Over the years, many TLCR 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.
Takefumi Komiya, Parkview Cancer Institute, USA
Sung Yong Lee, University Guro Hospital, Korea
Michael Pritchett, FirstHealth of the Carolinas & Pinehurst Medical Clinic, USA
Mizuho Nishio, Kobe University Hospital, Japan
Ernest Nadal, Catalan Institute of Oncology, Spain
Petros Christopoulos, Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany
Kang-Yi Su, National Taiwan University, Taiwan
Menno Tamminga, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Kyoji Hirai, Nippon Medical School Chiba Hokusoh Hospital, Japan
Artur Mezheyeuski, Uppsala University, Sweden
Alexander Gill, Johns Hopkins University, USA
Muhammad Zubair Afzal, Norris Cotton Cancer Centre, USA
Masahide Oki, National Hospital Organization Nagoya Medical Center, Japan
Yasushi Shintani, Respiratory Center in the Osaka University Hospital, Japan
Taichiro Goto, Yamanashi Central Hospital, Japan
Pierre-Jean Lamy, Imagenome Montpellier, France
Rafael Rosell, Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute and Hospital, Spain
Taiki Hakozaki, Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome Hospital, Japan
Takefumi Komiya, PhD, MD, is a Medical Oncologist at the Parkview Cancer Institute/Parkview Health, Indianapolis, United States. Currently, his research area mainly lies on the study on lung cancer, clinical trials and immunotherapy. In particular, he focuses on how to address resistance to immunotherapy, proposal of new staging using databases.
In Dr. Komiya’s opinion, it is a great opportunity to review submitted manuscripts for maintaining and enhancing his knowledge in the field. Although it should be confidential, knowing other’s thought process helps Dr. Komiya to develop his own ideas in future research. On many occasions, reviewing submitted manuscripts corrects his misunderstandings.
However, there are still limitations on the existing peer review. Dr. Komiya points out that some journals encourage or mandate authors to list people to whom authors want or do not want to be reviewers. People might ask friends or colleagues for reviewing their manuscripts. Although it might have been made to avoid conflicts, he does not think that the bias regarding choice of reviewers could be eliminated.
In order to encourage more researchers and physicians to share their research data with others, Dr. Komiya believes that it would be a great idea to share all the de-identified data with researchers in the field. However, there must be restriction regarding what exact data can be shared especially in industry sponsored clinical trials. Also, large trials run by cooperate groups also may require restrictions but overall it is a good way to start and share ideas with readers.
Sung Yong Lee
Dr. Sung Yong Lee currently works at the Department of Internal Medicine in Korea University Guro Hospital, Seoul, Korea. His research area is related to the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. The field of lung cancer has recently made tremendous progress in the field of molecular diagnosis and immunotherapy.
Dr. Lee’s clinical research team has enthusiastic clinical staff, research researchers, and clinical research coordinators. His research team is called “Guro-Avengers”. It is actively participating in phase II and III clinical trials on the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Currently, Dr. Lee serves as a board member of the Korean Lung Cancer Society and is an active member of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR).
Dr. Lee thinks that it is attractive for him to do peer reviews because he can review various recent research results, and he will get the latest ideas and trends of the medical discoveries and technologies. He regards a robust peer review system as a sharing of an academic passion and knowledge.
When it comes to the role of peer review in science, Dr. Lee believes that authors can acknowledge the academic trends unbiased and reflect academic trends of medical research by participating in the peer review system. He remains positive towards the peer review system and encourages more experts to do peer reviews.
Dr. Michael Pritchett is an advanced bronchoscopist who is board certified in pulmonary disease and critical care medicine. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida. He then attended medical school at Nova Southeastern University where he simultaneously received his medical degree and a master’s degree in public health. Dr. Pritchett completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, U.S.A., and then his fellowship in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at St. Elizabeth's Medical Center, Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, U.S.A.
Since completing his fellowship, he has been in private practice with the Pinehurst Medical Clinic in Pinehurst for over 13 years. He holds privileges at FirstHealth of the Carolinas, a 4-hospital system in central North Carolina, U.S.A. He currently serves as the Director of Thoracic Oncology, and the Director of the Chest Center of Carolinas, a multidisciplinary thoracic oncology clinic. He has also previously served as the Medical Director of Critical Care at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital (40-ICU beds).
He is active in multiple clinical trials as a principal investigator in advanced bronchoscopy, thoracic oncology, molecular pathology, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and pulmonary arterial hypertension. He has been an author of multiple studies in these areas. Dr. Pritchett has published extensively on various navigation bronchoscopy platforms and on the use of intraoperative cone-beam CT (CBCT) to assist with biopsy of peripheral nodules. This technique has a significant increase in the diagnostic yield of guided bronchoscopy for small peripheral nodules. This innovative work with CBCT has led directly to perform first-in-human trials with an FDA-approved device for bronchoscopic microwave ablation of peripheral lung tumors. He has also recently been the first in the U.S. to use the new Intuitive Ion endoluminal robotic platform to perform bronchoscopy for peripheral lung lesions. You can follow Dr. Pritchett on LinkedIn.
We are happy to have the following interview with Dr. Pritchett, who shares his thoughts on the peer review system and the importance of Conflict of Interest disclosure for authors.
TLCR: Why do we need peer review?
Dr. Pritchett: The peer-review process is essential to the publication of scientific papers. It helps to maintain a high level of integrity in the research process. It also helps to ensure a valid research question and that the paper seeks to answer those questions with accurately drawn conclusions.
TLCR: The burden of being a scientist/doctor is heavy enough. How do you prioritize work to take extra review tasks?
Dr. Pritchett: It does take a lot of extra time to do the review tasks. Since I am not in an academic environment, I do not have protected research time or office hours. This review task is often done in the evenings and on weekends.
TLCR: What do you regard as a constructive/destructive review?
Dr. Pritchett: I have seen lots of destructive reviews. Reviewers need to realize that an unnecessarily destructive review can stifle real innovation and research. Besides, the reviewers should not hesitate to point out the limitations of the research work, and they should also offer suggestions on how to reduce these limitations to improve the results of the research work as a whole. If you simply chastise other expert’s hard work without any offer of how to make it better, there will be nothing more than a waste of time in the end. Therefore, it is important to stay objective and not make it personal when it comes to the review work.
TLCR: Reviewing papers is often non-profitable, what motivates you to do so?
Dr. Pritchett: It is not profitable but I review papers to learn more of the process in hopes to level up my research work. Additionally, I find great satisfaction in being a part of the scientific publication pathway, and I also take pride in that.
TLCR: Is it important for authors to complete Conflict of Interest Forms recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)?
Dr. Pritchett: Submitting an accurate conflict of interest form is imperative. Unfortunately, I have seen too many people not taking this seriously. Furthermore, it is very often that we see “no conflicts of interest to report” when we know real conflicts do exist. Also, we can even see this from many well-established academic members of the research community. In my opinion, having these conflicts does not inherently bias your research per se, but the readers need to see what those conflicts are and make their own decisions on their research work.
Dr. Mizuho Nishio currently serves as a program-specific assistant professor at the Department of Radiology in Kobe University Hospital, Kobe, Japan. His research area is the application of machine learning/deep learning to medical image analysis. Recently, he has focused on the automatic diagnosis of COVID-19 using deep learning on chest x-ray images.
Dr. Nishio earned his medical degree from the Kobe University School of Medicine. He completed his radiology residency at Nishi-Kobe medical center in Kobe, where he received the Hospital’s Award for installation of a picture archiving and communication system in the Department of Radiology. He obtained his Ph.D. degree from the Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine. After that, he served as program-specific assistant professors at the Department of Radiology in Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine and Kyoto University Hospital. You may find out more about Dr. Nishio here.
What role does peer review play in science? To Dr. Nishio, peer review ensures the quality of scientific papers, and the process is important for advances in science. In the world of peer review, the scientific validity, weaknesses, and strengths of the papers must be assessed by reviewers. In general, peer review must be performed independently by the reviewer, but their comments must be objective and constructive.
Dr. Nishio thinks there is a limitation of the existing peer review system, and he has a suggestion to improve it. Regarding the role of the peer review system, it must be performed independently by reviewers. As a result, review comments can be subjective in some cases. Besides, the review comments can be affected by reviewers’ research area and/or research interests, which may hinder the objective review. He suggests making open review available so that the peer review system can be improved, not hindered by the objective review anymore.
As an active reviewer, Dr. Nishio believes that his reviews will help to advance science eventually. To this end, even if reviewing papers is non-profitable, he will participate in reviewing papers as long as he has time.
He further shares with us his point of view on the use of Data Sharing Statement, “Data sharing is necessary to ensure the reproducibility of research. Besides, the Data Sharing Statement must be clarified in published papers. In recent years, several services for sharing data have been provided, and researchers can use them for data sharing. For example, in the field of radiology, it is possible to freely obtain many medical images from The Cancer Imaging Archive. On the other hand, it is not easy to share data in medical images due to the regulation of personal information. Although data sharing of medical images is important for the advancement of research, data sharing of medical images is not always possible for the protection of personal information.”
Ernest Nadal, MD, Ph.D., is currently the Head of the Section of Thoracic Tumors at the Department of Medical Oncology, Catalan Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain. He is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Barcelona, Department of Clinical Sciences, Barcelona, Spain. He serves as a Principal Investigator of the Clinical Research in Solid Tumors (CReST) group, Oncobell Program, Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) in Barcelona, Spain.
Ernest Nadal obtained his MD degree in 2001 at the University of Valencia (Spain) and completed his training in Medical Oncology in 2006 at the Catalan Institute of Oncology (Barcelona, Spain). He completed his training in translational research at the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, US) and returned to the Catalan Institute of Oncology in 2014 where he led the research in Thoracic Tumors. He has been an Associate Professor of Oncology since 2019 at the University of Barcelona.
Dr. Nadal’s main research interests are the development of clinical trials in special populations of patients with thoracic malignancies, the study of novel therapeutic strategies in malignant pleural mesothelioma, the characterization of the immune contexture of brain metastases, and the genomic characterization of early-onset lung cancer patients. He published more than 70 papers including papers in high-impact journals in the field of oncology or cancer biology. A more detailed biography of Dr. Nadal can be found here. You can also follow him on Twitter @NadalErnest.
In Dr. Nadal’s opinion, peer reviewing is a great opportunity for learning and expanding knowledge in areas of interest, and provides interesting insights into what other research groups are currently doing. It is also a great exercise for reviewers to develop critical thinking and to indirectly cooperate with authors to try to improve their manuscripts.
However, peer-reviewing sometimes can also be a heavy burden for doctors, so it becomes important to prioritize work to take extra review tasks. Dr. Nadal recognizes that he usually reviews manuscripts during the weekend, which he has more time available for reading and reviewing manuscripts. In this regard, Dr. Nadal tries to be rather selective when accepting to review manuscripts mainly due to time constraints. Also, he generally only accepts reviewing papers closely related to his research focus or those that he anticipates will be highly informative.
Dr. Nadal is positive towards the peer review system in Translational Lung Cancer Research (TLCR). To Dr. Nadal, TLCR is an open-access journal which he considers is making great contributions on translational and clinical research in thoracic malignancies, but also is publishing interesting review articles, editorial and special series on significant advances in cancer care and prevention. Furthermore, he also considers it valuable that TLCR is interested in the multidisciplinary management of thoracic tumors and has a broad vision of lung cancer covering from laboratory research findings to the discussion of clinical issues and controversies.
Dr. Nadal reassures that authors must follow reporting guidelines (such as STROBE, CONSORT, PRISMA, CARE, etc.) when writing papers. Those guidelines to him are extraordinarily helpful not only for authors but also for reviewers and editors to ensure high quality, clarity, and transparency when reporting scientific contributions on observational studies, clinical trials, meta-analysis, diagnostic studies, or case series. Their utilization allows readers to understand better how the research was planned and conducted and which are the relevant findings as well as the study limitations. Therefore, he encourages that the authors follow those guidelines to increase the quality of their research publications.
Dr. Petros Christopoulos takes responsibility for the scientific coordination of the Thoracic Oncology Program in the Thoraxklinik at Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany. A major focus of Dr. Christopoulos’s work lies in the systematic collection and integration of clinical with genetic, histopathologic, immunologic, and radiologic data to refine patient stratification and identify novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets. You can find out more by visiting Dr. Christopoulos’s profile here and his publications here.
In Dr. Christopoulos’s opinion, a robust peer review system is a timely and efficient procedure that scrutinizes scientific drafts and removes any potential weaknesses, so that high-quality evidence can be published and build the basis for further progress. Like good science, good peer review requires both deep knowledge and ethical merit.
Reviewing papers can be motivating for him too, “Most importantly, it is my interest in the scientific topic, and by reviewing the work of others deepens my understanding of the subject, it is a win-win situation.”
Dr. Christopoulos continues by saying how reviewing papers can help both the authors and reviewers to have a better interpretation of the manuscripts, and improving the course of his own research project. He explains that one time he and his research team were analyzing the immunologic microenvironment of lung adenocarcinoma using gene expression profiling, “Around that time, I was asked to review a study utilizing RNA profiling to thoroughly characterize an interesting case of lung adenocarcinoma and a concomitant pancreatic lesion, considered in the initially submitted draft to be a second primary tumor (i.e. de novo pancreatic adenocarcinoma), which had both showed an excellent response to pembrolizumab.”
To follow the reviewers’ recommendation, the authors performed DNA next-generation sequencing of the pancreatic lesion, which revealed it to be a metastasis of the lung tumor based on identical mutation profiles. He realized that based on the very similar RNA profiling results for both tumors, he should also consider using metastatic material in our project. He concludes by saying he remembers this as a nice example of how peer review of thorough and interesting studies can benefit both sides.
Prof. Kang-Yi Su is an Associate Professor of the Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences and Medical Biotechnology, College of Medicine, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan. His research areas include molecular diagnostics and disease animal models. Prof. Su anticipates these models can be utilized in drug identification, pre-clinical trials, etiological investigations, and therapeutic validations. A more detailed biography of Prof. Su can be found here. You can also contact him through his E-mail.
In Prof. Su’s opinion, peer review is a gatekeeper in scientific communication. This procedure has at least three important roles including controlling scientific credibility, identification of novelty, and inputs of professional opinion. Firstly, reliability is the most important for the scientific community. The peer-review process should carefully evaluate all aspects of academic ethics including study design, experimental conduction, data correctness, and reproducibility as well as interpretation. Secondly, the contribution and application of each study should be identified and recognized to reflect the author’s efforts. Thirdly, some blind spots and missing of each study can be reinforced according to professional inputs from peer review.
Although peer review is an important procedure prior to publication, all comments from reviewers should be properly uploaded to the peer review system. There are still some universal limitations that existed in most systems. He adds that there should be a customized flexible template for each type of article such as original articles, review articles, case reports as well as communications. In addition, the comments or scoring needs to be specialized. For example, animal experiments or clinical trials, or statistical studies should be differentiated theoretically.
As for reviewers, it should be always kept in mind that they need to try their best to recognize or identified the author’s contribution and effort without bias if their work is valuable. Even the author’s work is not sufficient for publication, suggestions instead of criticisms may be appropriate. Prof. Su emphasizes that the disclosure of conflicts of interest recommended by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors is very important. This process will deeply affect the communication between academia, industries, and governments.
Dr. Menno Tamminga is currently working as an MD at the medical spectrum Twente, Enschede, the Netherlands. He focused on researching circulating tumor cells, specifically their clinical applications and improved detection methods, and the microenvironment in non-small cell lung cancer for his Ph.D. In this period, he also obtained his certification as an epidemiologist.
In Dr. Tamminga’s opinion, peer review is essential to maintain the quality of articles as only peers have sufficient knowledge of the subject matter to adequately judge the quality of the methods as well as conclusions drawn from the results. He enjoys doing peer reviews too. “Peer reviewing forces reviewers to read new articles in the field, also from researchers or journals they wouldn’t read normally, which forces the reviewers outside their normal ‘bubble’,” explains Dr. Tamminga.
He adds that reviewers have to bear in mind that their job is not to evaluate the concept, hypothesis, or idea based on their novelty, but only on the quality of the research. The editors should assess whether they believe people will read it – this falls outside of the scope of peer reviewers. He iterates that it is important for authors to disclose conflict of interest before paper publication, as influence can be exerted very subtly. While the reviewers can never exclude that the authors were biased or leaned on by other parties, they can make it more difficult to do so.
Kyoji Hirai M.D. Ph.D., is currently a Clinical Professor at the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Nippon Medical School Chiba Hokusoh Hospital, Chiba, Japan. He is also the Director of the Respiratory Center, Japan. He is a thoracic surgeon and a pioneer of uniportal VATS in Japan. He has also multidiscipline achievements on myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury related to heart implantation and cell adhesion molecules, matrix protease, and tumor neovascularization relevant to cancer development and invasion. More research work of Prof. Hirai can be found here.
Dr. Hirai believes that peer review has some important plays in the pursuit of scientific validity based on the research data and keeping the quality of the journal. The system of peer review is one of the modalities of healthy academic communities.
Dr. Hirai further elaborates that the reviewers must bear in mind the fairness of interpreting the data and the validity of quoted journals. Conforming to the policy and guidelines of each journal while examining the characteristics of the content of the paper is also a criterion for acceptance and keeping the deadline of peer review is obvious.
The burden of being a doctor is heavy enough. Dr. Hirai prefers to prioritize work to take extra review tasks. “I routinely work as a thoracic surgeon and as teaching staff for medical students in the daytime. In my case, I take extra review tasks utilizing the small pockets of time. I enumerate some bullet points of criticism simply in advance, and complete review later on weekends,” says Dr. Hirai.
To Dr. Hirai, the compliance of the pledge on Conflicts of Interest (COI) is very essential to publish the journal. He points out that the management of COI prevents the forged and false data from researchers who are supported by the companies financially. Inevitably, COI compliance affects the core of the contents of the papers.
Artur Mezheyeuski, MD, Ph.D., works at the Department of Immunology, Genetics, and Pathology, Uppsala University, Sweden. His research interest is on the implementation of high-resolution spatial tissue analysis, with a special focus on tumor immunology and the development of AI-based pathology tools, aiming to support cancer diagnostic procedures and decision-making in clinical pathology. You may find out more about him on LinkedIn.
In Dr. Mezheyeuski’s opinion, a robust peer review system should allow more interactive dialogue between three parties involved: authors, reviewers, and editors.
He adds that the whole phenomena of the review process are a cornerstone of modern science. It is a self-regulating element, which guarantees the quality of the scientific publication.
He points out that a constructive review should always lead to manuscript improvement. However, if the reviewer only points out the issues of own interest, it may eventually destroy the whole ‘story’ of the original paper. To Dr. Mezheyeuski, peer reviewing is a fascinating experience, “When you act as a reviewer, you are probably the first person other than the authors to learn about the novel findings, which is always exciting. Moreover, by taking the duty seriously, you can substantially contribute to the delivery of this new piece of science.”
“Although sometimes we forget why we are doing research, science is not an ultimate aim itself, but Human well-being is the case,” says Dr. Mezheyeuski. He strongly believes that proper approval of the institutional review board and ethical statements are important to protect patients and eventually to improve the quality of the research.
Dr. Alexander Gill is currently a Neuroimmunology Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, U.S.A. His career goal is to lead a successful research program focused on the immunologic underpinnings of autoimmune neurologic disorders to improve the care of people suffering from these disorders. His clinical and research interests focus on autoimmune neurology, including immune-related neurologic adverse events of immune checkpoint inhibitors. More research work of Dr. Gill can be found here and here.
In Dr. Gill’s opinion, peer review is a cornerstone of the scientific process and serves as one of the main mechanisms for quality control on the output of researchers. It provides an opportunity for critical feedback from experts often from multiple fields. Some authors view the peer review process as an obstacle that must be overcome or defeated to publish their manuscript. The peer-review process also sets a publication standard and thereby promotes the integrity of scientific communication.
Dr. Gill believes that research studies, particularly high-impact studies, often pose more questions than they answer. As a result, peer reviewers and authors can often readily identify several interesting and important experiments that expand on the presented work. It is also important for reviewer comments to be clear and constructive to provide maximum benefit to the authors and editors.
Nonetheless, serving as a peer reviewer certainly has an altruistic component. Dr. Gill explains, “You are giving up a portion of your time, almost always without compensation, to support the advancement of science and ensure the robustness of the scientific literature. From a personal standpoint, however, critiquing others’ scientific work and writing also helps me hone my own scientific writing skills and my ability to critically evaluate my own research methodology and interpretation. Additionally, being selected by journal editors to review a manuscript demonstrates recognition of your expertise within a particular field.”
Dr. Gill points out that authors need to report all possible conflicts of interest, because the reviewers and readers need to be able to readily assess for any potential conflicts of interest that may influence the scientific question, the methodology used, or the presentation or interpretation of results.
Muhammad Zubair Afzal
Dr. Muhammad Zubair Afzal is currently a Haematology and Medical Oncology Fellow at Norris Cotton Cancer Centre, Dartmouth, United States. Dr. Afzal has a passion for medical research with a particular interest in experimental therapeutics, clinical, and outcome research. He has been actively involved in clinical and translation research in Oncology. His current interests are developmental therapeutics and circulating DNA in early-stage cancers. You may follow him on Twitter @ZubairAfzalMD.
Dr. Afzal believes the existing peer review system is important. Not all peer-review journals are at par and the quality of the peer-review process varies across journals. The review process starts at the editorial level, but the process is taken to the next level of integrity by dedicated and well-qualified reviewers. Therefore, the journal leadership has to choose reviewers that are well qualified and committed.
Dr. Afzal adds that not only peer-review process provides an opportunity to learn about clinical advancements going on in the field, it also provides intellectual stimulation and facilitates a literature review to be applied in the review process. The process also paves a way to contribute to science and discovery from a different aspect.
“I have realized that the editors do a great job to screen the articles before sending for peer review. Besides, as a reviewer, I always know that I am reviewing a high-value scientific content to enhance the quality of the manuscript for the scientific community,” says Dr. Afzal.
Dr. Oki is currently working as the Chief of the Department of Respiratory Medicine in National Hospital Organization Nagoya Medical Center, Nagoya, Japan. He has been working as a respiratory physician at the National Hospital Organization Nagoya Medical Center for over 20 years. His main research interest is interventional pulmonology and has published many papers in this field.
Dr. Oki thinks peer review is important as it ensures the validity, objectivity, and fairness of a research paper, and also serves to enhance the quality of the journal. There are different types of reviews. He points out that a constructive review is a report that provides objective feedback to improve the quality of the paper, and is therefore productive. On the other hand, a destructive review is focused on counterproductive subjective criticism, and therefore should be avoided.
Dr. Oki believes that reviewers should read the papers thoroughly and prevent irrelevant discussion in the review process. “The main purpose of the review is to improve the quality of the paper. The reviewers should review the paper from the viewpoint of the author, and should avoid aggressive criticism with requests for unnecessary or impossible revisions,” says Dr. Oki.
Needless to say, the reviewer should keep to the deadline. Dr. Oki adds that from a reviewer’s perspective, it is also important to follow the reporting guidelines to ensure no essential information is lacking and that will ultimately improve the quality of the paper.
Dr. Yasushi Shintani, MD, Ph.D. is the Chief of General Thoracic Surgery at Osaka University and the Chair of the Respiratory Center in the Osaka University Hospital, Osaka, Japan. His clinical section is designated as a center for pulmonary transplantation from a brain-dead donor and living donor. Dr. Shintani’s research focuses on the mechanisms of metastases in lung cancer. You may find out more about Dr. Shintani here.
Dr. Shintani believes that all manuscripts need to go through the peer-review process before publication as a “quality control” for the research studies. The reviewers evaluate the quality of a manuscript and its suitability for publication in a particular scientific journal. It encourages authors to produce high-quality research that will advance the research field.
Dr. Shintani adds that peer review is an important process for any journal to check the scientific quality of the manuscript. It is voluntary work and it takes substantial time for the reviewers to secure a proper peer review system. The reviewers should determine whether minor or major corrections are required for the submitted manuscripts before publication. Thus, the reviewers bear a heavy scientific responsibility. On the other hand, researchers must recognize their responsibility to evaluate each other to advance their research.
Dr. Shintani also points out that Translational Lung Cancer Research provides basic research, diagnosis, and treatment of lung cancer. The researchers can update research information through the peer-review process. His current research focus is a basic and clinical study of lung cancer, therefore he prefers to review research papers in this field of expertise.
Dr. Shintani reassures that authors must complete the Conflict of Interest (COI) forms. He explains, “Each author should clarify the role and responsibility of the published paper. Both financial and non-financial COI should be managed effectively to maintain the integrity of research and public trust because they may create bias in research.”
Dr. Taichiro Goto, MD, is the Head of Lung Cancer and Respiratory Disease Center, Yamanashi Central Hospital, Yamanashi, Japan. His research areas are lung cancer, oncogenesis, sequencing, fusion gene, intratumor heterogeneity, liquid biopsy, microbiome, tumor mutation burden, surgery, and immunotherapy. You may follow Dr. Goto on his Facebook.
Dr. Goto believes that any research evidence should be thoroughly verified by a non-conflicting third party to ensure that the researchers’ bias has not lowered the research value or invalidated the findings. Besides, he thinks that the role of reviewers is to improve manuscripts by identifying flaws in the research design or logic and by modifying any major issues in the trajectory of the research.
Dr. Goto adds that peer-reviewing enables reviewers to grasp novel findings, modify their existing knowledge, and constantly update their knowledge. In addition, learning novel research methods may motivate reviewers to conduct their own research and create more research ideas.
In general, Dr. Goto strongly believes that research activities are driven by healthy competition. However, he thinks that data sharing is necessary for cases like the current novel coronavirus 2019 pandemic when accelerating the research on developing treatment interventions is a top priority for humanity.
“Personally, when I review manuscripts, I try not to think that the currently prevalent ideas are correct. Otherwise, I may reject important manuscripts only because their conclusions are not consistent with the currently prevalent ideas,” says Dr. Goto.
Dr. Pierre-Jean Lamy is an Oncogenetic Specialist in biomarkers of solid tumors. He is also the Founder and the Medical Director of IMAGENOME, also known as the Medical Institute for Genomic Analysis, which is the first private clinical laboratory group in France. His research aims to improve personalized medicine, focusing on molecular-targeted agents and related biomarkers. His current research focuses on the detection of DNA homologous repair deficiency on liquid biopsy. You may find out more about Dr. Lamy’s research work here and here. You may also follow him on LinkedIn.
To Dr. Lamy, peer review is the cornerstone of science. A robust peer review system includes well-defined responsibilities, a set of requirements to ensure consistency in peer review practices, and a round-circle of external engagement among experts in the scientific field.
In Dr. Lamy’s opinion, the reviewers must keep in mind that a deep and attentive review must be done to improve the quality of a paper. For example, reviewers must formulate precise and objective critiques based on rigorous analysis after a thorough reading of the article. Their critical readings must remain factual and avoid what concerns opinion. They also have an editorial role, which goes from simply correcting typos to redesigning the text when it is poorly arranged.
Besides, Dr. Lamy points out that clinical research that involves people requires an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to protect the rights of those study participants. He explains that IRB is to make sure whether a study is ethical or not, if the data from retrospective studies is sufficiently sensitive, then the additional proof of ethical statement is necessary to protect the subjects' rights. Thus, an IRB approval is necessary for the IRB panel to decide on risk and the need for informed consent.
Dr. Lamy reassures that he loves doing peer reviews, “Peer review is very exciting for me, I can participate in the creation of a new article and make sure that the quality of the manuscript is good enough to be published.”
Dr. Rafael Rosell is Head of the Molecular and Cellular Oncology Laboratory Program at the Germans Trias i Pujol Research Institute and Hospital (IGTP), a public research center in Badalona, Spain. Dr. Rosell focuses on studying the improvement of lung cancer therapy. His current research programs include translational or preclinical research, liquid biopsy, and novel technologies with next-generation sequencing.
Dr. Rosell thinks that a reviewer needs to be knowledgeable on the specific topic of the manuscript and keeps in mind the stringent acceptance criteria of reviewing a manuscript. Most importantly, a reviewer should understand the long-lasting research process involved in reviewing the manuscript for publication.
Dr. Rosell further elaborates, “Some inaccuracies or errors are recurrent in a majority of manuscripts. Despite the great work and complete set of experiments, the interpretation and writing process is often below the average requirements for understanding and acceptance.” In other words, the reviewer is required to be technically competent on the subject in order to provide a valid review. Nonetheless, Dr. Rosell’s sense of curiosity and an avidness to learn keeps him motivated to review manuscripts and he is always happy to do so!
Regarding the current ethical guidelines, Dr. Rosell comments that he does not foresee any necessity for additional paperwork under the standard ethical guideline requirements. Therefore, it is practical and reasonable to have the institutional review board’s approval for completing the ethical statement of a manuscript.
Dr. Taiki Hakozaki is a Medical Oncologist at the Department of Thoracic Oncology, Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome Hospital, Tokyo, Japan. His primary professional interest mainly lies on translational research, immunotherapy, and clinical trials for thoracic malignancies. You can learn more about Dr. Hakozaki here and here.
In Dr. Hakozaki’s opinion, the peer review system is essential to uphold the quality of the scientific publication process. More scientists need to be actively involved in the peer-review process. However, he thinks that the lack of learning opportunity for peer review would be one of the problems, especially for young scientists. Also, it seems to be a non-negligible problem that a particular peer review task is often concentrated on some active peer reviewers only. To improve current circumstances, he suggests that the community should implement a new system to evaluate peer review activities.
On reporting checklists such as STROBE, CONSORT and TREND, Dr. Hakozaki comments that they are useful for both authors and reviewers to eliminate inadvertent omissions as scientific publications. However, from his experience as a reviewer, authors should conduct their research more carefully by following the guidelines of these checklists to complete the manuscripts, rather than use them just as obligatory checklists.