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
Florian Eichhorn, Thoraxklinik Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany
Wolfgang M. Brueckl, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany
Kadoaki Ohashi, Okayama University Hospital, Japan
Ukhyun Jo, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, USA
Martin P. Barr, Trinity St James’s Cancer Institute, Ireland
Rui Haddad, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Per Hydbring, the Karolinska Institutet, Sweden
Ajay Wagh, University of Chicago, USA
Akira Ono, Shizuoka Cancer Center, Japan
Yeul Hong Kim, Korea University, Korea
Umberto Malapelle, University Federico II of Naples, Italy
Hae-Seong Nam, Inha University Hospital, Korea
Lukas Käsmann, Ludwig Maximilian University, Germany
Yuji Matsumoto, National Cancer Center Hospital, Japan
Dwight Owen, The Ohio State University, USA
George Cheng, UC San Diego, USA
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.
Dr. Florian Eichhorn is currently working as a senior physician for thoracic surgery in the Thoraxklinik Heidelberg University Hospital, Germany. Dr. Eichhorn mainly focuses on exploring the role of lung cancer surgery in multimodal treatment concepts. His research interest lies in identifying valuable biomarkers, predicting therapy response, and the resistance to inductive treatment upfront surgery.
A robust peer review system is a fast, constructive, and concise review model for Dr. Eichhorn and many more reviewers to follow. Peer review provides an opportunity for authors to show their scientific results and ideas to reviewers with expertise in a specific research field. As a reviewer, he gives a lot of comments and suggestions which address different views on a topic, which also helps him to improve the quality of his own work. With regard to data sharing, Dr. Eichhorn comments that it allows verifying the results with supplementary analyses of a submitted manuscript.
“An active participation in a review process helps the reviewers to understand the value of quality publishing. During the review process, I find that my research work has improved immensely by learning to know more about the latest developments and novel advances in my specific area of interest,” says Dr. Eichhorn.
Wolfgang M. Brueckl
Dr. Wolfgang M. Brueckl is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Erlangen, Germany. He also practices as a Senior Consultant at the Department of Respiratory Medicine at the Paracelsus Medical University (PMU), in Nuremberg, where he leads the field of Thoracic Oncology. Over the years, he has established a research group focusing on translational research in prognostic and predictive factors in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
We are honored to interview Dr. Brueckl, who shares his thoughts on being a peer reviewer and how conflicts of interest might influence research.
TLCR: What do you regard as a constructive/destructive review?
Dr. Brueckl: A constructive review focuses on improving the quality of a manuscript. In this sense, the review would be easily read and understood by the readers. On the other hand, the reviewer has to slip into the role of the reader and ask the following questions: Is there a red thread through the manuscript? Are the methods and statistics adequate? Are the results sound and validated? Are the results discussed with all previous work done and all the limitations? A constructive review is always clear in giving suggestions positively. In contrast, destructive reviews are negative with an attempt to destroy the research work instead of improving it.
TLCR: What is so fascinating about peer-reviewing?
Dr. Brueckl: It is fascinating to me because it is a manuscript that no one has read before, and you can even smell the hard work and countless hours of hard work put into this piece of work. In addition, it is new research not done before and widens one’s own horizon. Furthermore, reading as a reviewer is a good practice for submitting your manuscripts as you may increase the quality of your own work and reduce the chance of rejection.
TLCR: The burden of being a scientist/doctor is heavy enough. How do you prioritize work to take extra review tasks?
Dr. Brueckl: It is difficult to answer as all of us only have 24 hours a day. If this is not sufficient enough, you can even take the night (laughs). Seriously, it is not always easy to review a manuscript just on time. To me, review tasks require a strong sense of self-discipline. Therefore, I suggest organizing our daily schedule and trying to follow our daily task by task, which may help a little bit.
TLCR: Is it a must for authors to complete Conflict of Interest (COI) forms? To what extent would COI influence research?
Dr. Brueckl: COI forms are necessary for the readers to assess whether pharmaceutical or other companies or even the government might have planned or sponsored the work. In a world with more and more entanglements between political, financial and social interests, COI is something like a rock in the surf.
Dr. Kadoaki Ohashi, MD, PhD, is working at the Department of Respiratory Medicine, Okayama University Hospital, Okayama, Japan. His research focuses on numerous specific lung cancer subtypes defined by specific mutations in EGFR, ALK, ROS1, and others. You may learn more about Dr. Ohashi’s research work through his Google Scholar page and ORCID page.
Peer review plays a crucial role in science. It aims to ensure the validity of the research content and contribute to the scientific community by benefiting more patients through the outcomes of the research work. Dr. Ohashi believes that the quality of research papers can be ensured by a voluntary peer review among researchers who do not have any potential conflict of interest to reduce biases on the review comments.
Moreover, Dr. Ohashi is pleased to see the escalating number of publishing journals and wonders if every journal can maintain the quality of peer review. He adds, “Recently, many journals are opening up the peer review process, which I think is a good way to ensure the quality of peer review. On the other hand, I believe that excessive rewards for peer reviewers may cause other problems but academic rewards such as a free download of papers are a good thing.”
In Dr. Ohashi’s opinion, medical work has a higher priority than peer review work. He elaborates, “When I receive an invitation, I try to accept it as long as it is in my research area, but when I am busy with my medical work, I cannot accept it. This is not an exemplary attitude. However, I think it's better to decline than to review without enough time to examine it.”
From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Ohashi thinks that ethical review and procedures for obtaining consent are mandatory as long as personal information is secured and approved by the institutional review board. It is essential for any research to be objectively reviewed for appropriateness, even if the research is believed to be beneficial to patients.
Dr. Ukhyun Jo, PhD., works in the Developmental Therapeutics Branch and Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Maryland, USA. His research focuses on studying precision medicine with clinically developed DNA-damaging agents, targeting on DNA replication and checkpoints, ATR and Schlafen-11. For more information about Dr. Jo, please visit his LinkedIn page.
In Dr. Jo’s opinion, peer review is an important process. There are certain things that the reviewers need to bear in mind: Firstly, Reviewers first need to read the manuscripts carefully regarding the author's scientific rationales and experimental designs with an open mind. Secondly, the reviewers need to evaluate the quality of the manuscripts and data to decide minor or major revisions in according with the journal’s requirements. Lastly, reviewers need to be positive to comment on the manuscripts and improve the overall quality of the reviewed papers. In general, peer review is required for solidifying manuscripts and evaluating scientific rationales.
From the reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Jo believes that all authors have the responsibilities to learn about the reporting guidelines such as CONSORT, PRISMA, and STARD before they start to write a scientific paper. The authors should follow the guidelines during preparation of the papers in order to complete the research study within the scope required and it also gives them a guide on how to write the paper.
Martin P. Barr
Dr. Martin Barr is a Clinical Scientist in the Thoracic Oncology Research Group at the Trinity St James’s Cancer Institute in Dublin, Ireland, and a Clinical Senior Lecturer in the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Dublin, Ireland. Dr. Barr has research interests in the field of thoracic malignancies, in particular non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). For more information about Dr. Barr, please visit his page and follow him on Twitter @MartinBarr10.
We are happy to have the following interview with Dr. Barr, who will share his views on the role of peer review and the importance of research data sharing.
TLCR: What role does peer review play in science?
Dr. Barr: Peer review serves as a fundamental part of scientific communication, ensuring the publication of credible, high-quality publications in reputable journals. As a reviewer, I must review without bias and comment on the credibility of the research conducted and the conclusions of the reviewed manuscript. Peer review allows the authors to include further detail before publication, thereby enhancing the overall quality of the manuscript, and providing the reviewer with up-to-date reports on technological advances.
TLCR: What are the limitations of the existing peer review system?
Dr. Barr: Currently, there is no standardized full-proof system available for addressing the peer-review process. Peer reviews are most likely to adopt a single-blinded review, whereby the author’s identity is known to the reviewer but the reviewer’s identity remains anonymous. Nonetheless, there are limitations in the peer review system. I think that reviewers need to be more selective when it comes to the papers and that more time should be given for reviewing manuscripts to ensure a more thorough and fair review of the manuscripts. I have attended an online peer-review training webinar for a reputable journal recently, and I found it incredibly useful. This short training approach may benefit journals in the future by simply providing short informative webinars highlighting general and journal-specific guidelines on the peer-review process and review reporting.
TLCR: Reviewing papers is often non-profitable, what motivates you to do so?
Dr. Barr: I now consider peer review as part of my academic contribution to science and research. To be part of this critical process of disseminating new knowledge which may contribute to significant changes in the field in the short- or long-term drives my motivation in this regard.
TLCR: Data sharing is prevalent in scientific writing in recent years. Do you think it is crucial for authors to share their research data?
Dr. Barr: I believe data sharing is and will remain a key requirement in the publication of research data. While the sharing of data in a public repository not only adds to the strength of the overall research and the scientific soundness of the data, it has the potential to drive fruitful collaborations internationally by building on these shared resources. However, researchers may have reservations in what data they do share, due to conflict with the potential commercial use of the data without prior consent, or as a consequence of ethical and legal issues relating to health and data protection where human subjects or patient samples and associated data are used.
Rui Haddad, MD, MSc, PhD, is a Professor of Thoracic Surgery at School of Medicine, Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and the Chief of Thoracic Surgery of the Hospital Copa Star, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. His research areas include minimally invasive thoracic surgery, robotic thoracic surgery, virtual reality, and augmented reality in thoracic surgery. For more information about Dr. Haddad’s research work, please visit his profile page and follow him on LinkedIn.
To Dr. Haddad, a healthy peer review is a quality control measure for medical research. The objectives are to see if the paper or research is accurate, relevant, and significant. It is a central part of the publication process for medical journals.
Speaking of an objective review, he defines it as a powerful tool of helping the authors to improve their publication. The expert is required to have expertise in a specific subject and study a lot to be up-to-date on the current development of the research field. He thinks that the constructive critics and straightforward suggestions could turn the paper more attractive to the specialized public.
Peer review is an essential piece of work, and it is necessary to encourage, improve and develop its practice widely. Dr. Haddad describes that peer review is a unique and vital anonymous collaboration for the progress of science and credibility of the publication. In addition, it helps to turn a journal to be more competitive and relevant in the scientific community.
Dr. Haddad believes that all research data should be shared, published, and made freely available to the public, even if it results in a negative conclusion. Data sharing is highly constructive and improves productivity and transparency, encouraging connection and collaboration among the scientific community.
Dr. Per Hydbring, PhD., is an Assistant Professor at the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. His current research focuses on coding- and non-coding RNAs in lung cancer. Dr. Hydbring is specifically interested in investigating the role of RNAs as potential molecular biomarkers and researching targets for therapeutic interventions. You may connect with Dr. Hydbring through LinkedIn.
In Dr. Hydbring’s opinion, the peer review process is imperative to ensure a rigorous quality check of all scientific studies. This includes quality assessment of performed experiments and also assessment of the conclusions of the study where authors should put their findings into the context of existing literature without overstating the potential impact on the scientific community.
Besides, Dr. Hydbring believes that the reviewer needs to be a true expert in the field. For example, if the study deals with something completely novel, the reviewer should work with components overlapping from a molecular or clinical point of view; If the reviewer is not a true expert in the field, it will be close to impossible for the reviewer to assess experimental details and the relevance of stated literature in the study.
As a reviewer, Dr. Hydbring stresses that a Conflict of Interest (COI) could have a detrimental influence on the conducted research if not disclosed properly. By disclosing COI, authors openly provide potential ties to entities that may influence their abilities to remain unbiased.
“The most fascinating thing about peer review is that it offers the opportunity to learn and to develop as a reviewer, especially when dealing with the authors’ responses during the revision phase. A successful peer review process does not necessarily mean that authors have performed everything requested by the reviewer but that the outcome of the process has resulted in an improved scientific study,” says Dr. Hydbring.
Dr. Ajay Wagh, MD, MS, FCCP, DAABIP, serves as an Interventional Pulmonologist and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Department of Pulmonary and Critical Care, the University of Chicago, Chicago, USA. Dr. Wagh is focused on developing and using minimally invasive techniques to help manage and palliate lung cancer, chronic respiratory illness, complex airway disorders, and pleural disease. Additionally, he has an interest in the biology of airway epithelial injury and repair in benign lung disease. To learn more about Dr. Wagh, you may visit the Chicago Faculty page and the University of Chicago page.
In Dr. Wagh’s opinion, peer review work is to critically analyze the manuscript and to understand and appreciate the message the authors are trying to deliver. He thinks that reviewers are required to give constructive feedback to authors, offer insight into the reader’s understanding of the content, and provide suggestions on how the message could be conveyed more clearly. On the other hand, reviewers should avoid giving destructive feedback, which is a review that offers only a negative response without any guidance as to how a manuscript may be improved.
Sometimes, it is difficult for editors to find reviewers and obtain timely responses. Dr. Wagh believes that the peer review process is critical in science to ensure quality control. He suggests, “Recognizing reviewers for their effort will help keep the reviewing community engaged. I always try to offer a reader’s perspective regarding content and messaging during a review.”
The Institutional Review Board (IRB) process and approval for a research is very important to Dr. Wagh. He emphasizes that authors must ensure that a writing protocol has scientific merit and is safe when they prepare a scientific research paper. It also provides the investigators an opportunity to submit a manuscript detailing a particular project which may help clarify the approach and goals of a study. Therefore, omitting this process may have a detrimental effect on credibility of the manuscript.
Dr. Akira Ono, MD, PhD., serves at the Division of Thoracic Oncology at Shizuoka Cancer Center, Shizuoka, Japan. Dr. Ono has been involved in the clinical development of new drugs for lung cancer through clinical trials. His recent focus is on researching quantitative biomarker evaluation and genetic abnormality prediction using digital pathology, and machine learning. For more details about Dr. Ono’s publications, please visit his page.
Peer review plays an extremely important role in science. To Dr. Ono, one of the key elements of being a reviewer is to be objective. He thinks that peer review has an important role to play in the scientific evaluation. He says, “I am always collecting and reviewing the latest information on my area of interest. In doing so, I review them with the following in mind: What is the novelty of the paper? Does it meet scientific criteria other than objectivity?” In the case of clinical papers, the clinical utility and application of the results are also important.
Dr. Ono emphasizes that authors must go through Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval to maintain the ethics of the research data when they write a research manuscript. He explains that if this approval process is omitted, the objective ethics of the research data will not be maintained, and there will be no credibility for the published article anymore and a huge deterioration to the reputation of the authors too.
Yeul Hong Kim
Dr. Yeul Hong Kim, MD, PhD., is a Professor of Medical Oncology at the Korea University College of Medicine, Seoul, South Korea. Currently, Dr. Kim is also the Director of the Korean Precision Medicine Enterprise, which is funded by the Korea Ministry of Health and Welfare. He is primarily interested in the chemotherapy of stomach cancer, colon cancer, and other gastrointestinal cancers including pancreatic cancer and biliary cancer.
Dr. Kim believes that fairness is the most important element for maintaining a healthy peer review system. The peer-review system contributes to the development of science in the pursuit of scientific validity based on the research data. The system of peer review is also very important for the clinical application of new scientific achievements. Furthermore, he indicates that reviewers should pay attention to new findings in human health for the scientific community. On the other hand, the reviewers should not consider the political or economic influence in medical science.
As a reviewer, Dr. Kim thinks that authors need to report all possible conflicts of interest (COI) when preparing a research paper because reviewers and readers must be able to tell any hidden COI that may influence the scientific question, the methodology used, or even the presentation or interpretation of results. He explains that science is not an ultimate aim itself. Instead, we should think about how we contribute to human well-being, which is the main purpose of our society and the peer-review system.
“Every small effort from us can make a big difference in the world, especially in human science,” says Dr. Kim.
Prof. Umberto Malapelle currently works at the Department of Public Health, University Federico II of Naples, Italy. He is also the Chair of Predictive Molecular Pathology Laboratory at the Department of Public Health, University Federico II of Naples, Italy. His main research interest is genomic biomarkers validation and solid tumors. You may follow Prof. Malapelle on Twitter @UmbertoMalapel1 and connect with him through LinkedIn.
To Prof. Malapelle, a reviewer is like a “stage lighting technician” – no one sees him but his work is fundamental. A program like this can be really useful to improve the “appeal” for this role. In addition, some educational programs focusing on the reviewer role could also be useful to improve the quality of reviewed manuscripts. He explains, “The possibility to get in touch with the article creation process is very important as the reviewer contributes with his own research experiences to suggest solutions and therefore to help improve the paper quality in general. It also helps with enhancing the relevance for the scientific community.”
Prof. Malapelle adds that the revision process is one of the ways that we can use to educate ourselves to consider different perspectives and different research approach coming from colleagues around the world. “Due to its relevance, I am really happy as a reviewer to allocate an average of 3 hours per week to the peer review activities,” says Prof. Malapelle.
Prof. Malapelle emphasizes that research transparency is like a pillar in the research landscape as a reviewer. Therefore, it is crucial not only for the authors, but also for the reviewers and the editors to report any potential Conflicts of Interest (COI). By reporting COI, research results are most efficient and helpful to the scientific community as it eliminates biases and enables a fair and transparent evaluation of the research.
Hae-Seong Nam currently serve at the Department of Internal Medicine of Inha University Hospital, Incheon, Korea. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Catholic Medical Center, The Catholic University of Korea, Seoul, and then his fellowship in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine at Samsung Medical Center, Seoul. His research area is mainly related to the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer. Recently, he focuses on the development of the predictive and prognostic models that can predict the early diagnosis of lung cancer and the prognosis of lung cancer using inflammatory biomarkers, which can be easily measured in clinical practice.
There are two major qualities that Dr. Nam thinks reviewers should possess. The first one is fairness and politeness, and the second one is thoroughness and clarity. Based on these qualities, reviewers should acknowledge the positive aspects of anyone’s articles under review, and constructive critique should be provided. Additionally, the reviewers should provide helpful feedback and concrete advice on how the study can be improved, even if the article is not good.
Apart from the above qualities, remaining objective is a basic yet crucial ethic of reviewers. To Dr. Nam, for a review to be objective, it should be based on the logic of scientific arguments (scientific idea, expectations generated by the idea, and relevant observations). In his own practice, he reviews an article at least thrice for objectiveness. In the first review, he tries to figure out whether the aim or hypothesis of the study is based on valid scientific evidence. In the second review, he looks at whether appropriate conclusions have been drawn by using a valid scientific methodology for the aim or hypothesis of the study. Finally, he tries to identify the differences, originality, and significances from existing articles.
Speaking of the importance for research to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval, Dr. Nam indicates that the IRB review has two critical goals. The first is to ensure the adequate protection of volunteers in human studies. The other is to enable a scientific process by which new knowledge may be rigorously acquired, bringing potential benefit to the public and society broadly. Therefore, IRB approval is very important to ensure adherence to the ethical values and principles underlying research and to ensure that only ethical and scientifically valid research is implemented. Considering these properties, IRB approval is the minimum safety equipment for human and animal research. If this process is omitted, such studies should not be published in any scientific journal as it may not be ethical and scientifically valid research.
“The peer review process is an opportunity to enhance my discernment for scientific and constructive critique of my research. Personally, I learn more scientific and constructive critique from the comments of other peer reviewers. Moreover, I feel great satisfaction and pride that my academic critique has contributed to the good scientific publication pathway,” says Dr. Nam.
Dr. Lukas Käsmann is a Radiation Oncologist at the University Hospital of the Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich, Germany. He received his medical degree from the University of Luebeck in 2017 and is currently working as a clinician scientist at Walther Straub Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology (Munich) with a focus on radiation-induced pneumonitis and lung fibrosis. Dr. Käsmann’s research interests include the implementation of clinical trials with focus on multimodal treatments for malignancies of the thoracic region including SCLC and NSCLC, translational research projects and their application from laboratory to clinical patients. He is the lead on various projects in his department and has been involved in numerous research projects. Furthermore, he has authored over seventy-five publications in peer-reviewed journals. You can follow Dr. Käsmann on ResearchGate.
To Dr. Käsmann, a constructive review is a report that can help the authors to improve and/or further develop the ideas/analyses/results presented in their manuscript. Therefore, every reviewer should aim to be constructive. However, from Dr. Käsmann’s experience, not all reviewer reports can meet these high standards. There are several possibilities to improve a report, e.g., to write the report reflecting the perspective of the author: If I were the author myself, what would I do to improve and what are the limitations? Are these suggestions feasible, reasonable, and consistent with the goals of the paper? A second important viewpoint is of a reader: If the reviewer can put oneself into the shoes of the reader, he/she should be able to ask: What have I learned from the paper that I can build upon? Thus, a truly constructive report will empathize with the author as well as with the reader. Of course, the reviewer will examine whether or not the paper contains innovations and important findings in their research field. After all, this is what reviewers expect to see.
In Dr. Käsmann’s opinion, before a reviewer accepts or declines an invitation to review, one should consider the following questions: Does the article match your area of expertise? Do you have a potential conflict of interest? Do you have time to meet the deadline? Only accept if you feel you can provide a high-quality review and have enough time to do so. In order to provide a good review, please follow the journal’s guidelines for reviewers.
Appropriate reporting is central to the application of findings from research to clinical practice. As a reviewer, Dr. Käsmann highly recommends the use of reporting guidelines such as STROBE, which provides guidance on the reporting of cohort studies and facilitates critical appraisal and interpretation of results. However, a significant number of studies use reporting guidelines inappropriately, e.g., in systematic reviews and meta-analyses as an instrument to assess the methodological quality of observational studies. As a result, the peer review process should ideally prevent the misuses of major concern, when misuses may dictate the outcomes of research.
“Peer reviewing is an integral part of my work and contribution to the scientific community. Peer review is often seen as an altruistic duty of members of the research community. However, the current peer review process faces several obstacles such as an increasing number of journals, submissions and non-adequate referee reports. Especially for young researchers, the invitation to review a research article based on the recognition of expertise can be considered a great honour and important part on the way to become an independent researcher. I recommend peer review trainings for young researchers to improve both the motivation for and the quality of peer review reports,” says Dr. Käsmann.
Dr. Yuji Matsumoto currently works as a medical staff at the Department of Endoscopy, Respiratory Endoscopy Division/Department of Thoracic Oncology, National Cancer Center Hospital, Tokyo, Japan. He is leading the diagnostic system using respiratory endoscopy, and the bridge between diagnosis and treatment of respiratory tumors. Dr. Matsumoto’s hospital is a traditional institution where flexible bronchoscopy was invented. He is working hard with his team to further improve the diagnostic accuracy and develop new treatment techniques.
Evidence-based medicine is formed by the accumulation of research results reported through papers. The content of the research must be objectively evaluated by a third party to determine whether it is useful for the development of medicine, whether it is still novel in light of known reports, and whether the methodology is correct. These are what Dr. Matsumoto considers as the role of peer review which has very important responsibility.
However, to Dr. Matsumoto, the existing peer review system is not without shortcomings. First, there is a tendency to be lenient when acquaintances are selected as reviewers, and peer review should be conducted after anonymizing the information of the authors, as has already been done in some journals. In addition, if reviewers with different areas of expertise are selected, it may lead to unfair evaluations, and it would be good if there is a system to share the areas of expertise of potential reviewers across the boundaries of editorial companies.
The premise of the paper is that the reproducibility of the research must be ensured, and sharing of data, in Dr. Matsumoto’s opinion, should not be prevented. At the same time, consideration should be given to the hardships of the authors who collected the data. Therefore, he believes that data should be shared only after individual permission is obtained, along with the reason for using the data in the research, rather than sharing it unnecessarily.
“Peer reviewing is an opportunity to come into contact with new information that has not yet been reported, and the fact that it can lead to the organization of one’s own knowledge and research ideas is motivating,” says Dr. Matsumoto.
Dr. Dwight Owen is an Assistant Professor of Medical Oncology at The Ohio State University – James Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbus, USA where he is a member of the Translational Therapeutics program. He is a clinical investigator focusing on novel immunotherapeutic interventions for patients with thoracic malignancies and has developed multiple clinical trials of immune therapies to improve the outcomes of patients with lung cancer. Dr. Owen is dedicated to collaborating with translational research teams to conduct hypothesis-driven correlative studies. He is a member of IASLC Career Development & Fellowship Committee, the Alliance Immuno-Oncology Committee, and the SWOG Lung Disease Working Group, and he was recently selected as a 2021 LUNGevity Career Development Award Recipient.
A healthy peer-review system is essential to drive progress in medicine, and is the cornerstone of the evidence based practice. Over the last two years, we have seen how important the peer review system has been to ensuring that the scientific process is protected. However, we have also seen the competing demands in terms of immediacy of data availability to inform public health. In Dr. Owen’s opinion, these two competing demands will continue to evolve in the coming years.
Dr. Owen, there is one key thing reviewers should bear in mind in the review process – providing constructive feedback whenever possible to help improve the scientific process. He explains, “Several times during the review process, we have developed a new hypothesis or even understood our results in a new light because of the constructive and critical feedback from reviewers.”
“I enjoy the peer review process because I am able to keep abreast of the research within the fast-changing world of lung cancer while also maintaining the scientific rigor we expect from the literature – and also hopefully helping to improve the work for final publication,” says Dr. Owen.
Dr. George Cheng serves as the Medical Director of Interventional Pulmonology, Bronchoscopy and Pleural disease at UC San Diego, USA. Prior to joining UCSD, Dr. Cheng was a core faculty member at Duke University. He received his Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry & Computer Science magna cum laude from Duke University and his M.D. and Ph.D. from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine before completing his residency in Internal Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He then pursued a Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Combined Pulmonary Critical Care Training Program and an Interventional Pulmonology fellowship at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Combined Interventional Pulmonary Training Program. He has published on multiple topics of bronchoscopy and pleural procedures in journals such as Science Translational Medicine, ARJCCM, CHEST, and JOBIP. Click here to browse Dr. Cheng’s profile.
Peer review is essential for the academic writing process. A healthy peer review process, according to Dr. Cheng, ensures that papers published in journals addresses meaningful research questions, draw accurate conclusions, and lays the foundation for future research.
There are certain qualities a good reviewer should possess. To Dr. Cheng, it is essential for reviewers to remain objective, unbiased, and un-emotional. He explains, “As one of my mentors taught me - always assume positive intent. Research should be judged on the data presented. Mistakes can occur and wrong conclusion may be drawn. It is the responsibility of the reviewer to identify these and adequately address any questions during the review process.”
From the perspective of a reviewer, Dr. Cheng believes that it is essential for authors to disclose any potential Conflict of Interest (COI). Same should be said for the reviewers to disclose COI. Complete transparency is important. COI can at the minimum alter perception of the paper in the eye of the readers.
Lastly, there are a few words Dr. Cheng would like to say to all the other reviewers: “To my fellow reviewers, thank you for your service. The academic process exists because of your efforts.”
Dr. Taiki Hakozaki is a medical oncologist at the Department of Thoracic Oncology in Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome Hospital Tokyo, Japan, and is also a PhD student in the Faculty of Science and Engineering Graduate School of Advanced Science and Engineering at Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. He received the MD degree from Okayama University Medical School, Okayama, Japan. He completed his residency in medical oncology at Tokyo Metropolitan Cancer and Infectious Diseases Center Komagome Hospital Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Hakozaki serves as a representative member of Japan Clinical Oncology Group-Lung Cancer Study Group (JCOG-LCSG). His primary professional interest mainly lies on the translational research, immunotherapy, and clinical trials for thoracic malignancies. In particular, he has focused on the impact of gut microbiome on the prognosis of patients with advanced cancer treated with immunotherapy. Dr. Hakozaki’s profiles can be accessed through ORCID and Publons.
Peer review is an essential part of scientific publication process. Dr. Hakozaki believes that peer review would motivate authors to disclose their research results more fairly, which enables readers to receive more reliable findings. In the long term, such a positive cycle will lead to progress of science as a whole.
However, biases are often seen in peer review. To minimize these biases, Dr. Hakozaki suggests the following steps. In conducting peer review, he tries to evaluate each manuscript based on his own objective and uniform standards. Also, he believes it is important as a basic stance to try to find the positive aspects of whatever research report or manuscript for peer review. If bias in the evaluation seems inevitable in any way, we should consider looking for alternative reviewers.
Dr. Hakozaki is fond of the idea of data sharing for original research. He indicates that data sharing is an important idea to make it possible to check the reproducibility of the findings, and thus to ensure the reliability of the scientific paper. It will also be of great help to other researchers to find new research topics more efficiently.
“Through the peer review, we can be indirectly involved in improving the quality of research, even in our non-specialized fields. In addition, reviewers can have opportunities to improve their ability as scientists, especially critical thinking, through peer review process,” says Dr. Hakozaki.