Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-11-24 19:45:13

In 2023, many TBCR reviewers 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.

July, 2023
Nobuyuki Takahashi, National Cancer Center Hospital East, Japan

August, 2023
James M Martin, Case Western Reserve University (CWRU), USA

September, 2023
Khalil El Gharib, Staten Island University Hospital, USA

November, 2023
Anton V. Nikolaev, Erasmus MC, the Netherlands

December, 2023
Eric Brooks, University of Florida, USA

July, 2023

Nobuyuki Takahashi

Dr. Nobuyuki Takahashi is a clinical fellow in the Department of Medical Oncology at the National Cancer Center Hospital East, Kashiwa, Japan. His research area is clinical and translational research in neuroendocrine differentiated or small cell cancers, including contributions of genetic, transcriptomic, and epigenetic biology to patient clinical characteristics. It involves early clinical studies on targeting replication stress and immunogenicity in chemotherapy-refractory cancers. He uses cell cycle checkpoint inhibitors (ataxia telangiectasia and Rad3-related inhibitors), DNA damaging agents (topoisomerase or poly [ADP-ribose] polymerase inhibitors), and immunotherapies (targeting programmed cell death-ligand 1 and transforming growth factor β) for his studies. He has been involved in establishing concepts and designing early phase (phase I/II) clinical trials, patient care, and analyzing the results of exploratory outcomes (genetic sequencing of clinical tumors and circulating tumor cells/DNA, plasma cytokines, and immune subsets in peripheral blood mononuclear cells) to explore sensitive and resistant mechanisms in investigational therapeutic strategies. Learn more about Dr. Takahashi through ORCID.

To Dr. Takahashi, a healthy peer-review system represents fairness: peer reviews without conflict of interest between authors and reviewers. This sometimes would be paradoxically difficult because reviewers are supposed to be experts and have knowledge of the research area reported by the author. Reviewers should always bear in mind that they should review without any biases.

On the other hand, Dr. Takahashi reckons that the review process should be made easy and simple. Sometimes, journals require reviewers to answer a lot of specific questions, which exhausts reviewers’ precious time. It is important to save time during the submission process for reviewers to focus on scientifically reviewing the article and not spend too much time dealing with a complicated submission process.

Dr. Takahashi further points out that peer review is usually done by just a few reviewers, while sometimes the judge may be arbitral, conflicting with their interests. Reviewers must always keep in mind that they should be fair about their reviewing. Multi-directional evaluation system among authors, reviewers, and editors would improve the issue. Such evaluation may also motivate reviewers as well.

Reviewing articles makes me more knowledgeable about the field discussed in the manuscript. During the peer-review process, I always keep in mind the words my ‘Senpai’ (a word for “senior mentor” in Japanese) said to me, ‘During the peer-review process, you must have the most knowledge among scientists all over the world. Otherwise, you do not deserve to review the paper.’ Reading references discussed in the article, as well as relating other ones that may conflict with what authors propose, makes me revisit whether authors’ interpretations of results and discussion are adequate or not and whether the study/results/discussion eventually improve patients’ health. This knowledge and skills to review papers in an unbiased manner I can revel through the reviewing process will eventually progress my research, which motivates me to keep on peer reviewing,” says Dr. Takahashi.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

August, 2023

James M Martin

Dr. James M Martin is a breast cancer-focused medical oncologist at University Hospitals/Seidman Cancer Center and an Associate Professor at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine. He is focused on medical education, healthcare disparities (including LGBTQ+ health), and estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers (especially CDK4/6 inhibitors). He is passionate about medical education and currently works at CWRU as the associate program director for the Hematology and Medical Oncology fellowship program. Connect with Dr. Martin on X @JamesMartinCLE.

A good review, in Dr. Martin’s opinion, not only critiques the data and interpretation of results for a study but also provides suggestions for improvement. To him, simply giving an opinion during a review is not as helpful for the authors compared to actually helping the authors create the best presentation of their work.

Dr. Martin thinks that dedicating an adequate amount of time to reviewing an article is paramount for the review process. When reviewing an article, the intent is not to learn new data/topics, but to critically appraise the design, writing, data and conclusions for the authors. This takes more time than simply reading a journal article for the content. He adds, “Because of the time commitment, I try to be selective in the number of reviews I agree to do per month. I usually set aside 2 hours of my administrative time for an in-depth review.”

The fields of Hematology and Oncology have been explosive in the amount of new data that is published on a monthly basis. Dr. Martin believes this is excellent for patients, but it can be hard for a clinician to stay abreast of new and exciting data. He explains, “I think utilizing social media to disperse your data (or data you find important) is an excellent way to connect with others in your field and help important clinical findings reach other clinicians and scientists. On the receiving end, as an avid user of social media, it is great to have immediate access to practice-changing or scientifically exciting results, which I otherwise may have missed or been delayed in reviewing.”

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

September, 2023

Khalil El Gharib

Dr. Khalil El Gharib is currently an Internal Medicine resident at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City. His research pathway started in oncology, where he contributed to the field through editorials, perspective letters, and other side papers initially, and then his scholarly activities included comprehensive reviews and original research papers. While his fellowship interests shifted into Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, he is proud of the physician-scientist persona that the field of oncology has shaped in him, and his future focuses will majorly intersect these two domains, i.e., research in lung cancer and in the challenges that the management of critically ill cancer patients in general imposes. Connect with Dr. Gharib on X @KhalilElGharib1.

Peer review guarantees the credibility and reliability of scientific research, seeking improvement in the quality of prepared manuscripts and prompting the publication of ethical, nonfraudulent scientific papers. Dr. Gharib believes that peer review plays a crucial role in disseminating truthful knowledge and in building trust within the science community.

Biases are unavoidable in peer review. In Dr. Gharib’s opinion, one should be conscious of their own biases and preconceptions, as they potentially influence evaluation during peer review. However, through strict adherence to the journal’s guidelines, opting to blind authors’ and institutions’ names, and evaluating the presented work based on its originality and merit, one can minimize bias during review.

Peer review can be tough and time-consuming, particularly for the ones who have clinical responsibilities and are not devoted completely to research work. However, achieving a review task is most definitely rewarding, and your contribution is certainly valuable to the scientific community that you are an integral part of. To the reviewers out there, I say: you people are the real MVPs!” says Dr. Gharib.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

November, 2023

Anton V. Nikolaev

Dr. Anton V. Nikolaev has received his doctoral degree from the medical ultrasound imaging Radboudmumc (Nijmegen, the Netherlands) in the field of biomedical ultrasound. In his decertation, he expanded applications of 3D ultrasound imaging for diagnosis of breast cancer diagnosis and monitoring of muscle dystrophy. He is currently working as postdoctoral researcher in Erasmus MC (Rotterdam, the Netherlands) and is focused on applications of photoacoustic imaging for early detection of cardiac diseases and pre-transplant organ quality evaluation. Learn more about him here.

In Dr. Nikolaev’s opinion, the current peer-review system has two major drawbacks. Firstly, peer review is non-profitable and, therefore, scientific articles are often reviewed by young and enthusiastic researchers who often have only little expertise in the field. This can result in superficial or uncertain comments. Secondly, peer review is anonymous. Therefore, the reviewers can only feel responsibility in front of the editor, but not in front of the author. Consequently, many reviewers leave confusing or non-constructive comments. He suggests making the peer-review process more transparent by revealing names of the reviewers to the author.

Though peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable, it attracts Dr. Nikolaev because it is one of the ways to make additional contribution to the scientific field. He also sees peer review as an opportunity to learn from the authors. It also trains his ability of critical thinking but also can improve quality of his own writing.

Every scientific research is worth publishing as each scientific article will find its reader who might not cite it, but will undoubtedly be impacted by it. I encourage reviewers not to write negative reviews. Even if the paper is not suitable for publication, the reviewer through constructive feedback should encourage the author not to give up scientific work,” says Dr. Nikolaev.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Eric Brooks

Dr. Brooks is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Florida. He trained at MD Anderson Cancer Center and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center after earning his medical degree at Yale University. He specializes in lung and breast cancer with other clinical focus in lymphoma, base of skull, and spine malignancy. He is passionate about providing the best care for his patients and has been formally recognized twice by his colleagues for excellence in patient care. In addition, Dr. Brooks has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles, including in the Nature, JAMA, Lancet, and JCO family journals. He has been a speaker at the American Society of Clinical Oncology and has written society-endorsed guidelines on how to treat patients when their tumors reoccur. He also serves as UF’s Faculty Liaison for Operations (FLO) and the Chief Health Value Officer (CHVO) for the Department. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

TBCR: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Brooks: Peer review plays a vital role in science. Peer reviewing scientists look at research methods and results with a fresh pair of eyes. Being distanced from the study, these peer reviewers can offer nonbiased, or less biased, input. Sometimes that comes in the form of whether a paper’s conclusions are appropriate, how limitations of the study might prevent generalizability, or even whether the way a scientific question was asked was appropriate. Peer review also allows additional questions to be asked of the researchers who are submitting papers before the work is published. Often times these additional questions help readers by answering nuanced questions that critically help with interpretation and application of results to clinical practice. In short, peer review improves the quality of the studies before they are published and helps make sure clinicians better understand how to interpret and apply results.

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

Dr. Brooks: Peer review is a privilege and a way of paying it forward. It comes with the profession. Being able to offer constructive feedback, praise, or requests for more details or correction in studies before they are published ultimately betters outcomes for everyone because the quality of the product is improved. Peer review is a way of indirectly helping my patients.

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

Dr. Brooks: IRB approval ensures that quality science is done but also that patients are protected during studies and that their rights are preserved. Without IRB boards, the quality of science could suffer. This could lead to bad or wrong information produced in trials. Ultimately, if science suffers, then patients may not get the treatments they should, or could get those that they shouldn’t, because clinical decisions are being based on results from poorly designed or executed trials. Furthermore, the IRB - one of best advocates for patient rights - would be missing from the equation. This could lead to the absence of an important safeguard for the people we are trying to serve most. Certainly, we are physician researchers who want research protocols to continue to be IRB approved.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)