Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-10-02 10:31:01

In 2023, JLPM 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.

February, 2023
Wayne Dimech, National Serology Reference Laboratory, Australia

April, 2023
Vera Lukić, Railway Healthcare Institute, Serbia

June, 2023
Anne Stavelin, Norwegian Organization for Quality Improvement of Laboratory Examinations (Noklus), Norway

August, 2023
Emmanuel Favaloro, Westmead Hospital, Autralia

September, 2023
Sollip Kim, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Republic of Korea

February, 2023

Wayne Dimech

Dr. Wayne Dimech, PhD, BAppSc, MASM, FAIMS, MBA, FFSc (RCPA), is Executive Manager at Scientific and Business Relation of the NRL, a WHO Collaborating Centre. He has worked in private and public pathology laboratories and specialised in infectious disease serology. His research interests include the control and standardisation of assays that detect and monitor infectious diseases. Dr. Dimech is an advisor for numerous national and international working groups, including European Commission expert panels in the field of medical devices; ISO TC/212 WG5 Biorisk and BioSafety; Joint Committee for Traceability in Laboratory Medicine (JCTLM) – Nucleic Acid Testing and consultancies under the auspice of WHO, International Health Regulations, and UNDP. He has authored or co-authored about 60 international peer-reviewed articles and contributed to three book chapters. Connect with Dr. Dimech on LinkedIn.

JLPM: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Dimech: Science is based on evidence. Until data are published, they cannot be reviewed or reproduced by interested parties, and therefore cannot be validated. Published works are available for all to learn, to promote ideas and to stimulate scientific discussion. By using independently, subject-matter experts to review submitted papers, poorly written or constructed papers can be removed prior to publication. Expert reviewers can provide useful and constructive advice to authors, usually improving the quality of the paper, identifying deficiencies and anomalies and correcting grammar and spelling.

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

Dr. Dimech: The review needs to be aware that their job is to constructively review and comment on the submitted paper, not to rewrite it, or to contribute to it. If any issues are identified, they should be highlighted and explained, but allow the author to address the issue or rebut the comments. The readership should be considered. Is this paper of interest to the readership of the journal and will it contribute to the knowledge of the reader? Have similar papers been published and, if so, does this paper offer any novel element to the topic?

JLPM: The burden of being a scientist/doctor is heavy. How do you allocate time to do peer review?

Dr. Dimech: Peer-review requests can impact on normal business. However, like auditing peer laboratories, I believe it is an important contribution not science if you can afford the time. Almost all reviews are performed out of hours as a volunteer service. There are some benefits: You get to read interesting articles that you may not have otherwise accessed. You get to understand some pitfalls in scientific writing and to read some outstanding works. Like most things, if you invest time, there is an ultimate benefit.

JLPM: Is it important for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI)? To what extent would a COI influence a research?

Dr. Dimech: If a reviewer has a COI, either real or perceived, at best it can diminish the value of their contribution. At worst, it can be damaging to both the author and the reviewer. It is important to declare a COI if one exists so as to ensure the author receives a fair assessment of their work. A tainted negative review could damage the authors livelihood, whereas an undeserved positive review could facilitate a publication of poor science. Fortunately, papers are reviewed by several experts, mitigating the impact of a COI.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

April, 2023

Vera Lukić

Dr. Vera Lukić is a medical doctor who obtained her degree from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Belgrade, Serbia, where she also earned the title of Clinical Biochemistry Specialist. She defended her doctoral thesis at the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Belgrade. Currently, she works as the Head of the Laboratory of Diagnostic Department at the Railway Healthcare Institute in Belgrade. She is engaged as a mentor for practical training of students and residents in medical and clinical biochemistry at Faculty of Medicine and Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Belgrade. Dr. Lukić also serves as a member of the Executive Board of the Society of Medical Biochemists of Serbia. Her areas of interest include the extra-analytical phases, quality control, and laboratory information systems.

Speaking of the importance of the peer review, Dr. Lukić says that the scientific community relies on peer review as a fundamental tool for ensuring the quality and integrity of research. In other words, it is essential because the evaluation of papers by experienced colleagues from the same field ensures that only high-quality research is published. Through peer review, published papers make significant contributions to the knowledge in their respective fields. Additionally, peer review acts as a barrier against any form of scientific misconduct.

Although peer review is essential for the scientific publishing process, the existing peer-review system is not perfect. Dr. Lukić points out that reviewers can be biased by the current popularity of the topic addressed in the article, as well as by the reputation or anonymity of the authors or their affiliated institutions. Additionally, time can be seen as a challenge for all participants in the peer-review process. Authors often find the process to be lengthy while reviewers may feel the pressure due to deadlines.

From Dr. Lukić’s point of view, a constructive review is one that helps authors improve their works. She explains, “This involves providing specific comments and concrete suggestions for improvement, while also highlighting the strengths and addressing the weaknesses of the paper. Of course, all of this should be done in a respectful and professional manner. On the contrary, a destructive review does not offer practical suggestions and focuses solely on weaknesses, or is written in a harsh tone.

Last but not least, Dr. Lukić shares that she is motivated to engage in peer review because it keeps her up-to-date with the latest research trends in the field. During the process, she will meet different approaches, methodologies, and research questions which provide her with valuable experiences. She also believes that participating in the peer-review process is part of her professional duty to contribute to ensuring that accurate and reliable findings are published.

(By Wei-En Fan and Brad Li)

June, 2023

Anne Stavelin

Anne Stavelin is a researcher at the Norwegian Organization for Quality Improvement of Laboratory Examinations (Noklus) in Bergen, Norway, and has more than 25 years’ experience with quality assurance of point-of-care testing (POCT) in primary healthcare. She took her PhD degree in 2013 at the University of Bergen, Norway, in internal quality control and external quality assessment (EQA) of POCT Prothrombin Time/International Normalized Ratio (PT/INR). She has been the President of the European Organisation for External Quality Assurance Providers in Laboratory Medicine (EQALM) and is currently a member of the IFCC working group on PT/INR standardization. She was member of the CLSI Document Development Committee on Point of Care Coagulation Testing and Anticoagulation Monitoring (CLSI POCT14A) and of the EFLM Task and Finish Group on Performance Specifications for EQA. Her expert research fields are quality assurance in laboratory medicine, EQA, POCT, coagulation and analytical performance specifications.

JLPM: What are the qualities a reviewer should possess?

Dr. Stavelin: A reviewer should possess several key qualities. They should have expertise in the specific field of the manuscript being reviewed, allowing them to critically evaluate the research and provide insightful feedback. Reviewers should approach their task with a high degree of objectivity, offering unbiased assessments of the manuscript's quality and significance. They should uphold high ethical standards, ensuring confidentiality and avoiding conflicts of interest. Effective communication skills are also crucial, enabling them to articulate their thoughts clearly and provide constructive feedback to the authors. Reviewers should be able to meet deadlines to ensure the smooth progress of the editorial process. Finally, reviewers should possess strong critical thinking abilities, allowing them to rigorously analyze the methodology, results, and interpretations presented in the manuscript.

JLPM: What are the limitations of the existing peer-review system? What can be done to improve it?

Dr. Stavelin: The peer-review system, while valuable, is not without its limitations. One significant concern is the potential for bias and subjectivity in reviewers' judgments. To address this, implementing blind or double-blind review processes, where the identities of authors are concealed, can help mitigate biases. Inefficiency and delays in the peer-review process can also be a challenge. The peer-review process can sometimes be slow. Streamlining the process through technology or employing more efficient review management systems is however helpful. Additionally, a lack of diversity among reviewers and that reviewers may not always provide sufficient feedback can be a concern. Providing clearer guidelines and standardized review templates could probably enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of the feedback provided.

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

Dr. Stavelin: It's important to acknowledge that all reviewers, regardless of their expertise, may have some inherent biases. Personally, I make a conscious effort to be as objective as possible in my reviews. One strategy I employ is to focus primarily on the content and methodology presented in the manuscript, rather than considering the identities of the authors. I try to keep my evaluation based on the merit of the research itself, rather than any preconceived notions I may have. Additionally, I try to approach each review with a critical yet fair mindset, evaluating the study on its own merits and considering the potential impact and contribution to the field. While biases still exist to some extent, this approach helps me provide feedback that hopefully is constructive and beneficial for the authors.

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

Dr. Stavelin: Yes, I think it is important for authors to follow reporting guidelines. Adhering to these guidelines ensures transparency, completeness, and accuracy in reporting research findings. By following these standards, authors enhance the reproducibility and validity of their study, which ultimately strengthens the overall quality of scientific research. This also benefits the readers who rely on the well-structured reports to understand the findings.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

August, 2023

Emmanuel Favaloro

Dr. Emmanuel J Favaloro is a Principal Medical Scientist at the Institute of Clinical Pathology and Medical Research (ICPMR) located at Westmead Hospital in Australia. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis, and on the Editorial Boards of several other International Journals including the Journal of Laboratory and Precision Medicine (JLPM). He has co-authored over 700 publications and is mostly interested in laboratory diagnostics for thrombosis and hemostasis. Connect with Dr. Favaloro on LinkedIn, and learn more about him through ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

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

Dr. Favaloro: Peer review is an important aspect of journal publishing, and provides a process for independent assessment of published works. Sometimes authors miss important aspects, or important prior works, and sometimes they make inaccurate or misleading comments, and peer review provides a means to enable corrections as required. Sometimes text is unintelligible, and peer reviewers can often identify these issues for correction. In short, appropriate peer review provides opportunities to improve manuscripts and to correct errors. On the flip side, it is also important to recognise that the process of peer review is not infallible. Peer reviewers are human beings and prone to making mistakes; sometimes, inappropriate selection of peer reviewers, who may not have sufficient grasp of the science behind a manuscript may provide poor peer reviews. As peer reviewers are all biased by their own experiences, it is also not unusual to have conflicting peer reviews for the same manuscript. Here, the knowledge and experience of the editor is key to enabling rational decisions based on peer review.

JLPM: What do you regard as a constructive/destructive review?

Dr. Favaloro: A constructive peer review aims to improve the manuscript by providing constructive suggestions and pointing out any flaws in the manuscript. Destructive peer review, on the contrary, attacks manuscripts or authors in a derogatory way, or does not provide constructive suggestions.

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

Dr. Favaloro: I undertake a lot of peer review. My main aims in this process are to constructively provide feedback to authors to improve their manuscript. By improving publications, we will improve human health and be able to better diagnose and treat various diseases.

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

Dr. Favaloro: Data sharing enables better openness for research publications. It also enables other researchers access to data that may help in their own research. Often, data can be provided as comprehensive data tables in Supplementary datasets. Nevertheless, I don’t believe this should be mandatory; there may be valid reasons why some authors may not wish to share comprehensive original datasets. For example, should keepers of large registry data be forced to provide the original registry data to others who may have not contributed to this data set?

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

September, 2023

Sollip Kim

Dr. Sollip Kim is an Associate Professor at Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Republic of Korea. She serves as the Secretary-General of the Korean Society of Clinical Chemistry and is the Director of the Standardization Division of the Laboratory Medicine Foundation. She is also an Associate Editor for the Annals of Laboratory Medicine, overseeing the clinical chemistry section. Dr. Kim's primary interests include laboratory data quality and artificial intelligence, terminology standardization, laboratory test standardization and harmonization, and laboratory management including pre-analytical and post-analytical phase management, risk management, utilization management, and quality control. Her current projects involve implementing LOINC in Korean healthcare and developing autoverification tool using machine learning. These align with her dedication to advancing Smart Laboratory Solutions. Learn more about her here.

To properly evaluate a single paper, Dr. Kim thinks that a multifaceted approach is necessary. For example, a paper discussing the value of a biomarker in diabetic patients requires input from experts well-versed in various areas. This might include a clinician familiar with the diabetic patient care, a laboratory medicine specialist knowledgeable about biomarker performance evaluation, and a statistician capable of addressing statistical weaknesses. However, within the current review system, it is often challenging to engage multiple experts from various fields to assess a paper comprehensively. From an editor's perspective, identifying the best-suited experts within limited time frames can be difficult. Reviewers, on the other hand, may only focus on areas they are comfortable with, uncertain about which aspects others will review in depth.

While there is no perfect solution, in Dr. Kim’s opinion, providing review checklists to reviewers can be a helpful way to ensure that reviewers assess the paper comprehensively from various angles. Also, emerging alternatives such as Open Peer Review and Post-Publication Review are gaining traction and could help address these issues. Another approach is to employ specialized (journal-affiliated) reviewers for fundamental aspects of papers (such as study design, sample size adequacy, and statistical soundness) in each journal. These specialized reviewers can work in tandem with multiple reviewers for each paper, ensuring a higher level of quality in the review process and maintaining consistency in the evaluation. This approach can be a valuable strategy for improving the overall quality and reliability of peer reviews in the field.

Dr. Kim believes that it is worth considering some form of recognition or compensation for reviewers who consistently provide high-quality reviews. This could take the form of a "reviewer award" or benefits such as opportunities to attend conferences related to their field. Such incentives could help motivate and retain reviewers, ultimately raising the quality and standards of healthcare research papers over the long term.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Kim reckons that institutional review board (IRB) approval is essential for ensuring that research is conducted ethically, adheres to legal requirements, maintains high methodological standards, and gains credibility. Omitting this process can have severe consequences, ranging from ethical dilemmas to legal and financial issues.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)