Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-05-26 14:59:02

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

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

January, 2023
Zaid Abdelsattar, Loyola University Chicago, USA
Magnus Sundbom, University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden

February, 2023
Maida Hafiz, University of Oklahoma, USA
Nathaniel Myall, Stanford Cancer Center, USA

March, 2023
Fabrizio Minervini, Cantonal Hospital Lucerne, Switzerland
Paul E.Y. Van Schil, Antwerp University Hospital, Belgium

April, 2023
Masaki Okamoto, National Hospital Organization Kyushu Medical Center, Japan
Paul Werner, Medical University of Vienna, Austria

May, 2023
Emmanuel Gabriel, Mayo Clinic in Florida, USA

June, 2023
Hidenao Kayawake, Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, Japan

July, 2023
Natsumi Matsuura, Kagawa University, Japan
Scott I. Reznik, University of Texas Southwestern, USA

August, 2023
Marc Fortin, Quebec Heart and Lung Institute of Laval University, Canada
Daniel G. French, Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Canada
Gita N Mody, UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, USA

September, 2023
Moshe Lapidot, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, USA

October, 2023
A Justin Rucker, Duke University Medical Center, USA
Ian Wong, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China

November, 2023
Jorge Hernánde, La Santa Creu i Sant Pau University Hospital, Spain
Frank Detterbeck, Yale Cancer Center, USA

December, 2023
Jason M. Ali, Royal Papworth Hospital, UK

January, 2023

Zaid M Abdelsattar

Dr. Zaid Abdelsattar, MD, MS, FACS is an Assistant Professor of Surgery and the Director of Research at the Department of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery at Loyola University Chicago, USA. He completed his general surgery and thoracic surgery residency training at the Mayo Clinic. While in training, he completed a health services research fellowship and obtained a Master’s degree in Health & Healthcare Research from the University of Michigan. Dr. Abdelsattar practices the spectrum of thoracic and lung transplant surgery. He is an expert at tackling complex surgical problems utilizing innovative minimally invasive robotic solutions. His research aims to improve the national delivery and quality of cancer care nationally. His research is heavily cited and featured in news media outlets. He is passionate about teaching and serves as the associate program director of the thoracic surgery residency at Loyola University Chicago. To connect with Dr. Abdelsattar, you may follow him on Twitter @ZaidAbdelsattar, CTSNet, or LinkedIn.

Peer review plays a critical role, in Dr. Abdelsattar’s view, in the scientific process. It is a rigorous system in which experts in the relevant field evaluate research manuscripts before they are published in academic journals or presented at conferences. This ensures that the research is accurate, reliable, and relevant. It also helps ensure that the research meets the standards of the scientific community. Providing a system of checks and balances helps to maintain the integrity of the scientific process and prevent fraud, plagiarism, and other forms of scientific misconduct. Additionally, it provides a forum for scientific debate and discussion, which can help advance the field and identify new areas of research.

However, biases are inevitable in peer review. Reviewers may have personal opinion biases, preferences, or conflicts of interest (COIs) that can influence their evaluation of a manuscript. In view of this, Dr. Abdelsattar tries to maintain an objective “science-only” approach to the process. Journals also have strategies to minimize this by blinding authors, picking from a diverse reviewer pool, outlining clear guidelines or even training for reviewers.

As a reviewer, Dr. Abdelsattar believes authors should always disclose any potential COIs related to their research. This is essential for maintaining transparency and ensuring the integrity of the scientific process. It is important to note that a COI does not necessarily mean that the research is invalid or unreliable, but it does require careful consideration and evaluation by the reader. Proper disclosure of COI allows the reader to assess the potential impact of the COI on the research findings and draw their conclusions accordingly.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation and admiration for all the dedicated reviewers out there who are working tirelessly behind the scenes to advance science. These contributions are immeasurable and invaluable. The reviewers’ commitment to quality and willingness to invest time and expertise to provide thoughtful and constructive feedback to authors are essential to maintaining the integrity and rigor of the scientific process. I am humbled to be part of these efforts that are helping advance knowledge, drive innovation, and solve many thoracic surgical problems,” says Dr. Abdelsattar.

(By Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

Magnus Sundbom

Dr. Magnus Sundbom, MD, PhD, is an Adjunct Professor of Surgery and Head of the Department for Gastro-esophageal Surgery at the University Hospital in Uppsala, Sweden. He practices malignant and benign upper gastrointestinal surgery, mostly by minimal invasive techniques. At present, a primary laparoscopic approach is standard in almost all esophageal- and gastric cancer procedures. This development has been eased by their large experience in laparoscopic bariatric surgery. Dr. Sundbom’s main research area is within gastro-esophageal surgery, focusing on optimal operative technique and long-term results in both malignant and benign procedures such as bariatric surgery. Ongoing projects focus on the need for naso-gastric tube after esophagectomy and detailed studies of blood flow to the gastric conduit as well as optimizing the patient selection process. They are also part of several European studies concerning improved outcomes for patients with disseminated gastric cancer. Dr. Sundbom has been part of the work undertaken by the National Board of Health and Welfare to develop national guidelines for obesity care and is on the steering committee for the national quality registry for bariatric surgery (SOReg). He also runs a national postgraduate course for subspecialists in Upper Abdominal Surgery called SÖK (link). Visit Dr. Sundbom’s homepage here.

A constructive review, in Dr. Sundbom’s view, will help authors to improve their paper further, both concerning content and presentation. He explains, “At first, all young authors, including myself, are afraid of the reviewers, seeing them as opponents or judges. Over time you find that reviewers truly help you to improve your work, thus appreciating their work and the peer-review system in general.” Thus, he thinks a constructive review must be thorough, scrutinizing the aim of the study and statistical methods as well as the presentation and discussion of results. It is important that the review process is carried out in a respectful and supportive manner, from both sides. In the end, published papers should increase the reader’s knowledge and result in improved health-care in the long run.

Sound research needs to be as objective as possible. This can be difficult per se as all authors (and reviewers) will have their own opinion on the actual subject. However, to reduce bias and to give the reader a chance to evaluate the presented message correctly, it is crucial that all possible disturbing elements are clearly and honestly presented upfront. Therefore, Dr. Sundbom believes that a correct presentation of Conflicts of Interest (COIs) is a foundation for the integrity of the scientific process. He points out that it is often very difficult to judge the extent of a COI, but those that are far from the actual subject are easier to accept. In most cases, however, there remains some uncertainty about any impact on the results.

I appreciate the content of JTD, combining interesting medical and surgical topics in all aspects of thoracic diseases. Reviewing such manuscripts increases my own knowledge in this interesting field. Furthermore, the review process in JTD is very clear and easy to work with,” says Dr. Sundbom.

(By Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

February, 2023

Maida Hafiz

Dr. Maida Hafiz is a Sleep Medicine fellow at the University of Oklahoma (Oklahoma, USA). She is also trained in Pulmonary & Critical Care Medicine. Her clinical interests include the management of acute respiratory distress syndrome, cancer therapy-related pulmonary toxicities and critical care echocardiography. Her main research interest is in immunotherapy-related pulmonary toxicity.

To Dr. Hafiz, the assessment of scientific research quality relies heavily on peer review. To ensure the validity, timeliness, and relevance of science communication, an efficient peer-review process is imperative. Reviewers should be equitable and objective evaluators, as well as astute analysts. Reviewers must utilize their expertise and distinct viewpoints to evaluate the importance and potential influence of every article. The process of peer evaluation furnishes authors with valuable feedback to enhance their manuscripts. Throughout this procedure, reviewers ought to consider the ultimate audience and guarantee that the information is accurate and articulated in a manner that is comprehensible to non-expert readers.

To aid authors in enhancing the quality of their papers, reviews should be constructive in nature. In Dr. Hafiz’s view, this may entail requesting specific details from the author to enhance the presentation and communication of their research. Such comments should be conveyed respectfully and be as specific as possible. While constructive feedback may include highlighting relevant research that was missed or offering methodological advice to enhance the study, it should not be influenced by subjective views. Ultimately, constructive reviews can assist authors in identifying overlooked errors or details and enriching the study by incorporating diverse viewpoints.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Hafiz indicates that Conflicts of Interest (COIs) can have serious implications for the safety and well-being of study participants and patients. When researchers prioritize their interests over those of their participants, the latter may suffer adverse consequences. Academic COIs are particularly concerning, as they can result from researchers’ desire to influence scientific publication decisions in exchange for intangible benefits. While complete elimination of biases may not be possible, individuals involved in scientific research must take steps to recognize and report any biases that could undermine their objectivity. Researchers must make a concerted effort to remain impartial and ensure that their biases do not interfere with the integrity of their work. It is essential to address COIs and biases in scientific research as they pose a significant threat to the credibility of the scientific enterprise. Failure to do so not only undermines the validity of scientific findings but also erodes public trust in research and its practitioners. Therefore, it is crucial that researchers prioritize the welfare of study participants and patients over their interests and uphold the highest standards of scientific integrity. Honesty and integrity are essential for a robust peer review system that readers can rely on for accurate content. Trust is an ethical value that underpins the credibility of scientific research. Recognizing and reporting any COIs is crucial to upholding these values.

JTD’s open-access policy has made a plethora of information accessible that would be challenging to find in other circumstances. It has achieved a reasonably large impact factor indicating that it publishes good-quality papers. These factors have contributed to my admiration for this journal. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of its reviewer board. It allows me to contribute to the peer-review process and uphold the journal's standards of excellence. Moreover, as a reviewer, I am privileged to have the opportunity to assess the latest research and stay up-to-date with current developments in my field,” says Dr. Hafiz.

(By Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

Nathaniel Myall

Nathaniel Myall, MD, is a clinical assistant professor at the Stanford Cancer Center in Stanford, California. He completed both his internal medicine residency and oncology/hematology fellowship training at Stanford. His clinical focus is the treatment of patients with thoracic malignancies, including non-small cell and small cell lung cancer, carcinoid neuroendocrine tumors, and thymic malignancies. He also attends frequently on the inpatient oncology service at Stanford Hospital. His research interests include clinical trials evaluating novel therapies for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer, understanding the management of brain metastases from lung cancer, and retrospective clinical research evaluating real-world outcomes of driver-mutated non-small cell lung cancer.

In Dr. Myall’s view, the most helpful reviews, first and foremost, acknowledge the time, effort, and skill that go into conducting and writing up any research study, review article or editorial. Regardless of whether or not the paper is ultimately a good fit for the journal and/or the medical literature as a whole, hard work and dedication are required to bring any manuscript to the point where it is ready to be peer-reviewed, and authors should be commended for that. As such, he tends to think of a constructive review as one that starts with this acknowledgment and then works from there to build up a paper rather than tear it down. In this way, “building up” a paper means acknowledging both its strengths and weaknesses and providing concrete guidance on how the weaknesses can be improved. Weaknesses are best addressed not with inflammatory language but with constructive questions and advice that help authors tighten their thesis, clarify their results, and/or strengthen their conclusions, whichever is needed. Similarly, the more specific a review can be, the better. To him, constructive reviews provide tangible rather than purely generalized feedback that gives authors specific building blocks on which to advance their manuscripts further. He adds, “Overall, as a reviewer, I try to consider my role closer to that of someone who is mentoring or advising the authors on their work rather than someone who is acting only as a gatekeeper for publication or rejection.”

Balancing peer review with other clinical, research, and/or teaching commitments is challenging, and it is a skill that Dr. Myall is constantly trying to better develop. For him, it helps to recognize the peer-review process as (1) an opportunity to learn and (2) a way to contribute to the research process. Even if it is not a manuscript he ultimately recommends for publication, he always learns something from his peers’ work. In this way, peer review is very similar to reading journal articles as a way to improve clinical practice. Furthermore, he believes peer review is an opportunity to give back to the journals and peer community that have reviewed and considered his own work in the past. He goes on, “Thinking about peer review in this way helps me frame it not as a separate task or responsibility but instead as something that I can easily incorporate into the time I already set aside for my own learning and research endeavors. Ultimately, I often cannot accept all peer review requests that come my way, and as a result, I try to be selective about reviewing those papers that most closely align with my clinical expertise, where I can be the most helpful and constructive.”

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

March, 2023

Fabrizio Minervini

Dr. Fabrizio Minervini currently serves at the Division of Thoracic Surgery, Cantonal Hospital Lucerne, Lucerne, Switzerland. He graduated from School of Medicine at the University of Palermo in 2006. Immediately after, he started his surgical training in Switzerland, obtaining board certification in general surgery (2015), thoracic surgery (2019) and the European Board of Thoracic Surgery (2023). He also worked as a clinical fellow at the Hannover Medical University (Germany) in 2008 and McMaster University (Canada) in 2018. Given his interest in research, he completed a PhD in 2010. His main research topics are lung cancer, VATS and RATS procedures, and thoracic traumatology. Dr. Minervini is a member of the European Society of Thoracic Surgeons (ESTS) and the Swiss Society of Thoracic Surgeons (SGT). Since July 2022, he has been an MBA candidate at the Bologna Business School, University of Bologna (Italy). Connect with Dr. Minervini on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The way Dr. Minervini sees it, a transparent and rigorous peer-review process is the conditio sine qua non to ensure high-quality research publications. Good knowledge of the topic is essential to review a paper and therefore a careful selection of the paper to review should be carried out when an invitation is received.

To Dr. Minervini, the publication of a paper is usually the starting point of a debate in the scientific community and therefore the integrity of the review process is essential. He points out that it is important for reviewers to check the purpose of the paper, the methodology, the clarity of the language, the compliance with ethical standards and to ensure that the results are new and relevant for the readers. The publication of a paper is of interest for the scientific community not only to improve their own knowledge, but also to start new research trying to confirm or disprove the current results.

The reviewer's commitment is important to ensure the publication of high-quality research and to improve the knowledge of the scientific community about diseases that often still carry with them high morbidity and mortality. Consequently, good research means better management and treatments in our practice for our patients,” says Dr. Minervini.

(By Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

Paul E.Y. Van Schil

Prof. Paul Van Schil is currently professor emeritus in thoracic and vascular surgery at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium, and consultant at the Department of Thoracic and Vascular Surgery of the Antwerp University Hospital. In 1990, he became a staff member at the Department of Surgery of the Antwerp University Hospital. From October 2013 till October 2014, he was president of the European Association for Cardio-thoracic Surgery (EACTS).  In 2017, he became member of Board of Directors of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) and chair of the lung cancer domain of its Staging and Prognostic Factors Committee (SPFC). In September 2021, he became president-elect of IASLC. Currently, he is an associate editor of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology, Pulmonology and Acta Chirurgica Belgica and reviewer for thoracic and vascular journals. More information about Prof. Van Schil could be found on his personal page.

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

Prof. Van Schil: A healthy peer-review system provides an objective evaluation of submitted papers by comparison with existing literature data. At least two reviewers should be invited. They should judge whether the content is relevant and identify major strengths and weaknesses to finally decide whether the paper can be accepted without any changes, with minor or major revisions, or should be rejected due to important shortcomings. The main question that should be answered is whether the content gives novel information which is relevant for current experimental or clinical application and provides suggestions for additional research. Practically, the abstract is initially evaluated together with the conclusions to provide a first impression of the relevance of the paper. In a secondary analysis, methods are looked at, followed by results and final conclusions. Are the results substantiated by the presented data? Is the discussion timely and does it give a summary of existing literature?

The associate or chief editor should then make a final decision taking into account the comments of the reviewers. A paper should only be returned to the authors when it is clear that a revision is feasible within a short-term period and will improve the scientific content of the manuscript. A special track should be provided for revised papers in order to make a final decision of acceptance or not. In case of rejection, the authors should be advised about a journal that is more specifically adapted to their paper.

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

Prof. Van Schil: First of all, reviewers should be selected who are not involved in the submitted paper and who do not have a direct relationship with the authors and their institution. The review should be done as objectively as possible without taking into account the authors’ institution or the general reputation of the authors. This should be clear from the reviewers’ report which should be as detailed as possible and provide an overall recommendation which is justified by the comments that were made. Reviewers should also declare any potential conflicts of interest they might have in relation to the paper they evaluate.

JTD: Peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable, what motivates you to do so?

Prof. Van Schil: By performing reviews, you stay at the forefront of clinical and experimental research and you are part of the decision process to judge which papers go through to final publication. In this way, you already know the content before they are published. By doing this in a correct way, you can be proud to assist in providing relevant and novel information to the scientific community.

JTD: From a reviewer’s perspective, do you think it is important for authors to follow reporting guidelines (e.g. STROBE, CONSORT) during preparation of their manuscripts? And why?

Prof. Van Schil: For me, this is an important point, as in this way, authors apply existing guidelines in the overall structure of their paper in order to improve the scientific content and clinical relevance. By applying specific criteria, all important items are covered which are essential for an in-depth evaluation. This facilitates the global work for reviewers and moreover, the strong and weak points of the paper come into view more easily.  

(By Nicole Li, Brad Li)

April, 2023

Masaki Okamoto

Dr. Masaki Okamoto is the Chief of Department of Respirology and Clinical Research Institute, National Hospital Organization Kyushu Medical Center, Japan, and an Assistant Professor at the Division of Respirology, Neurology, and Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine, Kurume University School of Medicine, Japan. His study field is respirology, in particular diffuse lung disease. Dr. Okamato graduated from Kurume University School of Medicine at 1998 and entered the Division of Respirology, Neurology, and Rheumatology, Department of Internal Medicine of the University. He obtained his degree of Medical Science from the Kurume University School of Medicine in 2002. He developed the new model of IL-18, IL-2-induced mouse acute lung injury during his graduation study. Dr. Okamoto is an instructor of the Japanese Society of Internal Medicine and the Japanese Respiratory Society. He is also a representative of the Kyushu Chapter of the Japanese Respiratory Society.

As a reviewer, Dr. Okamoto believes that that peer review by researchers in the same study field is necessary in order to make fair decisions for publication and to improve the quality of journals. He emphasizes that, however, there are many researchers who decline to participate in peer review as one of the drawbacks of the current peer review method. If the reviews could be viewed as the reviewers' academic accomplishments, it might help with the dilemma. In addition, in Dr. Okamoto’s opinion, a qualified reviewer should be unbiased and with a willingness to devote time and effort into peer review.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Okamoto encourages authors to share data with other researchers, because he believes sharing generates ideas for further research.

(By Nicole Li, Brad Li)

Paul Werner

Dr. Werner is currently finishing his clinical training as a cardiac surgeon at the General Hospital of Vienna and completing his PhD at the Medical University of Vienna. His early research focused on structural valve deterioration after bioprosthetic valve replacement, especially in valve prostheses with outside leaflet mounting, and comparative long-term outcomes of different biological aortic valve prostheses. Dr. Werner is participating in the Christian Doppler Laboratory for micro-invasive heart surgery, headed by Prof. Martin Andreas, with a special focus on automated suturing technology in atrioventricular valve surgery. Another focus of clinical and scientific interest is ascending aneurysm surgery. Under the mentorship of Prof. Marek Ehrlich, recent publications reported on outcomes after aortic root replacement with the modified Bentall procedure and changes in aortic root geometry following root replacement and their implications on future valve-in-valve procedures. Connect with Dr. Werner on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Speaking of the limitations of the existing peer-review system, Dr. Werner quotes the famous words of Churchill, “It is the worst form, except for all the others that have been tried.” In his opinion, the limitations may include the following: reviewers may have personal prejudices against certain groups or teams; fear of reviewers having specific topics published on which they are working on themselves; non-structured reviews with no constructive criticism based on personal opinions and not on evidence; and the lack of public recognition or benefits for reviewers may result in minimal time spent conducting reviews. He recommends the following strategies to mitigate these issues: an anonymous reviewing system should be the gold standard; journals should endorse publications from different groups with similar outcomes in similar time frames (if methodically correct); and non-structured reviews based solely on personal opinions should not be supported by editors.

Dr. Werner points out that when reviewers evaluate papers, there are several key factors that they should consider. First, they need to ensure that the topic being explored is relevant to the specialty, and they must assess whether the study answers the research question successfully and whether it is methodically sound. Also, the reviewers should verify that all relevant results have been reported, and appropriate conclusions have been drawn from them. Furthermore, reviewers need to see if relevant current literature has been appropriately depicted in the paper. Lastly, reviewers can provide recommendations on how the paper might be improved.

While peer reviewing may be an anonymous and non-profit activity, Dr. Werner believes reviewing a paper can be viewed as continuous training for oneself to better understand current research. If done correctly, both parties, the reviewers and the authors will benefit from a thorough review.

(Nicole Li, Brad Li)

May, 2023

Emmanuel Gabriel

Dr. Emmanuel Gabriel is a surgical oncologist who currently works at Mayo Clinic in Florida, USA. He has a broad clinical practice that includes GI malignancies. His GI research interests include outcomes and disparities-based research as well as the development of predictive tools to estimate survival for patients with GI cancers. He has received NIH funding for translational projects that seek to alter tumor blood flow at the time of drug delivery to enhance anti-tumor responses.

As a reviewer, Dr. Gabriel points out that due to the escalating number of journals out there needing reviewers, it is often difficult to find time to commit to an appropriately performed, rigorous review. On the other hand, some reviewers may find it non-profitable to conduct peer review, but to him, peer reviewing is always rewarding. “I personally enjoy reviewer papers. I learn a lot from the process, and it is very important and meaningful to contribute to science,” says Dr. Gabriel.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Gabriel encourages authors to follow reporting guidelines, such as PRISMA and TREND, during the preparation of their manuscripts. He believes these guidelines are in place to provide transparency and reproducibility in results, which at times can be issues.

(By Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

June, 2023

Hidenao Kayawake

Dr. Hidenao Kayawake is a Vice Medical Director in Department of Thoracic Surgery, Kobe City Medical Center General Hospital, Japan. He graduated from Kyoto University in 2010 and obtained Doctor of Philosophy at Graduate School of Medicine, Kyoto University in 2021. His research themes are clinical and basic research of lung transplantation including lung preservation and donor-specific anti-HLA antibody. Recently, Dr. Kayawake engages in minimally-invasive surgery including uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery.

Dr. Kayawake points out that peer review is essential for the publication of research articles, since the accuracy and transparency of research is increased by the peer review from researchers in the same field, and revising manuscripts makes the quality of manuscripts higher. Objective judgements and constructive comments are required for reviewers. In a healthy peer-review system, at least 2 reviewers are required for fair judgments.

Although reviewing manuscripts is a hard and unpaid work, in Dr. Kayawake’s view, it is a great pleasure to get in touch with the latest knowledge and to be concerned with the publication of novel findings as a scientist. He thinks that he can learn a lot from the process of reviewing manuscripts and get motivations for research and clinical practice.

Speaking of the reason Dr. Kayawake reviews for JTD, he indicates that many scientific papers in thoracic surgery are published in JTD, which is open access, leading to easy access to the latest knowledge for researchers. He believes it is a pleasure for him to play a role in this journal.

Dr. Kayawake emphasizes that Conflict of Interest (COI) disclosure is essential. In his opinion, having COI does not mean that researches including COI are inaccurate or unreliable, but the results of researches with COI should be carefully evaluated. To correctly disclose COI is a necessary part for interpreting results of a study and evaluating its accuracy as well as transparency.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

July, 2023

Natsumi Matsuura

Dr. Natsumi Matsuura, MD, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of General Thoracic, Breast and Endocrinological Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University, Japan. She received her medical degree at Kagawa University in 2003, and obtained Doctor of Philosophy at Graduate School of Medicine, Kagawa University in 2011. After completing a residency in the Department of General Thoracic, Breast and Endocrinological Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, Kagawa University, she worked as a staff surgeon at Takamatsu Red Cross Hospital, Japanese Red Cross Wakayama Medical Center and Japanese Red Cross Maebashi Hospital. Dr. Matsuura is a board-certified surgeon of Japan Surgical Society and Japanese Association for Chest Surgery. Her clinical research focuses on minimally invasive surgery, especially reduced port VATS and pulmonary segmentectomy.

In Dr. Matsuura’s mind, peer review helps improve and assure the quality of research. Peer review by researchers in the same field can improve errors that authors may have noticed or overlooked. She thinks it leads to further consideration and quality improvement at the same time. Therefore, even though the burden of being a researcher and doctor is heavy, Dr. Matsuura tries to make a little time after work each day or on days off to work on peer review.

From Dr. Matsuura’s point of view, the most important thing for reviewers to bear in mind is to always evaluate the work objectively, without being misled by personal opinions or preconceptions. It is of vital importance to maintain confidentiality with respect to the content reviewed.

In addition, Dr. Matsuura thinks it is important for authors to disclose Conflicts of Interest (COI). To her, disclosure of COI ensures credibility and transparency. She explains, “Transparency communicates that information is reliable and promotes scientific discussion and the advancement of knowledge.”

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Scott Reznik

Scott I. Reznik, M.D., is a professor of cardiothoracic and thoracic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, Texas. He is the program director for the thoracic surgery training program. His focus is on educational optimization in training cardiac and thoracic surgeons. He also is part of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines committee for gastric and esophageal cancer. Visit Dr. Reznik’s homepage here and connect with him on X.

An objective review, according to Dr. Reznik, is one that judges the manuscript on its merits. The data should support the conclusions even if those conclusions conflict with the reviewer’s opinions. The review should allow room for controversy and differences of opinion.

In Dr. Reznik’s view, the foremost quality that a reviewer should possess is an open mind. The most exciting publications are ones that challenge the status quo and often shatter paradigms. A good reviewer must be able to overcome their own biases and follow the data to their logical conclusion. Other attributes include an innate curiosity and willingness to play the contrarian.

The foremost reason that I review is that by reviewing a manuscript, I always learn something. It may be a new way of approaching a problem, a better understanding of pathophysiology, or a new treatment strategy. Additionally, many manuscripts challenge my own views and force me to dive deeper into a subject which makes me a better physician,” says Dr. Reznik.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

August, 2023

Marc Fortin

Dr. Marc Fortin is a pulmonologist and assistant professor at the Quebec Heart and Lung Institute of Laval University, Canada, where he is the head of the Interventional Pulmonary Medicine program. He completed his Pulmonary Medicine fellowship at Laval University and Interventional Pulmonary Medicine fellowships at the University of Calgary and the University of Aix-Marseille. He is currently completing a master’s degree in Clinical and Biomedical Sciences at Laval University. His research focus is minimally invasive endoscopic procedures and optimization of the use of healthcare resources, mainly in the investigation of lung cancer.

The way Dr. Fortin sees it, the peer-review system is critical to the publication of high-quality medical literature although it remains imperfect. It must be constructive to help the young authors improve and increase the quality of the published work. Unfortunately, significant weaknesses in research projects may be uncorrectable. Multiple reviews by experts in the field must be provided to ensure a fair review. Ideally, the review process should be blinded to the author’s identity to decrease biases. Reviewers must have sufficient methodology and statistics knowledge and not only be experts in the field.

In Dr. Fortain’s opinion, reviewers, despite all good intentions, have biases. They may not be interested in certain study designs or subjects or may be particularly sensitive to certain flaws in the papers reviewed. Unfortunately, there are few experts in very specific fields, and knowing or collaborating with authors will also create positive or negative biases for the reviewer. How the reviews will be interpreted and taken into account by the editorial staff also limits the peer-review system.

Reviewing is essential to the generation of good-quality medical research, so even though it's not profitable, I find it necessary to do my share. It also helps me improve my own publications by reflecting on the methodology or work of others,” says Dr. Fortin.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

Daniel G. French

Dr. French is a thoracic surgeon and assistant professor at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. He completed a Bachelor of Engineering degree at Dalhousie University, followed by a Master of Applied Science and Doctor of Medicine degree at the University of British Columbia. His surgical training includes completing the general surgery residency program at Dalhousie University and a thoracic surgery residency program at the University of Ottawa. His clinical and research interests are focused on quality outcomes for thoracic malignancies. He has been a trauma team leader since 2017 at the QEII in Halifax. He co-chairs the Nova Scotia Thoracic Tumor Board, is the vice chair of the Canadian Association of Thoracic Surgeons National Database Committee, and is a member of the Beatrice Hunter Cancer Research Institute and the Nova Scotia Lung Association Medical Advisory Committee. Connect with Dr. French’s team on X @HalifaxThoracic.

Peer review is essential, in Dr. French’s view, in the dissemination of scientific information. It is an opportunity to review the four main components of the manuscript for scientific integrity. The motivation and objectives of the study are assessed to determine the potential clinical impact of the work. Review of the methodology is essential in interrogating the results. Particular attention to the data in the results section allows for integration of the methodology and an opportunity to look for discrepancies. Critiquing authors’ interpretation of the results in the discussion and conclusion is an opportunity to ensure the message in the paper is supported by the results. Lastly, the clinical significance of statistically significant results needs to be interrogated in the context of the methodology, results and practical utility.

Inevitably, introduction of bias is inherent in any review process. Reviewers can be biased by multiple factors, according to Dr. French, such as the authors, their institution, similar work completed by the reviewer, preconceived notions, etc. As a reviewer, it is important to avoid looking at the authors and their institution. Reviewing the manuscript out of sequence can also be helpful. Starting a peer review by first reading the conclusion allows the reviewer to interrogate the remainder of the manuscript to determine if the conclusions are supported by the data and methods. Next, the results section, tables and figures are reviewed to assess if the data support the conclusions. The method section reveals whether the data were collected using a scientific approach. And lastly, review of the introduction should demonstrate the authors’ motivation for publishing their work.

The peer-review process is important to maintain scientific integrity in medicine. Expert opinion with knowledge of subtle technical and clinical details is essential to merge the scientific process to drive changes in clinical practice. Even if the publication is not accepted, the review process is an opportunity to help other researchers improve their manuscript,” says Dr. French.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

Gita N Mody

Dr. Gita Mody is an Associate Professor in the UNC Department of Surgery, Director of Thoracic Surgical Oncology, and Adjunct Associate Professor at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health with the Public Health Leadership Program. She received her M.D. at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and her M.P.H. in Clinical Effectiveness from the Harvard School of Public Health. Her clinical expertise is in surgery for lung cancer. Her major research interest is in optimizing patient-centered outcomes through the implementation of digital health interventions. Her training in comparative effectiveness research, patient-reported outcomes measurement, and implementation science are synergistic, and she is well-versed in experimental and pragmatic study designs. Her work has been funded through the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, American College of Surgeons, and Thoracic Surgery Foundation. She is passionate about global equity in surgery and actively works with the Malawi Cancer Outcomes Research Program. Learn more about Dr. Mody’s team here.

In Dr. Mody’s view, the existing peer-review system is robust and provides an opportunity to give an unbiased critique of research that ensures its quality and integrity. Science is moving very quickly in the present era, making it crucial to turn around research papers that provide new information to the field as quickly as possible. To her, one limitation is the time required to complete a thorough assessment by several reviewers (which is required to ensure a balanced review) as well as a final determination by the editors. Systems to rapidly assign reviewers and solicit their opinions will help improve this situation, e.g., a fast-track system that moves high-priority publications identified by the editors through the system more quickly. Another limitation is finding reviewers with adequate background in the research or clinical topic of the paper. Networks of reviewers that allow nomination of colleagues to participate may help improve this situation.

While reviewing, Dr. Mody highlights that it is crucial for reviewers to ensure adherence to ethical standards for animal and human subjects, reporting guidelines (e.g., CONSORT, STROBE), and the relevancy of the scientific findings to the field. Checking the manuscript for clear language and high-quality figures is also important, as these ultimately determine the impact of the publication on the readership.

It is very rewarding to contribute to the peer-review process. Beyond staying abreast in the field, participating in the review process is a way to give back meaningfully to the scientific community. When peer reviewers lend their much-needed expertise, they contribute to the generation of new knowledge and discourse,” says Dr. Mody.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

September, 2023

Moshe Lapidot

Dr. Moshe Lapidot is a thoracic surgical oncologist who earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology. He completed a 6-year residency at Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel, in general thoracic surgery and went to Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School for fellowships in minimally invasive thoracic surgery and foregut surgery as well as thoracic robotic surgery. He completed a post-doctoral fellowship in mesothelioma research at BWH and Dana Farber Cancer Institute. His research mainly focuses on novel therapies for mesothelioma and lung cancer. Dr. Lapidot joined the division of thoracic surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital as a faculty member. His clinical interests include all aspects of general thoracic surgery, with particular interests in lung cancer mesothelioma and esophageal malignancies. Recently, he has been recruited at Galilee Medical Center as the director of the thoracic surgery department. Connect with Dr. Lapidot on LinkedIn and X.

The primary role of peer review, according to Dr. Lapidot, is the improvement of science quality and the advancement of scientific research. The reviewers’ suggestions for the authors should make the manuscript better in terms of methodology and accuracy.

To minimize potential biases during the review process, Dr. Lapidot suggests reviewers pay attention to the quality of science and avoid judging the manuscript based on the origin, affiliation, or importance of the authors.

The task of the reviewer is voluntary and behind the scenes but is very important in terms of quality control of the proposed scientific manuscript. The main advantage of the voluntary task, besides its obvious importance mentioned above, is the effect of keeping the reviewer updated with the latest advancements in the field<、em>,” says Dr. Lapidot.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

October, 2023

A Justin Rucker

Dr. A Justin Rucker is a general surgery resident at Duke University Medical Center. He is currently in his academic development time, during which he has been pursuing a PhD in Immunology. His primary research interest is better understanding innate immune mechanisms for tumor restriction in hopes of finding ways to leverage them therapeutically. Clinically, he is interested in thoracic surgical oncology, particularly lung cancer and lung transplantation. Connect with Dr. Rucker on Twitter.

Dr. Rucker thinks, in the ideal case, peer review should serve as an outside perspective to ensure that the authors’ message is coming across clearly, their conclusions are supported by their data, and that the work is relevant to the field. Therefore, a constructive review is one where the reviewer can determine the authors’ intended message and where their work may address a knowledge gap, then comment on whether the authors effectively accomplish those goals. If not, a constructive review should be able to provide feedback on how either adequate data can be communicated more effectively or how insufficient data may be supplemented or interpreted more appropriately. Alternatively, a deconstructive review fails to help the authors achieve the stated goals of the paper. Typically, this happens when the feedback is too superficial and generic.

Seeing the prevalence of data sharing, Dr. Rucker thinks it is critical in general for authors to share their research data. Reproducibility is still a huge problem in science and full transparency with methods and data is critical to improving that. There may be some circumstances where it may make sense to hold off on sharing data if the data are going to be imminently used for other publications. However, he believes data sharing not only helps to combat fraud, but we are also in a time where we can collect vast amounts of data that can be very time- and resource-intensive to store, organize, and analyze. Therefore, sharing the data may ensure that we make the most of these resources by dividing that burden over more parties.

What helps me make time to review is that I always appreciate it when the papers I submit are reviewed thoughtfully. Those constructive review comments help meaningfully improve my work. So, when I get asked to review a paper, I try to pay it forward to those authors. Usually, I schedule a specific time on my calendar to review and restrict myself to that time to get it done. Some of my reviews are better than others, but that way I can write reviews that are timely and helpful without cutting too much into time for other things I need to do,” says Dr. Rucker.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

Ian Wong

Dr. Ian Wong is a Clinical Assistant Professor and Honorary Associate Consultant in the Division of Esophageal and Upper Gastrointestinal Surgery, Department of Surgery, at The University of Hong Kong. He has received post-fellowship training at Northwestern University in Chicago, USA, Seoul National University in South Korea, and has undergone endoscopy training at Juntendo University, Nihon University, Keio University, and Shizuoka Cancer Center. His research interests focus on esophageal and gastric cancer management, the diagnosis and management of esophageal motility disorders and gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as advanced diagnostic and therapeutic upper endoscopy. In particular, he has published research on the multidisciplinary management and recurrent laryngeal nerve dissection for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma. Currently, he serves as a council member of the Hong Kong Society of Upper Gastrointestinal Surgeons (HKSUGIS), the Hong Kong Society of Gastroenterology (HKSGE), and as a panel member of the Asian Pacific Society of Digestive Endoscopy (A‐PSDE) and the International Society for Diseases of the Esophagus (ISDE). Connect with him on Twitter @IYHWong or LinkedIn.

Dr. Wong believes that the peer-review process plays a crucial role, not only for the journal itself, but also for the authors of the submitted manuscript and the reviewers involved. It serves to uphold the standards of the journal and contribute to the improvement of the submitted work. When viewed from a different perspective, the reviewer and the author engage in a meaningful and in-depth exchange, where they critically analyze the study's background and findings. Additionally, the content within the submitted article has the potential to inspire new avenues of research. Such levels of communication and discussion cannot be achieved through brief presentations at conferences, but rather through a comprehensive and rigorous appraisal process.

Managing time effectively can be a significant challenge, in Dr. Wong’s opinion, for clinical academics, who must juggle their own research, teaching responsibilities, patient care, and personal commitments. However, it is crucial to establish priorities and adopt efficient strategies for managing both short-term and long-term tasks. When it comes to peer review, concentration is key. It is essential to dedicate focused attention to the article being reviewed during that specific period of time. Minimizing distractions is vital as they can disrupt the thought process and require additional revision and reminders. Succumbing to such distractions not only prolongs the time required to complete the task but also increases the risk of overlooking important points that were initially considered.

From a reviewer’s point of view, Dr. Wong emphasizes that it is important for authors to disclose conflicts of interest (COI). While he believes that the majority of authors adhere to fundamental research ethics, there have been instances reported in the news regarding fraud and financial gain associated with research output. The proliferation of trajectory journals without a robust peer-review process on the internet makes research more profit-oriented. He agrees that collaboration with business companies to develop cutting-edge technologies that meet the needs of clinicians and patients can be beneficial. However, it is significant for authors to transparently disclose any affiliations or potential COI. Readers should then exercise their own discernment to evaluate the article in a thoughtful and informed manner.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Jorge Hernánde

Dr. Jorge Hernández, M.D., Ph.D., is a thoracic surgeon. He began his medical studies in 2000 at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zaragoza. He completed his surgical training at the Thoracic Surgery Service of the Miguel Servet and Lozano Blesa University Hospitals in Zaragoza during 2007-2012. He had worked as a thoracic surgeon in several hospitals of the Quirón Barcelona Group since 2012 until last summer. At the moment, he is working as a staff member at the Department of Thoracic Surgery of the La Santa Creu i Sant Pau University Hospital, Spain. He has special interest in the field of thoracic oncology (both primary and metastatic lesions), minimally invasive surgery (VATS/RATS surgery), pleural disease and chest wall surgery. Doctor of Medicine from the University of Barcelona after defending his thesis “Surgical treatment of lung metastases of colorectal origin” in 2021.

Dr. Hernández thinks it is important for a reviewer to be able to take the time necessary to do that work constructively, valuing the effort made and trying to put themselves in the eyes of the researchers to understand the nature of the research. In his opinion, an initial reading with any prejudice about the topic to be investigated should be avoided, which inevitably leads to a destructive report on the work carried out. In this case, it would be preferable to reject the review from the start and allow other reviewers to do a fairer review.

According to Dr. Hernández, it is very important that when presenting scientific data we know in advance the possible Conflict of Interest (COI) involved since these could definitively influence the conclusions that the authors want to convey to their readers. The final reader deserves to know the authors' relationship with the study. If we consider that the possible COI involved with the author can modify the final results of the study, its rejection should be considered. In the same way, it is important to rule out that the reviewer has possible COIs with the topic that could influence the result of our opinion. If we have an evident COI with that topic, we must be honest, reject the review and give other colleagues the opportunity to do a correct analysis of the study.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Frank Detterbeck

Dr. Frank Detterbeck is a Professor of Thoracic Surgery, and has served as Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at the Yale Cancer Center until recently. He has been very active in thoracic oncology and thoracic surgery for over 25 years. He is the Chair of the Lung Cancer Guidelines of the American College of Chest Physicians, and has been active in most of the professional organizations in thoracic oncology and thoracic surgery. His research interests focus on the particular areas: lung cancer screening, ground glass, lepidic lung cancer, multifocal lung cancer, extent of resection for lung cancer, stage classification of lung cancer, treatment of thymic malignancies, etc. He has edited 11 textbooks on lung cancer, mediastinal malignancies, and thoracic surgery, and has written more than 350 peer-reviewed journal articles and 60 book chapters.

JTD: Why do we need peer review? What is so important about it?

Dr. Detterbeck: The cornerstone of science is critical thinking. Particularly in Medicine, the challenge is getting from an observation to cause and effect. It is so easy for us to mislead ourselves. Having an independent set of people critically look at a paper helps to minimize this. Sometimes it is just simple things – adding some detail that provides clarification about something that was obvious to the researcher but not to the reader. But more importantly, a reviewer needs to ask questions and bring up potential weaknesses that deserve further discussion. Rarely it is to expose major flaws in a study.

JTD: Peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable, what motivates you to do so?

Dr. Detterbeck: I think it is essential that this is done without profit, and that it is anonymous. The goal of the peer-review process is to minimize potential biases. It is essential that any potential conflict a reviewer has with the subject matter, the authors or the institutions are excluded – but this is required by all journals of reviewers, and it is also the job of the journal editors and associate editors to choose reviewers wisely, based on expertise, potential insight, and the ability to give an honest, but critical review. Furthermore, the editor and associate editors need to assess whether the reviews they receive are thoughtful and not biased themselves. I think it is essential that the journal editors and associate editors are clearly identified and are held accountable to doing their job well. But I think it is better for reviewers (having been vetted to have no conflicts regarding the paper in question) to be able to focus on the science and structure of the paper, without the overlay of how their review may affect their relationship with others. Adding that layer introduces a form of bias, in my opinion. What more motivation does one need other than to advance science, and in medicine the application of this to help people? Participating in observing, thinking, researching, and also reviewing other’s research is how we make progress. We all need to be committed to being part of the fabric of a greater medical community devoted to this goal.

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

Dr. Detterbeck: There are many different viewpoints from which a project needs to be considered, and often also gains for some and downsides for others. In most institutions, the “IRB” process is actually a 2-part process. There is usually a committee that looks at the scientific aspects of a particular study – does it have a solid basis, is the plan and are the datapoints well thought out? Is the design appropriate to answer the question? Often there are significant improvements that emerge. The second part is to consider the ethical aspects from a study participant point of view. Are the potential gains and downsides appropriately considered and articulated? Are fundamental principles that have become accepted being adhered to? Are sufficient safeguards in place in case something emerges that was not expected? We have to remember that in medicine, the patient is in a vulnerable state. This means we need to be particularly sensitive to managing this appropriately.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Jason M. Ali

Dr. Jason Ali is a consultant cardiac surgeon at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, UK, appointed in 2023. He has a PhD in transplantation immunology. He has maintained his research interests and has over 120 peer-reviewed publications. His current research interests include clinical outcomes research, acute kidney injury following cardiac surgery and risk prediction models. He is currently co-lead of the EuroSCORE 3 project which hopes to produce the next iteration of this internationally recognized cardiac surgical mortality risk calculator ( Dr. Ali has reviewed for numerous cardiothoracic journals and has been on the Editorial Board of JTD since 2019. He also served as Associate Editor for the Best Evidence Topic section of the Interdisciplinary CardioVascular and Thoracic Surgery journal until this section was discontinued at the end of 2023. He also has a significant commitment to medical education, and has a Masters in Medical Education. He is Director of Studies and a Fellow in Medicine at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. Learn more about him here.

JTD: Why do we need peer review?

Dr. Ali: Peer review helps to ensure a robustness to work that is published. It provides an opportunity for multiple perspectives to be considered on a manuscript when editors are making decisions on whether to accept or reject a submission. Expert reviewers help ensure correct decisions are made. However, it is important to be aware that biases can influence those undertaking peer review. To my mind, peer review also helps authors to improve manuscripts. As an Associate editor, I don’t think I have ever accepted a paper outright. Reviewers’ comments always help to make papers better. There are always things that authors have not considered that can help improve their work, and as an author, I always appreciate the time reviewers have taken voluntarily to help me improve my papers. Taken together the value of peer review is clear to see from both the authors and journals perspectives.

JTD: What reviewers have to bear in mind while reviewing papers?

Dr. Ali: I think the best advice I can give, is when reviewing a paper, think about what additional information you would want to know as a reader. Is there anything that you might have considered to include that has been omitted? Any additional analyses? Is there anything that you don’t understand about the methodology? Are there any problems with the paper, results or analysis that you can see? Other major limitations that have not been acknowledged? Put yourself in the position of the team performing the research and the position of a reader and see if there is anything else you would have done or would like to see be included respectively. I think one important tip, particularly to more junior reviewers, is to read the other reviews of papers you have reviewed. See if the other reviewers agree with you, see what sorts of things they have highlighted. It helps you to develop as a reviewer and helps you to calibrate.

JTD: Would you like to say a few words to encourage other reviewers who have been devoting themselves to advancing scientific progress behind the scene?

Dr. Ali: Reviewing is an important, and essential, but sometimes thankless task, which comes without reward other than the satisfaction that you have contributed to the progress of science. Reviewers should recognize the importance of their role, acting as guardians of the published literature. Personally, I gain a great deal from reviewing – not least helping me to improve the quality of my own scientific writing. I hope that others realize these benefits and continue the excellent work that happens behind the scenes.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)