Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-07-27 10:47:12

In 2023, TP reviewers continue to make outstanding contributions to the peer-review process. They demonstrate professional effort and enthusiasm in their reviews and provide 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
Akihide Ohkuchi, Jichi Medical University, Japan

March 2023
Emrush Rexhaj, University Hospital of Bern, Switzerland
Ivan D. Florez, University of Antioquia, Colombia

April 2023
James J. Ashton, University of Southampton, Southampton Children's Hospital, UK

May, 2023
John A Ligon, University of Florida, USA

June, 2023
Arada Suttiwongsing, Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital, Thailand
Hiroki Kitaoka, Tokyo Women’s University Hospital, Japan

July, 2023
Emma Williams, Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, UK

August, 2023
James Blachly, Ohio State University Experimental Hematology Laboratory, USA

September, 2023
Consolato M. Sergi, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, Canada

October, 2023
Andrew Miller, Duke University Medical Center, USA

November, 2023
Mohamed Eltorki, University of Calgary, Canada
John Ibrahim, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, USA

December, 2023
Palanikumar Balasundaram, Javon Bea Mercy Health Hospital, USA

February, 2023

Akihide Ohkuchi

Dr. Akihide Ohkuchi is a Professor at the Maternal Fetal Intensive Care Unit, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Jichi Medical University School of Medicine, Tochigi, Japan. His research areas include perinatal medicine, preeclampsia and clinical research support. Recent research focuses include prediction of preeclampsia, and therapy for pPROM at <28 weeks of gestation. He is the Editor/Associate Editor of Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecol Res (since 2006) and Scientific Reports (since 2015). He received a number of awards, including two Most Valuable Paper Awards - Jichi Medical University (2010 and 2012), Roche Diagnostics Best Poster Award in ISSHP 2012 World Congress (2012), and Hypertension Research Award (2020).

Biases are inevitable in peer review. To minimize any potential biases during the review, Dr. Ohkuchi would not accept a review invitation if he has collaborated with the authors before. In addition, to evaluate the contents of the manuscript appropriately, he usually checks all the following points: (1) novelty, (2) interestingness, (3) ethical appropriateness, (4) scientific significance, (5) appropriate usage of statistics, (6) appropriate study design, (7) number of subjects, (8) inappropriate acts of publication, (9) quality of figures, (10) lack of background, etc. Moreover, he usually checks the process of construction of hypothesis in view of what is known and what is unknown in the introduction.

Peer reviewing is fascinating as reading novel studies freshens up my brain. Some novel research I evaluated as a reviewer helped me to write my own papers, and inspired me to do my own research; Above all, I have a chance to understand a novel technique or statistic method through reviewing,” says Dr. Ohkuchi.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

March 2023

Emrush Rexhaj

Dr. Emrush Rexhaj is an attending cardiologist at the University Hospital of Bern, Bern, Switzerland with specialization on arterial hypertension and high-altitude medicine. He is also head of the Cardiovascular Research Lab in the Department of BioMedical Research at the University of Bern. His research area focuses on fetal programming of cardiovascular function/dysfunction later in life, with particular emphasis on endothelial function and arterial hypertension. Dr. Rexhaj has done key studies in humans and mice in this field. Assisted reproductive technologies and preeclampsia are major examples of this problem. These people display premature vascular aging similar to that seen in heavy smokers and patients suffering from diabetes, persons known of being at very high cardiovascular risk. You may visit Dr. Rexhaj’s homepage here.

Although the burden of being a doctor is heavy and allocating time to do peer review is challenging, Dr. Rexhaj says, “As reviewer, you may learn a lot about the new studies. Good suggestions may help the co-authors to further highlight strong points of their work.” He also stresses that it is important for reviewers to be as objective as possible and stay constructive while reviewing papers.

Speaking of the limitations of the peer-review system, Dr. Rexhaj points out that it is difficult to find the right reviewer, and reviewers do not have enough time to complete their review tasks. Therefore, he suggests allowing more time for reviewers, and the article language should be reviewed before peer review, which would be time-saving for reviewers.

From the angle of a reviewer, Dr. Rexhaj indicates that reporting guidelines (such as STROBE, CARE, and so on) will allow reviewers to easily perform their comments/suggestions. Therefore, he recommends authors prepare their manuscripts following these guidelines.

(By Wymen Chen, Brad Li)

Ivan D. Florez

Dr. Ivan D. Florez is a pediatrician who holds a master’s degree in clinical Epidemiology and a PhD in Health Research Methodology. He is a full professor at the Department of Pediatrics at University of Antioquia (Medellin Colombia), and Assistant professor (part-time) at McMaster University (Hamilton, Canada). His research focuses on evidence-based medicine, pediatrics, guidelines, systematic reviews and acute gastroenteritis. Dr. Florez is the Director of Cochrane Colombia. He is Deputy Editor of the Pediatric Discovery Journal and Editorial Board Member of the Cochtane Evidence Sysnthesis Methods and the Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. His work has been published in high impact factor Journals such as JAMA, JAMA pediatrics, BMJ, Lancet Haematology, BMJ Open, Pediatrics, Archives of Diseases in Childhood, Journal of Clinical Epidemiology, among others. Learn more about Dr. Florez on Google Scholar and ORCID.

A healthy peer-review system, according to Dr. Florez, contains a peer-review process that is constructive, comprehensive, concise, and accurate. Regardless of the final outcome (rejection, revisions, acceptance), if a review is beneficial for the paper, that is, improves the paper, he thinks that review is robust.

Seeing the impossibility to completely get rid of biases in peer review, Dr. Florez tries to minimize them by avoiding reading authors’ names in advance if they are accessible. Second, he focuses on the relevance of the questions and the methods. Third, he attempts to provide a rationale for the “deepest comments”. And last but not least, he always tries to put himself in the shoes of the authors.

Speaking of the prevalence of data sharing in recent decades, Dr. Florez thinks such practice is especially critical for clinical trials. Data sharing will allow transparency and reproducibility. These data can be used in near future for additional analyses, such as individual patient meta-analyses that will facilitate drawing conclusions and will reduce the gap between the evidence and the practice.

Peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable, what motivates me to do so is learning – It’s always an experience to learn and to keep you updated in the field,” says Dr. Florez.

(by Brad Li, Masaki Lo)

April 2023

James J. Ashton

Dr. Ashton is a Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Southampton in the UK, funded by an NIHR advanced fellowship, and he also serves as a Paediatric Gastroenterology doctor at Southampton Children’s Hospital. His research interest is in precision medicine in inflammatory bowel disease, utilizing genomics and “big data”. In addition, he has a wide-reaching research background covering clinical, translational and basic science, all within inflammatory bowel disease, nutrition, paediatric gastroenterology and genetics. He has a particular interest in applying artificial intelligence on clinical and genomic data, to yield tools for precision medicine for patient benefits. He and his team have developed a number of tools and models that they aim to bring to clinical translation. They focus on specific genetic causes of inflammatory bowel disease in particular. They have developed a strong workstream focusing on the NOD2 gene and its related pathway in the pathogenesis of Crohn’s disease. Learn more about Dr. Ashton from here and connect with him on Twitter.

TP: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Ashton: Peer review is a vital part in the scientific process, providing checks and balances to ensure experiments, results and data are robust and acceptable within the community of scientists. Despite this, the peer-review process is not without difficulties. Currently, getting high-quality reviews is difficult; the volume of publications has increased and people spend less time on reviews. Maintaining high quality, as well as getting reviews is vital to ensure quality within the published literature.

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

Dr. Ashton: I never accept a review invitation unless I have the expertise, time and ability to provide a holistic and constructive review. It is important that scientists participate in the peer-review process, both to ensure the quality of scientific publications, and to improve their own critical appraisal skills. I perform 30+ reviews per year, for multiple journals, including clinical and basic science research. This has helped my own knowledge and scientific skills considerably.

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

Dr. Ashton: Sharing of data, both positive and negative results, is the cornerstone to improving and advancing science. This may be for patient benefits, or the data may be used as a foundation for future advances. Replication of results within the scientific community is only possible with the sharing of data (and the results derived from that). Increasingly we are seeing open access publications, but there is still a skew towards publication of positive results and some data are hidden by those with a financial interest. We have a duty to those who fund the research, and also to those who the research is for, to publish and share as widely as possible.

(Masaki Lo, Brad Li)

May, 2023

John A Ligon

Dr. John Ligon is an assistant professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the University of Florida College of Medicine and the UF Health Cancer Center. He runs a translational research program advancing novel immune-based therapies for pediatric cancer into investigator-initiated early phase human clinical trials. Connect with Dr. Ligon on X @JohnLigon and LinkedIn.

In Dr. Ligon’s opinion, peer review is very important because it ensures what is published is true and impactful. There is substantial improvement in his paper through the peer-review process.

Nevertheless, biases are inevitable in peer review. Dr. Ligon always does his best to do an extensive review of the literature to ensure that he is completely up to date on the topic. The most important thing that he tries to keep in mind is that he is not supposed to judge whether the paper is perfect.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

June, 2023

Arada Suttiwongsing

Dr. Arada Suttiwongsing currently works as a Pediatric Surgeon and Nutrition Support Team Consultant at Chiangrai Prachanukroh Hospital, Chiang Rai, Thailand. She made the “Experience of Anorectal malformation” Presentation at the National Child Heath, 15th Annual Pediatric Meeting of the National Child Heath of Thailand in 2014 and “10 years Pediatric Surgery Experience in High North” Presentation at the 45th Annual Scientific Congress of The Royal College of Surgeons of Thailand in 2020. Her recent research focuses on “Laparoscopic Extraperitoneal Technique Versus Open Inguinal Herniotomy in Children; Historical Controlled Intervention Study”, which is in the publication process in World Journal of Pediatric Surgery.

Speaking of the limitations of the existing peer-review system, Dr. Suttiwongsing reckons that peer review is not standardized or transparent. This makes it difficult to compare and evaluate the quality of peer-reviewed publications. In addition, peer review is subjective. They may have conflicts of interest. Sometimes the peer-review process can take times to complete, delaying the dissemination and application of new knowledge. Furthermore, peer review does not guarantee the validity, accuracy, or reproducibility of scientific research. Peer review also does not prevent the publication of low-quality or irrelevant research, or the rejection of high-quality or important research. To improve the peer-review system, she puts forward some possible solutions:

  1. Increasing the diversity and inclusivity of peer review participants.
  2. Disclosing the identity of reviewers and authors, publishing the peer-review reports and editorial decisions, and allowing post-publication comments and feedback from the scientific community and the public.
  3. Developing common guidelines and checklists for peer review, using automated software to detect errors, and applying metrics and indicators to measure and reward the quality and impact of peer review.

Biases are inevitable in peer review. To minimize any potential biases during review, Dr. Suttiwongsing often keeps an open mind in reviewing research from the perspective of a reader. On the other hand, she would like to seek and read related research to make comparisons. Knowledge in epidemiological clinical bias is of importance and she would bear in mind how to manage them in different ways.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Suttiwongsing thinks it is important for authors to follow reporting guidelines during preparation of their manuscripts. Reporting guidelines (e.g., STROBE, CONSORT) are tools that help authors to report their research methods and findings in a clear, transparent, and complete way. They also help reviewers to assess the quality, validity, and reliability of the research. Reporting guidelines can improve the reproducibility and usability of research evidence, and reduce the risk of bias, errors, and waste. By following these reporting guidelines, authors can ensure that they provide sufficient and relevant information for readers to understand and evaluate their research. This can also facilitate peer review and editorial decision making.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Hiroki Kitaoka

Dr. Hiroki Kitaoka is a research associate at the Department of Neonatology, Tokyo Women’s University Hospital, and a researcher at the Department of Pediatrics, The University of Tokyo Hospital, Tokyo, Japan. His research areas focused on perinatal medicine, clinical research, and systematic review. Especially, he has conducted several research using nationwide real-world data on the perinatal field. Learn more about Dr. Kitaoka here.

In Dr. Kitaoka’s opinion, peer review is performed by researchers at no cost, and it is difficult to allocate time for peer review. In addition, the analysis methods of recent studies have become more complex. It is important to improve the efficiency of the peer-review system in order to maintain the peer-review system. Furthermore, it is also vital for reviewers to deepen their knowledge of research design and analysis methods for constructive peer review.

Dr. Kitaoka thinks that constructive review is peer review conducted to improve the submitted paper. While it is important to point out biases and other inadequacies of the research, it should not become mere criticism. Not all research is perfect, and it is important to encourage correction of inadequacies where possible, and to make sure that those cannot be corrected are clearly stated in the paper.

Data sharing is prevalent in scientific writing in recent years. Dr. Kitaoka indicates that one significant aspect of research is reproducibility. Due to the nature of clinical research, reproducibility is often lacking. Data sharing is vital which ensures the validity and reproducibility of the analyses in the study by making the data publicly available.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

July, 2023

Emma Williams

Dr. Emma Williams is a neonatal registrar at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, London, UK. Her research focuses on neonatal capnography, pulmonary mechanics and predictive models of bronchopulmonary dysplasia. Dr. Williams completed her PhD in neonatal respiratory physiology at King’s College London, UK and has utilized techniques of non-invasive monitoring within the newborn period to describe gas exchange in different pulmonary pathologies. She is determined to improve clinical outcomes of newborn infants by combining her passion of academia with clinical medicine. In 2020, she was awarded the Bengt Robertson Award for research concerning the neonatal lung by the European Society for Pediatric Research (ESPR), and she is currently a junior council member on the ESPR pulmonology board.

From Dr. Williams’s point of view, the process of peer review is an essential part of research. It is important to ensure that research projects ask original and meaningful questions, whilst coming to accurate and valid conclusions. This process is vital to advance the scientific field and is the cornerstone to publishing in any academic discipline.

Even though peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable, Dr. Williams finds it a privilege to read novel research as it comes to the forefront of her field. She has found that her own knowledge and academic skills have been expanded as a result. She adds, “It is hugely important as a researcher to be able to partake in the process of peer review – especially as we have all benefited from the expertise of others when receiving feedback on our own scientific writing.”

For the reasons why she chooses to review for TP, Dr. Williams expresses that she values the journal and is interested in the topics, which fall within her area of expertise. And importantly, she has the time to be able to produce a structured and helpful critique. Both of these are key elements to consider when agreeing to accept an invitation to review.

As a reviewer, Dr. Williams thinks that applying for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval is a crucial part of undertaking research. In the peer review, this process ensures that ethical principles are adhered to, thus protecting the rights and safety of research participants, as well as governing the standards of scientific conduct. One of the most important aspects of the peer-review process is to ensure that appropriate IRB approval has been obtained.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

August, 2023

James Blachly

Dr. James S Blachly, MD, is an Associate Professor at Ohio State with a primary appointment in the Department of Medicine’s Division of Hematology and a secondary appointment in the Department of Biomedical Informatics. He is the director of sequencing and genomics in the OSU Experimental Hematology Laboratory (EHL), which provides a platform to develop and deploy technologies across a broad variety of diseases. Clinically, he treats patients with rare leukemias. His primary research focus is developing and applying leading computational techniques to solve problems in hematology. Past notable work includes the invention of immunoglobulin CDR3 construction, deployment of high-throughput targeted sequencing at scale, and ultra-deep targeted sequencing revealing novel mutations. Current technology focus and areas of interest are real-time clinical sequencing, single-cell mutation calling, and measurable residual disease (MRD). Connect with Dr. Blachly on Twitter.

Speaking of the qualities a reviewer should possess, Dr. Blachly thinks that a reviewer should have intense attention to detail. Preparation of a modern manuscript is an immense work, and it is no surprise that errors may creep in, especially as text, figures, tables, etc. must often be reformatted for multiple journals’ requirements. Even typographical and grammatical suggestions could improve the quality of a manuscript which has already excellent scientific content. In addition, he emphasizes that a reviewer must be an expert, or be willing to quickly get up to expert level in a niche topic. Appropriate and deep scientific critiques are essential, especially when they are borne of experience (one’s own failed experiments, experiences with difficult analyses, etc.). Finally, a reviewer should be friendly and offer all criticisms in a helpful spirit. Even in the case of truly bad work, imagine that it is possible a trainee has received poor (or no) guidance. Take the time to offer them the help that no one else has, rather than putting them down.

Dr. Blachly reckons that one of the biggest limitations of the existing peer-review system currently is the single-submission rule. Authors must wait on editors, editorial staff, and peer reviewers at one journal to accept or reject before moving to another venue, which greatly increases the time between discovery and reporting, especially if reviewers are busy or cannot complete their review. In his opinion, another problem is opacity of reviews. Reviewers’ comments are also often not considered across journal families unless authors voluntarily disclose them. Readers of the final accepted article are also not aware of critical reviews, sometimes which have gone unanswered. Many experiments are going on in this area, including in open peer review and crowd peer review; eLife has experimented with many different models including publishing “Reviewed Preprints” online.

Biases are inevitable in peer review. Dr. Blachly points out that the thing to note about biases is that we all possess them, therefore the most important thing is that we be aware of our specific biases. Studies have shown that the eminence of an author affects peer review (Huber et al., PNAS 2022). He adds, “If one has negative feelings about scholarship related to a particular institutional affiliation or national origin for instance, one should think of all the ways in which you yourself defy stereotypes and thus remember to judge everyone and their work on their own individual merits. Likewise, if you find that you have positive feelings about a particular investigator, institution, country, etc., before reading the manuscript, recall all the times that you have read about dishonesty or even earnest science that later turned out to be wrong coming from even the most prestigious places. This can help us to be appropriately critical.”

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Blachly indicates that adherence to guidelines is important to observe early on. He recalls that the first time he learned about CONSORT diagrams as he helped to prepare a manuscript for a clinical trial. “Thankfully, it was clearly listed as a requirement in the instructions to authors. Paying attention to these standards as early as possible is important because they represent many years of accumulated wisdom about how to conduct and report scientific inquiry,” says he.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

September, 2023

Consolato M. Sergi

Dr. Consolato M. Sergi is the Chief of Anatomic Pathology at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and full professor of Pathology and Pediatrics at the Universities of Alberta and Ottawa, ON, Canada. He obtained his MD degree with honors (1989) and specialization in Pediatrics (1993) at the University of Genoa/Gaslini Children’s Hospital. He subsequently specialized in Pathology at the University of Heidelberg, Germany (2001) and received the Honorary Clinical Reader title at the University of Bristol, UK (2002). He completed his Ph.D. (Habilitation) at the University of Innsbruck, Austria (2004) and MSc Public Health in Austria (2007). Dr. Sergi has successfully passed his Canadian MD credentials and his Fellowship exam in Anatomic Pathology (FRCPC) at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ottawa, Canada (2013). He focused on cholangiopathies, metabolic liver diseases, gut/bile microbiome, hepatic tumors, bone cell biology, and organ transplantation in his research. Dr. Sergi welcomed more than 100 graduate MSc/Ph.D. students, fellows, undergraduate and summer students with on-going teaching in Genetics, Pathology, and Pediatrics. He is a Consultant of Carcinogenesis in Experimental Animal Models at the WHO/IARC, Lyon, France. Dr. Sergi has >350 peer-reviewed PubMed publications (h-index: 32 with over 3,000 citations). He identified the apoptosis’s role in the ductal plate malformation of the liver, characterized the sialidosis, and found two different new genes, i.e., WDR62, which encodes a centrosome-associated protein (Nat Genet 2010) and OTX2, mutations of which can contribute to dysgraphia (J Med Genet 2012).

Dr. Sergi reckons that integrity and responsibility are the qualities a reviewer should possess. He makes sure his review is objective through three steps. First, he checks the figures and raw data he receives and tries to use his optical assessment, but also several software to identify issues that may lead to altered results. Second, he uses a SWOT analysis of the manuscript targeting strength, weakness, opportunities, and threats. Third, he tries to see if the authors convene to a specific message and conclusions are supported by the data provided.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

October, 2023

Andrew Miller

Dr. Andrew Miller is the Associate Director of Respiratory Care Research for the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine and a pediatric Respiratory Care Practitioner and ECMO Specialist at Duke University Medical Center. He is a Fellow of both the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). He is the author of over 100 peer-reviewed publications on a variety of topics and provides peer review for a number of journals, including Translational Pediatrics. He serves as Section Editor for Pediatrics/social media for Respiratory Care. He serves as co-chair of the SCCM Respiratory Care Section research committee, co-chair of a clinical practice guideline on pediatric critical asthma, co-chair of the 2024 Respiratory Care Journal conference on pediatric asthma, team member for an AARC clinical practice guideline on patient ventilator assessment, and as an expert panelist for a consensus document on high-flow nasal cannula in bronchiolitis. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter @ AGMRRT.

TP: What are the limitations of the existing peer-review system?

Dr. Miller: The major limitations of the current system are the lack of training for peer reviewers, difficulty finding constructive reviewers, and minimal incentives for reviewers to perform reviews. None of these challenges have a clear solution, although some journals and societies have begun peer reviewer training. Ideally a junior colleague will be mentored through the process by an experienced reviewer or journal editor. Many have the expertise to provide high-quality reviews but don’t know what editors are looking for. This is especially true for reviewers with relatively few publications with limited expertise in publishing manuscripts. Training and feedback may also help finding constructive reviewers. The lack of incentives is largely related to acknowledgement of peer review for promotion or other professional evaluations. Web of Science has helped address this but reviewers largely get credit for completing the review, regardless of quality. Programs acknowledging high-quality peer reviewers are another way journals can improve the quality of peer review.

TP: What are the qualities a reviewer should possess?

Dr. Miller: Peer reviewers need to be content experts in the topic, be able to provide constructive feedback, and understand research methodology. An understanding of study designs and understanding of different statistical approaches is really important. It’s important the reviewer approaches the process with the goal of improving the current study or if the current study is unsalvageable, provide feedback so the authors can improve their future work.

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

Dr. Miller: The IRB is a critical part to protect research subjects from harm. It’s important that all studies including human subjects or animals include the appropriate ethics approvals. Lack of IRB approval should result in the work being rejected, and if the researchers did something unethical, it may even be necessary to report to the local IRB and institutional leadership.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Mohamed Eltorki

Dr. Mohamed Eltorki is a full-time Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the University of Calgary, Cumming School of Medicine. He completed his medical training at the University of Alexandria in Egypt, his post-graduate training at the University of Toronto, The Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Calgary, Alberta Children’s Hospital and obtained a Master’s in Health Research Methodology at McMaster University renowned Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact. Dr. Eltorki is a clinician scientist with experience in designing and conducting clinical trials. His research program focuses on pediatric acute gastro-intestinal disorders and comparative effectiveness of analgesics in children with acute pain with the aim to use opioids sparingly.

In Dr. Eltorki’s opinion, it is incredibly important to get scholarly work published and shared with the wider audience. Peer review is the process that facilitates that. As a scientist who frequently submits manuscripts for publication and relies on his colleagues to review his work, he is ethically obligated to reciprocate by actively participating in reviewing the scholarly work of his peers. It is essential for the review process to be as unbiased as possible and conflict-free. Peer reviewers are there to improve the scholarly work and help the researchers improve their reporting by identifying any concerns, weaknesses, or ethical issues. Peer reviewers are instrumental in enhancing the quality of scholarly work, aiding researchers in refining their reporting through the identification of concerns, weaknesses, or ethical considerations. Being a peer reviewer is both a privilege and a substantial responsibility, aimed at upholding the integrity of reported research, safeguarding the scientific and non-scientific communities from potential flaws, and upholding rigorous quality standards.

Like any research endeavour, despite concerted efforts to minimize conflicts of interest, bias, and subjectivity, these factors persist as legitimate threats to the integrity of the peer-review process. Dr. Eltorki indicates that it is crucial for peer reviewers to acknowledge and navigate their implicit biases related to scientific beliefs. Instead of evaluating studies based on preconceived expectations of results, reviewers should focus on assessing the research question's novelty and the methodological rigor employed in conducting the study. This shift ensures a more objective and impartial evaluation of scholarly work. While many peer reviewers tend to assess manuscripts in fields, they are well-acquainted with, there could be added benefits and reduced bias in reviewing fields with which they are less familiar. Expertise in scientific methods is more important than expertise in a specific field. This approach may result in a more objective evaluation of scientific rigor, contributing to a fairer and less biased peer-review process. Another significant challenge is time; peer review constitutes a voluntary commitment demanding time and effort from scientists already immersed in demanding research programs and clinical responsibilities.

Data sharing holds significance for various reasons including transparency, reproducibility, collaboration, and, notably, the prevention of redundant efforts. Dr. Eltorki explains, “In clinical research, study participants are frequently individuals who willingly engage in our research initiatives. It is our duty to protect the data and utilize these data cautiously and judiciously. Facilitating the utilization of existing datasets by researchers would expedite the rate of discoveries and alleviate the research burden on human participants.”

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

John Ibrahim

Dr. John Ibrahim has been an assistant professor of Pediatrics in the division of Newborn Medicine at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center since 2018. He completed his pediatric residency at NYU-Langone Long Island Hospital in 2015. He then went to complete his Neonatal-Perinatal fellowship at University of Texas Southwestern, Dallas, in 2018. Dr. Ibrahim has particular interest in the care of extremely premature neonates, bronchopulmonary dysplasia and ECMO, and has several publications in this regard. He is also the chair of the Golden hour program at UPMC Magee Womens’ Hospital as well as the Co-Chair for Nasogastric (NG) feeds at Discharge program at both UPMC Magee Womens’ Hospital and UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. He is also the director of the POCUS program in the Newborn Medicine division at UPMC. Dr. Ibrahim currently serves as a member of the IRB committee for the University of Pittsburgh and serves as a site Co-PI for several multicentre trials. Connect with him on X @ johnwibrahimmd1.

Dr. Ibrahim reckons that peer review is more of an educational process to help authors refine their submissions, ensuring valuable contributions to the already published literature. Peer review also serves as a screening process to vet credible publications from repetitions of what is already there. “Your time and effort are critical to advance the medical field and is a true example of Altruism,” adds he.

Viewing from a reviewer’s angle, Dr. Ibrahim emphasizes that it is prudent for authors to follow reporting guidelines (e.g. STROBE, CONSORT) as they are meant to serve both as a guide and as a resource to enhance their publications. It also ensures a rigorous submission process that is well structured and easy to judge/read.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Palanikumar Balasundaram

Dr. Palanikumar Balasundaram is a Neonatologist at Javon Bea Mercy Health Hospital in Rockford, Illinois, and holds an additional role as a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine, Rockford. With 13 years of experience in Pediatrics and six years dedicated to neonatology, he brings a wealth of knowledge to his medical practice. His research focuses on neonatal nutrition, intraventricular hemorrhage, and neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm neonates. Currently, he is actively involved in prospective studies, including one focusing on the neurodevelopmental outcomes of normoglycemic versus hypoglycemic neonates at risk for hypoglycemia. Another prospective study explores the impact of head midline position with tilt duration on the incidence of intraventricular hemorrhage in preterm neonates. Among his recently completed projects are a study on triglyceride levels in preterm neonates receiving mixed lipid emulsions and a quality improvement project to increase skin-to-skin care duration in preterm neonates. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

In Dr. Balasundaram’s opinion, the existing peer-review system does face certain limitations, notably the single-submission rule, which elongates the time between discovery and reporting. Additionally, the opacity of reviews poses a challenge, as reviewers' comments often remain undisclosed across journals. To improve the system, he thinks that embracing more flexible submission policies and enhancing transparency in the review process could significantly expedite the dissemination of knowledge.

While peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable, Dr. Blasundaram’s motivation stems from the intrinsic satisfaction of contributing to the scientific community. The process allows him to actively shape and enhance the quality of research, fostering a collaborative environment that benefits the broader scientific landscape.

Regarding his association with Translational Pediatrics (TP) as a peer reviewer, Dr. Balasundaram values the journal's commitment to publishing high-quality research that bridges the gap between basic and clinical science. The topics covered align closely with his expertise and interests, making it a natural fit for his involvement. He appreciates the opportunity to review for TP as it allows him to play a role in maintaining the journal's standards of excellence and contributing to the dissemination of impactful research in the field.

To my fellow reviewers quietly driving scientific progress, your dedication is the unsung melody in our scholarly symphony. Your commitment to thorough evaluation and constructive feedback shapes the very foundation of knowledge. Thank you for being the unsung heroes of academia,” says Dr. Balasundaram.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)