Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-10-17 09:09:32

In 2023, AOB 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.

June, 2023
Rena Hirani, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, Australia

November, 2023
Andrew J Doyle, Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospitals, UK
Sara Chiaretti, Australia Red Cross Lifeblood, Australia

December, 2023
John-Paul Tung, Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, Australia

June, 2023

Rena Hirani

Dr. Rena Hirani, currently serves as a Senior Research Fellow at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood and Adjunct Fellow with Macquarie University. She obtained the PhD from the University of Adelaide in the field of molecular biology and biochemistry. Her research in the blood transfusion field has included gathering evidence on blood product usage to inform government policy, performing serosurveillance studies using blood donor samples to inform public health decisions, conducting molecular studies to understand transfusion related outcomes and designing medical devices to improve blood testing. She is an academic editor for PLOS ONE and she peer-review for several journals including Annals of Blood, Vox Sanguinis, Transfusion and Transfusion Medicine.

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

Dr. Hirani: I will probably use this answer multiple times but research integrity is the biggest reason that we need peer review. It is so important to the research community in a number of ways, such as ensuring research that is published has been well conducted, is of value to the community and that it has been done ethically. Performing peer-review has helped me to understand more about my chosen research area, provided me with an understanding of how to construct better research designs, and given me confidence to understand the peer-review process during my own submissions and to view reviewer comments differently, not as a burden but as an opportunity to present my work more clearly, effectively and succinctly. I am grateful to those who gave me my first opportunity to peer-review as this has made me a better researcher and helped me grow in confidence. Peer review has also made me feel connected to other researchers internationally and has helped me to be recognized as a leading researcher in my chosen field. Therefore, despite peer-review being a voluntary role it does provide a rich tapestry of positive outcomes that otherwise would not have been available to me.

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

Dr. Hirani: Peer review is a great way to see exciting new research outcomes before they are more generally available and overall, I think that the way this is currently conducted works well. However, there are now more journals and higher submission volumes, which for a voluntary system does cause some challenges. To future-proof the current peer-review system there needs to be some thought around how to acknowledge the time and expertise of editors and reviewers, how to provide formal peer-reviewing training for junior researchers and how to provide more directed opportunities at conferences to network with suitable peers to make it easier to match potential reviewers with manuscripts.

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

Dr. Hirani: This is the most challenging part of peer review but I do what I can to squeeze out time as I think it is a valuable part of giving back to the scientific community especially since other researchers have taken the time to review my work. However, I feel that employers, academic institutions and granting bodies need to find ways to acknowledge the time and expertise required to perform peer review. Unfortunately, there are limits on peer-review availability, therefore, I am increasingly selective on the manuscripts I choose to review based on my core research interests.

AOB: Why is it important for research to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval? What would happen if this process is omitted?

Dr. Hirani: Research integrity is the biggest reason for me; IRB review can have a positive effect on your research design. Many IRBs are made up of volunteers from numerous backgrounds, all of whom have a passion and interest in research. Committee members bring broader points of view and expertise that can ensure that the research is conducted in an ethically sound way. Similar to the peer-review process, I have never experienced any IRB holding my research back rather I have found that they are trying to ensure that the study will have the best potential outcome for the researchers and participants and that the data is of the highest quality. Without IRB review, there would probably be much more researcher time and resources wasted on studies that are not appropriately designed.

(By Lareina Lim, Karina Yang)

November, 2023

Andrew J Doyle

Dr. Andrew Doyle is a consultant haematologist at Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, London, United Kingdom. He has obtained his MD(Res) from King’s College London in haemostatic changes during ECMO. He has a specialist clinical interest in thrombotic and bleeding disorders and anticoagulation use, and is the clinical lead for the regional Haemostasis & Thrombosis laboratory. His research interests are in acquired and inherited thrombophilias and the management of haemostatic complications during critical care and use of artificial devices. Learn more about him here.

Dr. Doyle thinks that the quality and the content of the article are key in reviewing papers. Authors should aim to be concise and provide clear and logical methodology that should be understandable to others researching in that field. Reviewers should make sure that the interpretation of the results is appropriate and consider how this fit in with what is already known. Being up-to-date in that area is therefore imperative.

Speaking of the limitations of the existing peer-review system, Dr. Doyle indicates that the structure and guidance for reviewers can be daunting, particularly with their first few reviews. Further training should be given to postgraduates to help them develop skills in critical appraisal and on-line training modules could be offered by journals to ensure good-quality reviewers.

Lastly, Dr. Doyle would like to say a few words to encourage all the other reviewers, “Keep going, your work is invaluable. The peer-review process is essential in providing good quality, evidence-based research and care. It also offers insights and opportunities to collaborate with other researches in a similar field.”

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Sara Chiaretti

Dr. Sara Chiaretti is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Australia Red Cross Lifeblood and Adjunct Fellow at the University of Queensland and the University of Sunshine Coast. She obtained her PhD in Experimental Medicine and Oncology in Italy focusing on the mechanisms of breast cancer invasion in vitro and in vivo. She worked across academia and pharmaceutical industry in Italy and Australia gaining experience in cell biology, drug discovery, immunotherapy, and gene therapy. Her work at Lifeblood focuses on developing new and improved red cell reagents and therapeutics for specific groups of patients. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

In Dr. Chiaretti’s opinion, peer review plays a pivotal role in science for various reasons. Firstly, it serves as a safeguard for research integrity. Experts in the relevant field possess the acumen to assess the reliability of the results presented in a study and can raise inquiries when aspects are unclear. Moreover, involving experts in the review process enhances the overall value and quality of the work. Reviewers bring diverse perspectives to the evaluation, assisting authors in articulating their findings more clearly and effectively. At times, reviewers may pose challenging queries and suggest additional efforts to strengthen the study, ultimately leading to a more robust demonstration of the research outcomes. Lastly, engaging in the review process offers opportunities to connect with other experts in the field and thus can enhance professional networks.

An objective review is impartial, fair, and focused on evaluating the content based on its merits rather than personal biases or preconceived notions. To ensure her review is objective, Dr. Chiaretti tries to separate personal opinions during the evaluation process. She bases her judgments on the content's quality, relevance, novelty, and the overall value the study adds to the field. She usually reads the manuscript a few times to make sure she comprehends it thoroughly before reviewing. She always tries to offer constructive feedback that can help the authors improve the work. Also, before submitting the review, she revises it a few times and reflect on the comments made to make sure they are grounded in the content's objective evaluation and not influenced by subjective factors.

Sometimes agreeing to review a manuscript can be a challenging decision, from Dr. Chiaretti’s perspective, due to the substantial effort and time involved. Nevertheless, it is essential to bear in mind that we play a role in the broader mission of the scientific community to which we belong. “Our commitment to reviewing is a vital contribution to enhance the overall quality of scientific studies and providing support to our fellow researchers. Recognizing that today's published studies form the foundation for future research, it becomes fundamental to guarantee the dissemination of high-quality, impartial work. By participating in the review process, we play a vital role in maintaining the honesty and quality of science, ensuring a strong foundation for the growth of scientific knowledge in the future,” adds she.

Speaking of the reason she chooses to review for AOB, Dr. Chiaretti points out that AOB stands out as a specialized journal featuring an outstanding editorial board. She believes in the significance of reviewing manuscripts irrespective of their journal of origin, as it represents a means of giving back and fostering the spread of robust scientific knowledge. Assuming the role of a reviewer presents chances to establish connections with fellow experts in the field and enrich professional networks. Moreover, it provides exposure to state-of-the-art research and methodologies, contributing substantially to personal knowledge advancement. Finally, engaging in the review process challenges her critical thinking, which is a cornerstone of research.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

John-Paul Tung

Associate Professor John-Paul Tung is a Senior Research Fellow at Australian Red Cross Lifeblood where he leads a team of sixteen research staff and postgraduate students. His team’s research looks at how blood changes in between collection and transfusion, and how these changes might impact the patient. Of particular interest are transfusion-related acute lung injury (TRALI), extracellular vesicles, and sheep biomedical models. Prof. Tung has over 45 peer-reviewed publications with over 1,000 citations. He has presented at international and national conferences. He has received around $8 millions of competitive external grant funding. He has supervised 18 student completions, including 4 PhDs. He holds adjunct positions with Queensland University of Technology, the University of Queensland, and the University of the Sunshine Coast. He is a former Secretary Member of the International Society of Blood Transfusion’s Young Professionals Council, and is a current Member of their Blood Components and Granulocyte Immunobiology Working Parties. Learn more about him here.

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

Prof. Tung: Peer review is a central pillar to research publication. It ensures the novelty, validity, and quality of papers. I think that one of the biggest limitations is the consistency of the reviews. Individual researchers would have had very different training in how to complete reviews, as well as in their expectations for a paper. This is starting to be addressed by initiatives such as COPE's ethical guidelines for peer reviewers, and by the improved resources available on individual publishers’ websites such as at Annals of Blood, Wiley, and Elsevier. Peer review is starting to be included in postgraduate and undergraduate courses, and I wonder whether, in the future, more specific training in how to perform peer review of papers might be included. Another limitation is the increasing number of papers being written and the time needed to review them. An estimated 5.1 million research papers were published in 2022. If the average review takes around 6 to 8 hours to complete, then this represents around 30 to 40 million hours spent peer reviewing. And that doesn’t even factor in the fact that some of these papers might have been reviewed by several different journals prior to their final publication. Even if we look on a more individual level, if a researcher were to peer review 5 to 10 papers each year, that would correspond to a commitment of between 30 and 80 hours. Global interest in artificial intelligence and machine learning has surged and I wonder if we will start to see its application to the peer-review process in the coming years.

AOB: What are the qualities a reviewer should possess?

Prof. Tung: There are many qualities that I think a reviewer should possess, but I’ll just highlight a few key ones. First of all, a good reviewer should be professional. Peer reviewing is a mutual responsibility amongst researchers, so we need to put the effort into reviewing a paper that we would expect someone else to put into reviewing one of our own papers.

A good reviewer should also be helpful. I always go into a review wanting the best outcome for the authors. Sometimes a paper isn’t suitable to be accepted. But if I can provide helpful advice on how to improve the study and/or the paper, then this will help the authors revise the paper either for that journal, or for submission to a different journal.

Another valuable quality is good judgement. A good reviewer needs to keep a sense of proportion when assessing the strengths and weaknesses of a paper. They need to apply appropriate standards for the journal they are representing and give definite opinions to assist the editor in making a final decision. They need to be realistic on the scope of changes that are achievable for the authors.

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

Prof. Tung: We are starting to see different approaches to anonymity in the peer-review process with some journals publishing names of the handling editor and peer reviewers for each published paper, and sites such as Publons that record reviewer activity as a measurable research output. But to echo some of the ideas from my previous answer, I think that peer reviewing is a responsibility for all researchers. After all, if I’m submitting papers for peer review, then I’m going to be happy to review the work of my peers as well. Also, I think that, by providing helpful and constructive feedback, it is an important way to improve the quality of research and writing. It also helps me to advance my own research as it stimulates me to think about new ideas or new techniques and technologies that might be useful to my work.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)