Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-09-05 11:35:49

Over the year, many CCO 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.

May, 2023
Hansoo Kim, Griffith University, Australia

july, 2023
Jose L. Tapia, Universidad Nebrija, Spain

August, 2023
David Ilson, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA

September, 2023
Halfdan Sorbye, University of Bergen, Norway

October, 2023
Ugur Sener, Mayo Clinic, USA

November, 2023
Scott I Reznik, University of Texas Southwestern, USA

December, 2023
Kazuma Sakura, Osaka University Hospital, Japan

May, 2023

Hansoo Kim

Dr. Hansoo Kim has a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark and a PhD degree in health economics from Monash University, Australia. He is currently leading a team of researchers at the Centre for Applied Health Economics (CAHE) at the School of Medicine and Dentistry, Griffith University. He has more than 20 years of experience in field of health research in both the private and public sectors. His researches focus on decision analysis of health technologies and health services. This includes cost-effectiveness analysis and synthesis of evidence. He is also a passionate teacher who teaches different courses on health economics and outcomes research. Dr Kim has facilitated and presented on the subject of health economics at several workshops/seminars/conferences at various universities and government institutions in Australia, China, Indonesia, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea and Vietnam. Learn more about him here.

Dr. Kim considers peer review a cornerstone of the research. It is essential for reviewers to be scrutinized by their peers in order to push the boundary of their respective fields. Critical appraisal will ensure that the presented research is of high quality and meets the ethical standards.

As a researcher, Dr. Kim is really grateful for the guidance and feedback he has received from peer reviewers. He believes that he has become a better researcher as well as better at communicating his research as a result of having to go through peer review. Therefore, he feels an obligation to contribute to the broader science community through peer review.

In Dr. Kim’s opinion, medical research has one of its overarching goals to improve outcomes for patients. This cannot be achieved if published research is influenced or even if there is a perception that it is biased as policy makers and decision makers are unlikely to implement changes based on biased research. Therefore, he believes transparency of funding and other potential sources of bias are vital issues that researchers need to disclose. Not only does this provide complete transparency but it also assures other medical researchers that the results are correct.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

July, 2023

Jose L. Tapia

Dr. Jose Luis Tapia is a neuropsychologist affiliated with the Centro de Investigación Nebrija en Cognición (CINC) at Universidad Nebrija, Spain. He is an active member of the International Chair in Cognitive Health and regularly collaborates with the Fundación para el Fomento de la Investigación Sanitaria y Biomédica de la Comunidad Valenciana and the Hospital de la Ribera, under the Consellería de Sanitat i Salud Pública de la Generalitat Valenciana. His research primarily revolves around the practical application of cognitive stimulation to enhance the health and quality of life of individuals, for oncology patients in particular. Dr. Tapia delves into both clinical and non-clinical settings, addressing challenges such as insomnia and other cognitive impairments in cancer patients, while also exploring the potential benefits of cognitive stimulation in daily activities, such as driving, with an emphasis on improving road safety. Through his studies, he aims to understand the cognitive mechanisms underlying these processes and to develop effective intervention strategies.

CCO: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Tapia: Peer review is like a quiet, methodical gatekeeper of the scientific community – being there to ensure every piece of research that reaches the public eye has been meticulously vetted and validated. Reviewers ensure the methodologies stand the test of scrutiny, that the data speak the truth, and that the conclusions echo the narrative the data tell. This process, rigorous as it might be, elevates the work, adding a layer of credibility and validation that only acknowledgment by one's peers can bring. In addition, the feedback received from peer review has often been a goldmine. More than once, a reviewer's keen eye has spotlighted something the researchers overlooked, pushing them to think deeper, refine further, and often, discover more. It is this constructive dance of critique and refinement that has shaped many research papers into their best version. Peer review ensures that the most groundbreaking, and most relevant pieces get the limelight they deserve, guiding readers and researchers alike to what truly matters.

Beyond the mechanics of research, there is also an ethical dimension. Peer review, in its quiet, unyielding way, ensures we adhere to the moral compass of scientific inquiry. Whether it is the rights of participants in a clinical trial or the potential biases lurking behind data, this process keeps us honest and grounded. Peer review fosters consensus, sets standards, and more than anything, embodies the self-correcting spirit of science. Every mistake spotted, every oversight caught, is a testament to the power of collective scrutiny.

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

Dr. Tapia: Peer review is like a comprehensive art curating. The role entails significant responsibility and trust behind. The principle of impartiality remains non-negotiable in this endeavor. Every submission must be evaluated on its individual academic merit and rigor. This is an active engagement in which reviewers navigate the intricate pathways of research, ensuring every hypothesis, methodology, and conclusion stands up to robust scrutiny. Additionally, reviewers are also mentors of sorts, charting out potential routes of refinement, suggesting avenues that might elevate the research to its pinnacle of excellence. This mentoring perspective brings me to another crucial aspect of the review process: the human element. It is paramount to remember that behind every dataset, graph, and inference, there is a dedicated researcher or team. Their commitment and effort deserve recognition and respect, even when our feedback might lean towards the critical side. Last but not least, there is an aspect that is often understated but unequivocally vital — confidentiality. As the first line of external scrutiny, reviewers are being granted early access to potentially groundbreaking ideas and findings. With this privilege comes the onus of ensuring discretion, upholding the sanctity of the research and the broader publication process.

CCO: Data sharing is prevalent in scientific writing in recent years. Do you think it is crucial for authors to share their research data?

Dr. Tapia: I am a proponent of data sharing and there are several reasons for my stance. Firstly, transparency is a foundational pillar of scientific research. When authors share their data, they are essentially opening up their work for scrutiny, validation, and replication. It ensures that the findings are reproducible, which is essential for the credibility and generalizability of the results. This, in turn, strengthens the scientific process and builds trust within the community and with the public. Secondly, data sharing fosters collaboration and accelerates progress. Other researchers can leverage these data to explore new hypotheses, build upon existing findings, or even combine datasets to derive more comprehensive insights. Such collaborative undertakings can be transformative, allowing us to answer questions and tackle challenges at a scale and depth that would have been otherwise elusive. However, it is also important to acknowledge the concerns on sensitive information or intellectual property. Ensuring the privacy and security of shared data, as well as establishing clear guidelines and protocols for its use, is paramount.

(by Masaki Lo, Brad Li)

August, 2023

David Ilson

Dr. David Ilson is a medical oncologist on the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s Gastrointestinal Oncology Service in New York City. He is an attending physician and member at Memorial Hospital and a professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. He is a member of the GI committees of the national clinical research groups Alliance/CALGB and NRG/RTOG and is co-chair of the NRG Upper GI Cancer Committee. He is also a member of the Upper GI Cancer Guidelines Committee of National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) and former chairman of the Intergroup Esophageal and Gastric Cancer Task Force Committee. He is an internationally recognized expert in gastrointestinal cancers esophagogastric cancers. His recent global clinical trial development includes TAS102 and Zolbetuximab in gastric cancer and Trastuzumab in esophageal cancer. Connect with Dr. Ilson on X @ILSONDavid.

Dr. Ilson believes that peer review is critical to insure that submitted publications are balanced, evidenced based, and free of commercial bias. However, the current system is of limitations. He thinks having multiple reviewers as appropriate to get a spectrum of opinions remains critical.

To make sure his review is objective, Dr. Ilson indicates that all sides of an argument need to be weighed and discussed, and new studies need to be put in context of a historical perspective.

Furthermore, Dr. Ilson emphasizes that it is important for a research to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval. Protection of human subjects in the research setting, and guarantee of trial oversight, will always remain critical elements of clinical trial research.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

September, 2023

Halfdan Sorbye

Dr. Halfdan Sorbye currently serves at the Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bergen, Norway. He is Senior Consultant and Head of NET and GI section at Department of Oncology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway. His major research focuses on digestive neuroendocrine carcinoma (NEC), neuroendocrine tumors (NET) and metastatic colorectal cancer. His recent research focuses on the molecular landscape of digestive neuroendocrine neoplasms.

In Dr. Sorbye’s opinion, a healthy peer-review system should ensure the selection of reviewers with high expertise on the subject, and preferably 3 reviewers per paper with a rapid reply (<4 weeks) everytime. As biases are inevitable in peer review, Dr. Sorbye always avoids reviewing papers if he has a close research cooperation with one of the main authors to minimize any potential biases during review.

Reviewing a paper takes time and comes on top on other work and one frequently regrets the task when a reminder comes the day before it should have been submitted. But it is a so important job, that really should get more merit than it gives today. A reviewer can frequently take credit for a major improvement of a paper,” adds he.

Dr. Sorbye reckons that it is very important for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI), especially if medical drugs or devices are studied. He thinks it can be especially problematic when the study is not researcher initiated.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

October, 2023

Ugur Sener

Dr. Ugur Sener is a neuro-oncologist specialized in treatment of cancers that arise from the central nervous system, as well as neurological complications of cancer. He completed his medical education at University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, neurology residency at Mayo Clinic in Florida, and neuro-oncology fellowship at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. He is a faculty member at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science with joint appointment in the departments of neurology and medical oncology. His research interests include development of decentralized clinical trial strategies for patients with brain and spine tumors, exploring novel therapeutic approaches. He is also interested in leptomeningeal disease, which is the spread of cancer cells into the pia mater and arachnoid membranes.

Ideally, Dr. Sener thinks that reviewers should have subject matter expertise in the research subject as well as the methodology utilized to conduct the research. For clinical research, he thinks it is important for reviewers to be familiar with the patient population being studied and condition being treated. For basic science research, reviewers should be familiar with the disease as well as the specific methodologies in the experiments conducted. This ensures reviewers can critically evaluate key aspects of the research and verify validity of the findings prior to dissemination of the results. Carefully conducted peer review improves the reproducibility of research findings and helps ensure high-quality information reaches readers.

Peer review is an integral part of academic medicine that ensures results disseminated to readers are sound, methodology is valid, and conclusions drawn are supported by the experiments or clinical observations. Without good peer review, the integrity of research is compromised. Peer review is also an excellent way to stay current with developments in the field, learn about areas of interest to peers, and engage in the scientific community. Helping scientific findings reach their audience should be a fulfilling part of every academician’s career,” says he.

Though the burden of being a doctor is heavy, Dr. Sener sees peer review as part of his professional responsibilities and a key component of being a good academic citizen. While peer review can be time-consuming, it is vitally important to conduct and dissemination of good scientific research. Making time for this process should be valued at academic institutions and considered a part of the academician’s role.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Sener’s points out that institutional review board (IRB) represents formally designated groups that monitor all aspects of research that involves human subjects. IRBs provide crucial oversight into the conduct of research, ensuring that methodology is sound, experimental design is valid, and the rights of the research subjects are protected. IRBs help maintain ethical principles in research and uphold institutional and government regulations. Without IRB oversight, risk of harm to research subjects would greatly increase, data safety and monitoring would be much more likely to get compromised.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Scott I Reznik

Dr. 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. Learn more about him here.

Peer review is the foundation of scientific progress. In Dr. Reznik’s opinion, it is dependent on several factors. 1) The integrity of the reviewer. 2) The reviewer must be open to new ideas especially those that challenge existing paradigms. 3) The manuscripts must be presented in a manner that allows the reviewer to interpret the data objectively. To improve this system, there needs to be easy access to statistical reviewers who can focus on the validity of the analysis. Similarly, specific reviewers could be tasked to assess other aspects of a manuscript such as clinical relevance, novelty, generalizability to a broad population. Recent programs that recognize the effort that reviewers make that can be used in determining academic productivity should be expanded to help motivate potential reviewers to expend the effort and time necessary to provide meaningful reviews.

Though peer reviewing is often non-profitable, Dr. Reznik thinks that the foremost reason that he reviews manuscripts is that he always learns 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 his own views and force him to dive deeper into a subject which makes him a better physician.

Without oversight from independent monitoring bodies, Dr. Reznik reckons that the integrity and validity of research cannot be assumed. Many research projects require a simple waiver of consent. However, many projects subject patients and animals to significant risk. Research subjects must be protected from abuse and unnecessary risk. Modern scientific research must continue to depend on institutional review board (IRB) oversight to continue to advance all fields of science.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Kazuma Sakura

Dr. Kazuma Sakura worked primarily as a surgeon at Osaka University Hospital, Department of Surgery, and other municipal hospitals in Osaka, specializing mainly in gastrointestinal, pancreatic and respiratory surgery. He earned his Ph.D. degree in surgery while conducting research on tumor-targeting therapy and anti-tumor immunity from the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine in 2002. He then studied abroad at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center from 2004, where he conducted research on cell-targeting using phage display library. Upon his return to Japan, he worked as an assistant professor and lecturer at Department of Surgery and Center for Translational Research at Osaka University, focusing on research using BNCT, Thermal Medicine and HVJ-E against refractory tumors. Since April 2018, Dr. Sakura has been a specially appointed professor (full-time) at Respiratory Center and Center for Translational Research at Osaka University Hospital, focusing on clinical research for pleural mesothelioma, melanoma and other tumors.

Speaking of the limitations of the current peer-review system, Dr. Sakura points out that reviewing in the limited time available in daily work could reduce the reviewer's willingness to review. If reviewers are rewarded, such as a certificate, the selection of reviewers might be much smoother. In addition, he points out that creating a database, including the information such as the reviewer's specialty, adherence to review time, appropriateness of the reviewer's comments on the submission, and the submitter's ratings, can help efficiently select the appropriate reviewers.

In Dr. Sakura’s opinion, reviewers need to have an extensive knowledge in the field of the papers they review. Apart from being capable of conducting the peer review objectively and impartially, they also need to assist the authors to correctly convey their intentions. Moreover, it is essential to be punctual and moral in the confidentiality of the paper.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)