In 2022, many AOE 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.
Fernando Herbella, Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
Ihsan Al Bayati, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, USA
Christopher DuCoin, University of South Florida, USA
Dr. Fernando Herbella is an Associate Professor of Surgery and Attending Surgeon at the Gastrointestinal Surgery - Esophagus and Stomach Division, Department of Surgery, Federal University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil. At the same institution, he obtained his MD, residence training, M. Sc. and PhD. He was a fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, US, under Dr. Marco Patti and at the University of Rochester, Rochester, US, under Dr. Jeffrey Peters. His main interest is in the physiology and surgery of the esophagus. You may connect with Dr. Herbella through Instagram and Facebook.
“Reviewers are science gatekeepers,” says Dr. Herbella when he is asked the role of peer review in science. In this era of competitiveness and insatiable quest for a long CV, he believes reviewers must keep the high standards of science and prevent the dissemination not only of unethical papers but also useless studies that will only make harder the search for adequate information.
Technically speaking, Dr. Herbella elaborates that reviewers must bear in mind that they must handle the process as they would like their manuscripts to be managed. They must focus on the scientific soundness of the content, rather than on format, style, etc. Suggestions must be brief, with clear recommendations for improvement even if the decision was to reject since the authors can amend the manuscript and have a second chance elsewhere, unless there are ethical or unfixable methodological problems.
From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Herbella regards Conflict of Interest (COI) as the key to keeping science ethical. Some people believe that researchers cannot be sponsored or have COI. This is untrue. Sponsored research can follow all ethical standards if the researchers have full control of methods and results presentation. Readers must be aware of the COI to have a critical eye if the study was in accordance with ethical standards. One must remember that COI is usually linked to financial ties but there are other possible COIs such as hierarchical (One must write this because he/she is under this person or working for this institution or government) or even self-assertion (One will not contradict what he/she said in the past even though further analysis showed that what he/she said was wrong).
“Science is no more than an exchange of thoughts among scholars: in scientific communications, meetings, lectures, etc. We also communicate anonymously peer-reviewing our colleagues. Keep in mind that your role is essential to maintain this tradition in the current world where people try to isolate themselves,” says Dr. Herbella.
(By Brad Li, Eunice X. Xu)
Ihsan Al Bayati
Dr. Ihsan Al Bayati is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L. Foster School of Medicine, El Paso, Texas, USA. He graduated from Al Nahrain University, School of Medicine in Iraq and did Internal Medicine training at Texas Tech University where he was chosen as chief resident during the last year of training. Then, he finished gastroenterology training in the same institution. After graduation, he joined the faculty to continue to take care of patients and train fellows in the Gastroenterology fellowship program. He is the director of the resident and student rotation in the Division of Gastroenterology. Dr. Al Bayati is interested in clinical research. His research is focused on colon cancer screening, small bowel enteroscopy, and video capsule endoscopy among other gastrointestinal diseases and topics.
Peer review, according to Dr. Al Bayati, is an assessment and validation of the quality and originality of research papers, whether they are case reports, reviews, retrospective or prospective studies. Peer review improves the quality of scientific manuscripts since reviewers are usually experts in the field and they ask questions and suggest additional resources that make publications quality significantly better to serve advancements in the field of medicine. He explains, “Sometimes we have to criticize research and highlight the weaknesses in the experimental design or results. This is meant to help researchers achieve solid, evidence based findings and conclusions in their study and is not meant to be destructive or discouraging at all.”
From a reviewer’s point of view, Dr. Al Bayati encourages authors to share their research data. With the advancement of communication around the world, data sharing between researchers helps avoid repeating other researcher’s mistakes and build up on other researcher’s findings to make progress more efficiently and more cost-effectively.
“Reviewers are often volunteers. We are the tools and servants of the advancement of science and research in medicine. Without this research, we can’t improve our diagnostic or therapeutic methods and wouldn’t achieve new approach to prevent various diseases,” says Dr. Al Bayati.
(By Brad Li, Eunice X. Xu)
Dr. Christopher DuCoin, MD, MPH, FACS, is Vice Chair of Surgery and Division Chief of GI & General Surgery at the University of South Florida in Tampa, USA. He is also the Fellowship Director for Foregut Surgery, Director of Robotic Surgery, and Chief of the Digestive Disease Institution at Tampa General Hospital. His research is focused on clinical outcomes data. His interest in clinical research leads to the formation of the Surgery Outcomes Research Team (SORT), a group of 63 medical students who published 21 manuscripts and 6 book chapters this year. Dr. DuCoin believes in surgical mentorship not only in the operating room but also through research. Connect with Dr. DuCoin on Twitter @chrisducoin.
A robust peer review, according to Dr. DuCoin, is based on a transparent system that is known to both the authors and the readership. A key area is to ensure the reviewers are both ‘experts’ while at the same time can provide meaningful reviews to the editors. To be an expert, one would assume they are either clinically engaged in the topic of a review or they themselves have published articles on the topic. Regarding the meaningful review, he thinks it goes back to the editorial team, to ensure that the work submitted by reviewers is relevant, appropriate, and complements the work, rather than being done out of malice. Thus, a healthy review process is known to all those involved and is one of the many responsibilities of the editorial team.
However, in Dr. DuCoin’s opinion, there can never be enough transparency and education on a topic, including the peer review process. While the authors, reviewers, and editors will have a deep understanding of the review process, the readership might not. Manners in which to improve this can range anywhere from educating and informing the readership, to soliciting them in the actual review process. Therefore, he believes much can be learned from the review process.
“Reviewing for AOE is an enjoyable process as the journal produces fantastic work on a topic that I am extremely interested in. The review process also keeps the reviewer at the forefront of what is being studied. I would highly encourage reviewing for AOE if you have an interest in the pathology or pathophysiology of the esophagus,” says Dr. DuCoin.
(By Brad Li, Alisa Lu)