Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-09-15 17:19:18

In 2023, TGH 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.

March 2023
Wei Keith Tan, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

October, 2023
Aditi Banerjee, University of Maryland, USA

November, 2023
Immaculada Herrero-Fresneda, MOWOOT (USMIMA S.L.), Spain

December, 2023
Francesco Vito Mandarino, San Raffaele Hospital, Italy

March 2023

Wei Keith Tan

Dr. Wei Keith Tan is a gastroenterology registrar and Cancer Research UK Clinical-PhD Fellowship award holder. He is currently pursuing a PhD with Professor Rebecca Fitzgerald at the Early Cancer Institute, University of Cambridge, UK. Born in Malaysia, he obtained his medical degree from the University of Bristol, where he also earned a 1st-class Honors intercalated BSc in Cellular and Molecular Medicine. After graduating, he attained an Academic Foundation, and later, an NIHR Academic Clinical Fellow in Gastroenterology & Hepatology, both at Cambridge. Dr. Tan’s research focuses on non-endoscopic devices for screening and surveillance of Barrett's esophagus (BE). He has authored many peer-reviewed publications and book chapters on BE, and also displays his passion for education as lead author of a book entitled 'How to Succeed in the Academic Clinical Interview'. He also co-authored the ESGE revised BE guidelines and successfully secured a £6 million grant for the BEST4 platform study as a junior investigator.

To Dr. Tan, peer review is an indispensable aspect of academia due to its vital role in ensuring the quality and credibility of scholarly work. He says that the foundation of evidence-based medicine begins with a robust peer-review process which instills confidence in the academic community, allowing them to trust the validity of published findings and encouraging the advancement of knowledge, innovation, and evidence-based practices in various fields.

The current peer-review process in academia, while crucial, does have its limitations. Dr. Tan thinks one prominent challenge is that reviewers often dedicate their time voluntarily, outside their own commitments, and may not receive adequate recognition for their efforts. However, he believes this trend is gradually changing, with some journals now acknowledging peer reviewers, and initiatives like TGH's 'Reviewer of the Month’ is a good step towards promoting their recognition. Another significant drawback is that some reviewers may lack expertise in certain specialized areas, even if they are eminent in their own fields. For instance, a reviewer might not possess the intricate statistical knowledge needed to assess research with advanced statistical analysis. To address this limitation, he suggests involving specialized statistical reviewers in the peer-review process to ensure robust interpretation and evaluation of the analysis. Improving recognition and incorporating subject-specific expertise in the peer-review process will contribute to enhancing its effectiveness and maintaining the quality of published research.

The burden of being a scientist and doctor is undeniably substantial, and allocating time for peer review can be challenging. Dr. Tan shares, “Personally, I acknowledge that this is an area I am continuously learning and working on. Currently, I manage to find time in my spare moments or on weekends to engage in the peer-review process. As someone who prioritizes quality over quantity, I firmly believe in dedicating sufficient time to review a manuscript thoroughly and offer constructive feedback. While it may require substantial effort, I am committed to ensuring a meticulous review process. In the past, I have spent 5-6 hours meticulously reviewing a paper for a journal, reflecting my dedication to maintaining high standards. To be more time-efficient, I have now developed a structured approach when reviewing for a journal, which has helped streamline the process without compromising the quality of my assessments.”

Speaking of the prevalence of data sharing in recent years, Dr. Tan firmly believes that it is crucial for authors to share their research data. It is not only essential to make the data available, but also to provide the codes used to produce the analysis. He worries that a concerning number of research studies are non-reproducible currently, with only a small fraction, around 10-15%, of basic science research publications in top-tier journals being reproducible. The lack of reproducibility is a significant issue as it hinders the translation of research findings into clinical practice. By sharing data and analysis codes, researchers can promote transparency, collaboration, and accountability within the scientific community. It allows other researchers to validate and build upon existing work, leading to a more robust and trustworthy body of knowledge. Ultimately, embracing data sharing practices will foster more reliable research outcomes and accelerate the progress of scientific discoveries in various fields.

(By Wei-En Fan, Brad Li)

October, 2023

Aditi Banerjee

Dr. Aditi Banerjee is an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Her research focuses on the molecular mechanism and therapeutic study of metastatic colon cancer using single and combinational drugs. The drug has been tested on a range of metastatic and normal colon cancer cells, colospheroids-developed colon cancer cells, patient-derived organoids, and mice models. The results of her research indicate that the combinational drug can inhibit metastatic colon cancer cells, colospheroids, patient-derived organoids, and 5FU drug-resistant growth. The mechanism involves the shutdown of Wnt-βcatenin and its downregulatory signal, the Wnt pathway, by the transcriptional activity of β-catenin/TCF. In vivo, tumor formation without adverse side effects was observed, and there was no toxicity on normal CRC cells (FHC). Microarray data suggested the involvement of several genes in the combinational compound compared to the single drug. This could indicate a novel regulatory pathway in inhibiting metastatic colon cancer growth. Her work has been published in several peer-reviewed journals and presented at several national and international conferences.

Dr. Banerjee reckons that peer review is a crucial process that helps to enhance knowledge and understanding of research work done by other researchers. It involves validating research work, improving the quality of published research, and networking with other research communities. Peer review helps authors improve the quality of their research by addressing major and minor comments raised by reviewers. Additionally, she thinks that it helps prevent false claims, plagiarism, and bias. The significance of peer review lies in its ability to ensure that research is accurately verified before being published, thereby enhancing the quality of research, and encouraging authors to meet the accepted standards of their discipline.

Reviews play a crucial role in any academic field of research. However, according to Dr. Banerjee, there are instances where some reviews can be destructive, which aims to harm the research article through biased, malicious, or harmful comments. Such reviews are often posted by people with narrow-minded views or those who hold personal grudges. The tone, language, and content of these reviews are usually negative and may include personal attacks, inflammatory language, and sometimes even directed towards a race. Hence, it is crucial to identify such reviews and address them appropriately.

It is vital for authors to share their research data as sharing data is of great importance in scientific research. In Dr. Banerjee’s opinion, it expedites the discovery process, improves research accuracy and reproducibility, allows access to valuable datasets, and encourages the reuse of data in future research studies. However, data sharing can present additional complications and may be more influenced by the field or discipline than other open research practices.

TGH is a journal that is available to everyone and is reviewed by peers. Recently, it has been added to the PubMed Centre (PMC) and is now officially included in PubMed/PMC, which means that authors who publish in TGH will have their research exposed to the maximum possible audience. Additionally, the reviewing system is user-friendly and efficient,” says Dr. Banerjee.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Immaculada Herrero-Fresneda

Dr. Immaculada Herrero-Fresneda, PhD, is Chief Scientific Officer at MOWOOT (USMIMA SL) and Associate Prof. of Physiology and Histology at the uVIC-Univ. Central Catalunya. She began her professional career focusing on the immuno-inflammatory response, pioneering the experimental model of renal transplantation in Spain. As "Miguel Servet" Researcher of the Spanish National Health System, she preclinically assessed solutions to minimize kidney graft damage and chronic nephropathy. During this period, she was Associate Professor of Cell Biology at the Department of Pathology and Experimental Therapeutics (UB). After 20 years in preclinical research, she graduated in entrepreneurship and innovation in 1st Ed. Design-Health Barcelona in 2013. During this program, she did a clinical immersion at a neurorehabilitation lead institute where her team detected a still unsolved and invisible need: chronic constipation. As a result, she cofounded and created MOWOOT, a medical device that fights constipation without the adverse effects of other drug and invasive solutions. Her experience in experimental design and pre-clinical trials allows her to lead the scientific and clinical department as Chief Scientific Officer. Here, she continues her research, now in the clinical field around lower gastrointestinal dysfunction. Learn more about her here.

In Dr. Herrero-Fresneda’s opinion, the most important limitation is time. A good review requires careful reading, understanding the aim of the study, evaluating the suitability of the methods used, assessing weaknesses and strengths of the study design, reflecting whether the results are conclusive, if all aspects of the study are properly discussed, and this needs time, not too much but enough to disrupt agendas.

Solutions are not easy according to her. Rewarding is one of the possibilities. Public recognition, as done by some journals like TGH, by nominating the reviewer of the month is a good way to make the work of peer-reviewers visible and remunerated. From her point of view, all journals should provide their reviewers with a review certificate, and publish an annual list acknowledging their contribution. Additionally, as an option, it would be nice if the journals offered the reviewers other rewards such as temporary free subscription to the journal, discount in publication fees, a donation to accredited and reputed NGOs.

Speaking of the reasons she chooses to review for TGH, Dr. Herrero-Fresneda indicates that there are three conditions that must be met for her to agree to review a paper: her interest and knowledge in the subject to be reviewed; not having any conflict of interest with the authors, and a not very busy schedule. TGH's invitation came at the opportune time when these three conditions were met.

Science advances thanks to the dedication of those of us who dedicate ourselves to research. Over time, and as we gain experience, part of our contribution to science must also be collaborating as peer-reviewers, to help other researchers with our feedback. Therefore, we should all devote some of our time to this essential task for the progress of science,” says Dr. Herrero-Fresneda.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Francesco Vito Mandarino

Dr. Francesco Vito Mandarino is a gastroenterology consultant under the leadership of Prof. Silvio Danese, at the San Raffaele Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy Unit, in Milan, Italy. He is specialized in advanced gastrointestinal endoscopy and his research fields extend to a wide range of interventional endoscopic procedures, including the resection of precancerous and cancerous gastrointestinal lesions (Endoscopic Mucosal Resection and Endoscopic Submucosal Dissection), endoscopic myotomies (E-POEM and G-POEM), and the endoscopic treatment of post-surgical anastomotic leaks. Currently, Dr. Mandarino is involved in an international PhD program in molecular medicine, started in November 2022, focusing on a project titled "Gastric Biopsies in Patients with Gastroparesis: Histological, Transcriptomic, and Metatranscriptomic Analysis, and Correlation with Clinical Outcomes." Since April 2023, he has been enriching his expertise in Sydney, undertaking an Advanced Endoscopy Fellowship at the Westmead Hospital's Endoscopy Unit, directed by Prof. Michael Bourke.

Minimizing biases in peer review is a critical aspect of ensuring fair and rigorous evaluation of research manuscripts, according to Dr. Mandarino. He thinks that reviewers can take several measures to achieve this goal. Firstly, they should approach each review with an open mind, focusing solely on the scientific content, research methodology, and adherence to ethical standards. To reduce potential biases related to the authors' identities, anonymous peer review is often implemented. Utilizing standardized review criteria helps ensure consistent and objective evaluation. Moreover, having multiple reviewers assess the same manuscript can further mitigate individual biases. Reviewers should continuously self-assess for any biases that may emerge and seek guidance or discuss concerns with the editorial team.

From the reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Mandarino reckons that the disclosure of Conflict of Interest (COI) by authors is a fundamental aspect of research transparency and integrity. Authors should provide comprehensive information about any financial, professional, or personal interests that could potentially influence their research. The extent to which COI can impact research outcomes or conclusions varies based on the nature and relevance of the conflict. Transparency in disclosing COI enables readers to assess potential biases and interpret research findings with the appropriate context. Managing and mitigating COI is essential to maintain the credibility and trustworthiness of scientific research, ensuring that it serves the best interests of both the scientific community and society at large.

Peer reviewers are unsung heroes in the scientific community, contributing significantly to the advancement of knowledge. Their dedication to rigorous and impartial evaluation of research is the cornerstone of quality publications. It's important to recognize the invaluable role that reviewers play behind the scenes. Encouraging other reviewers to maintain high standards of objectivity, professionalism, and ethical conduct is essential. By upholding these principles, reviewers ensure the credibility and integrity of scientific peer review, ultimately benefiting the entire research community,” says Dr. Mandarino.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)