting a research. However, it may be difficult for researchers to know which guideline to use, and it may be necessary for the journal to specify which guideline should be used in different situations.
“Reviewers are also researchers. Peer review can give us new ideas and reading the paper can inspire us. I may decline peer review when I'm too busy, but I try to do it as much as possible,” says Dr. Suda.
(By Brad Li, Eunice X. Xu)