Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-10-07 10:03:12

In 2023, ASJ 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
Umasankar Mathuram Thiyagarajan, University of Alberta Hospital, Canada

May, 2023
Carlos Augusto S Madalosso, Gastrobese Clinic, Brazil

July, 2023
Maria F. Ramirez, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, USA

August, 2023
Firas Emad Abu Akar, Edith Wolfson Hospital, Israel

November, 2023
Anna Scarabosio, Ospedale Santa Maria della Misericordia, Italy

March, 2023

Umasankar Mathuram Thiyagarajan

Dr. Umasankar Thiyagarajan graduated from MGR Medical University, India in 2000. He had completed his general surgery residency and culminated with postgraduate degree (Master of General Surgery) in 2005. He completed further specialist training in hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) at London Deanery and received FRCS (General Surgery) and certificate of completion of training (CCT) in 2019. His main clinical interest has been on advancement in clinical transplantation, liver cancer and transplant immunology. His achievements include randomized trials, cohort studies on assessing the clinical outcomes, new treatment modality and quality of life after cancer therapy. His pioneering work, a first randomized controlled trial on TAP block in donor nephrectomy patients was accepted for a prestigious doctorate degree by the University of Leicester, England. He presented research findings at many international meetings extensively and awarded a first prize for his clinical research from ASGBI (Association of Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland) in 2012. Currently, he specializes in abdominal transplantation and hepato-pancreato-biliary (HPB) surgery, working as a fellow physician at University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Canada. He is one of the elite group of surgeons in the world who performs ex-vivo machine perfusion (normothermic machine perfusion) of liver while an organ being transported in machine for transplantation. Connect with Dr. Thiyagarajan on Twitter @umasurgeon1.

Dr. Thiyagarajan thinks that the review process in most journals he came across in the last 2 decades, unfortunately, is 20 years behind. This includes a lack of modernization in making a better interface for reviewer and poor author support including a long wait time for the review process, typically 2-3 months. In his opinion, the review process should be less than 2 weeks and in fact, he usually does his review within a 2-to-3-day timeframe. Furthermore, he points out that there should also be an appreciation for the reviewers by the publishers which has been lacking for a while. One of the journals he reviews does give a star rating intermittently to see the author and editor’s opinion. He also makes all efforts to be polite and attentive, encouraging the authors to reflect on how the manuscript can be improved for publication. He tries hard not to select the “decline” option as it will destroy the confidence of the junior authors/medical students; however, he offers significant feedback to improve the manuscript as applicable.

To minimize any potential biases during review, Dr. Thiyagarajan looks at the title and abstract as it will explain everything in brief how good the authors have given attention to it. He does not look at the author information till he comes to the conclusion section to avoid a reviewer bias. He understands that some journals remove the author information to avoid reviewer bias and he supports this practice too.

Dr. Thiyagarajan truly believes that authors’ disclosure of Conflict of Interest (COI) is mandatory as there may be financial forces that will attempt to undermine the result to suit their interest. This also improves the self-awareness of the authors on what they claim from their research. He emphasizes that COI statement is also useful for the reviewer to be mindful of the potential COI from authors and their research results. Although there has been a stricter law in the last two decades, still many developing countries are far behind. Unfortunately, there has been a poor patient awareness and COI plays a significant role in clinical research. This is the reason readers/researchers have to look at where the article is coming from as well as their reputation.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

May, 2023

Carlos Augusto S Madalosso

Dr. Carlos Madalosso embarked on a remarkable career that commenced with his admission to the University of Passo Fundo's medical school at the age of 16. Graduating at 22 with top honors, he further distinguished himself by securing the first position at the highly competitive Hospital de Clínicas in Porto Alegre. Dr. Madalosso completed his residency in general surgery and, in 1999, established the Gastrobese Clinic in Passo Fundo, Brazil. Currently serving as the Owner and Director of Gastrobese Clinic, he also holds the position of Chief of Research in bariatric and metabolic surgery. Leading a multidisciplinary team, he has successfully performed over 4,000 surgeries, published extensively, and played pivotal roles in scientific committees and educational initiatives. Dr. Madalosso is one of the founders and the vice president of Bariatric Channel, an ongoing course in bariatric and metabolic surgery and endoscopy. His current research focus is GERD, SADI-S.

Dr. Madalosso thinks that the existing peer-review system has several limitations, including delays in publication, the inability to detect all errors or flaws in a manuscript and potential bias. Furthermore, the system's reliance on volunteers can lead to varying levels of expertise and commitment, contributing to inconsistencies. To improve this system, he points out that steps can be taken to enhance transparency (open peer review). Implementing guidelines for constructive feedback and providing clearer criteria for evaluation can enhance objectivity. Also, post-publication peer review can contribute to a more robust and reliable scholarly review process.

Minimizing potential biases in peer review is a complex but important goal. To minimize potential biases during the review process, Dr. Madalosso always practices such as implementing double-blind reviews, providing reviewer training on bias recognition and mitigation, and promoting diversity within the reviewer panel.

Furthermore, Dr. Madalosso emphasizes that disclosure of Conflict of Interest (COI) is extremely important for the transparency and the integrity of research and it maintains trust in the scientific community. He thinks that a COI can influence research when authors' financial, personal, or professional interests may compromise the interpretation of results. Full disclosure allows readers and reviewers to assess the potential impact of any conflicts on the study's design, execution, and conclusions.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

July, 2023

Maria F. Ramirez

Dr. Maria F. Ramirez is an anesthesiologist at Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, United States. The anesthetic management of patients undergoing oncological surgery is a subject of great interest to her. Her postdoctoral fellowship focused on the immunological effects of surgery, anesthetics and analgesic in patients undergoing cancer surgery. As an anesthesiologist, her clinical interest has focused on the effect of the anesthesia technique on long-term oncological outcomes. Most recently, she collaborated in a prospective randomized control trial which compared the quality of recovery of patients receiving epidural analgesia versus quadrant transversus abdominis plane block during cytoreductive surgery with hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (CRS-HIPEC). In the proposed study, she will investigate the use of a water warming/cooling garment to control intraoperative core target temperature during CRS-HIPEC. In the near future, she will explore the possible effect of this technique on long-term oncological outcomes such as cancer recurrence and survival. She has the leadership, training and the motivation necessary to successfully carry out the proposed research project.

Dr. Ramirez thinks that the qualities a reviewer should possess are thoroughness and clarity. Reviewers should provide helpful feedback and advice on how to improve the quality of a manuscript. When she is writing a report, she always tries to be friendly and constructive while remaining critical and impartial.

As a full-time anesthesiologist, there is not much time for Dr. Ramirez to do peer review. However, every time when she is asked to review a new manuscript, she finds it hard to decline if the work is related to the care of cancer patients or anesthesia. The curiosity is her primary driver to continue to review manuscripts.

Lastly, Dr. Ramirez indicates that it is important for reviewers to ensure that the research work complies with federal regulation and meet ethical standards. It is necessary to protect the rights and welfare of humans involved in the research.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

August, 2023

Firas Emad Abu Akar

Dr. Firas Emad Abu Akar is a thoracic surgeon from Jerusalem. He is currently the Head of the Thoracic Surgery Unit at Edith Wolfson Hospital, Holon, Tel Aviv, Israel. After obtaining a specialization in thoracic surgery in Jerusalem, Dr. Abu Akar spent about a year in Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital to learn minimally invasive techniques from the most skilled surgeons in the world like Diego Gonzalez Rivas, Yuming Zhu and Jiang Lie. After returning to his country, he worked in several hospitals and adapted the Uniportal VATS surgery to be applied in pediatric surgery. He is also interested in chest wall deformities correction surgeries via minimally invasive techniques (Nuss and Abramson procedures), where he was trained by the surgeon Mustafa Yuksel and performs dozens of these surgeries annually. He has dozens of publications in the field of minimally invasive thoracic surgery. Connect with Dr. Abu Akar on LinkedIn.

ASJ: What do you regard as a healthy peer-review system?

Dr. Abu Akar: A healthy peer-review system is characterized by transparency in its process and evaluation criteria. Anonymity, through either single-blind or double-blind reviews, minimizes biases, while ensuring reviewers are independent and free from conflicts of interest (COIs) is crucial for unbiased assessments. The system should embrace diversity in reviewers to provide a comprehensive assessment, and feedback, regardless of the outcome, should always be constructive and aim at research enhancement. Additionally, timeliness in reviews is vital for both the authors and the broader scientific community. Effective editorial oversight ties all these elements together, ensuring the system's integrity and promoting the advancement of knowledge.

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

Dr. Abu Akar: The existing peer-review system has limitations such as potential biases (whether conscious or unconscious) due to lack of anonymity, the possibility of COIs, inconsistent review quality, and sometimes lengthy review times that can delay research dissemination. Improvements can include adopting double-blind review processes to reduce biases, implementing stricter guidelines for disclosing COIs, offering training for reviewers to ensure consistent review quality, and leveraging technology or editorial oversight to streamline and expedite the review process.

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

Dr. Abu Akar: Peer reviewers are often driven by a sense of professional responsibility to uphold and enhance the quality of research in their field. This reciprocity ensures the integrity of the academic process from which they themselves benefit. Staying updated with cutting-edge research, honing critical analysis skills, gaining recognition in the academic community, and potential networking opportunities also serve as motivations. Additionally, the personal satisfaction of contributing to their field and institutional expectations or recognitions further incentivize professionals to participate in this non-profitable and anonymous endeavor.

ASJ: Is it important for authors to disclose COI? To what extent would a COI influence a research?

Dr. Abu Akar: Yes, it's crucial for authors to disclose any COI to maintain transparency and the integrity of research. COI, whether financial, personal, or academic, can potentially bias research methodologies, interpretations, and conclusions, undermining the objectivity and trustworthiness of the study. By openly declaring COI, authors allow readers, reviewers, and editors to critically evaluate the work in light of these potential influences, ensuring the research's credibility and the broader academic community's trust.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Anna Scarabosio

Anna Scarabosio is a Plastic Surgery Resident at Ospedale Santa Maria della Misericordia (Udine – Italy). She is a Research Fellow at MGH focusing on reconstructive surgery. Her main research interests include breast reconstruction and facial surgery. She is an active reviewer of few major plastic surgery journals. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Dr. Scarabosio thinks that trained reviewers are the best choice to improve the peer-review system. She believes that reviewers have to bear in mind while reviewing papers being sincere but polite. They should always try to suggest a way to improve the paper while respecting the ideas inside it. “I think peer-reviewing is one of the best ways to start doing research in a proper way,” adds she.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)