Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-08-04 10:58:20

In 2023, TAU 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.

January, 2023
Peter Clark, Atrium Health, USA

February, 2023
Ben Tran, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Australia

March, 2023
Petar Bajic, Cleveland Clinic, USA

April 2023
Edmund Chiong, National University Hospital, Singapore

May, 2023
Teppei Takeshima, Yokohama City University Medical Center, Japan

June, 2023
Alessandro Caputo, University Hospital of Salerno, Italy
Celeste Manfredi, University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli”, Italy

July, 2023
Makoto Kawase, Gifu University Hospital, Japan

August, 2023
Julian Chavarriaga, University of Toronto, Canada

September, 2023
Daniele Castellani, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria delle March, Italy
Simone Sforza, Meyer Hospital, Italy

October, 2023
Omer A Raheem, University of Chicago Medicine, USA

November, 2023
Jamshidkhan Chamani, Islamic Azad University, Iran
Aaron Potretzke, Mayo Clinic, USA
Ryan Flannigan, University of British Columbia, Canada

December, 2023
Michael Whalen, George Washington University Hospital, USA

January, 2023

Peter Clark

Dr. Peter Clark received his undergraduate degree in Biology from Cornell University and his medical degree at Harvard Medical School. He completed his urologic residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and subsequently did his urologic oncology fellowship training at the University of Southern California. He is currently Professor and Chairman of the Department of Urology at Atrium Health, Chair of Urologic Oncology at the Levine Cancer Institute, and Administrative Surgeon in Chief at LCI in Charlotte NC. Dr. Clark has an active clinical practice focused primarily on bladder and kidney cancer, as well as an active interest in the basic sciences. He currently serves as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Urology. He has been on the Board of Directors and has held a variety of Committee leadership roles for organizations across the breadth of Urology. He has earned numerous awards, including Best Reviewer for the Journal of Urology, UROLOGY and Urologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations. He has over 220 publications in both the clinical and basic sciences. Connect with Dr. Clark on X.

Peer review, according to Dr. Clark, is integral to the scientific process and is critical to ensure the work that is published is of the highest quality. It gives the scientific community and the public confidence that the work disseminated is reliable and held to the highest standards.

During peer review, Dr. Clark always looks for the underlying hypothesis for any given paper and starts with the question: Is this important? Is the way the methods were constructed able to answer the hypothesis? Do the data support the conclusions the authors arrived at? Are there sources of bias that should be considered as part of the analysis or should be addressed as part of the discussion?

Peer review is central to the scientific process. Without it, we will never be able to advance medical knowledge and improve the care we deliver to our patients. I am committed to doing peer review since without it, meaningful scientific progress would be severely blunted, and our patients will ultimately be the ones who would face the consequences,” says Dr. Clark.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

February, 2023

Ben Tran

Dr. Ben Tran is a medical oncologist at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Australia, where he leads the GU medical oncology group and trials program. His research revolves around GU cancers, with focuses on early drug development and real-world evidence generation. Dr. Tran is Chair of the Phase 1 Group and is recognised for his expertise in conducting First Time in Human Trials. He also leads the GU research program at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute where he has developed multi-national registries in prostate cancer, urothelial cancer, testis cancer and kidney cancer. Data from these registries have been utilized to describe treatment patterns, identify clinical and tissue-based biomarkers and inform future research strategies. Dr. Tran is also an Associate Professor at the University of Melbourne and Chair of the Germ Cell Tumour group within ANZUP.

A healthy peer-review system, in Dr. Tran’s opinion, enables reviewers to provide constructive feedback that can improve the quality of the research and subsequently the manuscript, in order to ensure that research published is of high quality and with high integrity.

Reviewers, on the other hand, should have an in-depth knowledge of the literature surrounding the topic being addressed in the paper. They should also have expertise in the type of research being conducted. Dr. Tran adds, “If they feel as though they don’t have the level of expertise required to provide a thorough review, then don’t hesitate to let the journal know. This ensures that papers are reviewed appropriately.”

Without academics who are willing to review manuscripts, we cannot ensure that published literature is a reliable source of information. And without that, we cannot make the advances in science that we need to make,” says Dr. Tran.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

March, 2023

Petar Bajic

Dr. Petar Bajic is Director of the Center for Men's Health at Cleveland Clinic, USA and an Assistant Professor of Urology at the Lerner College of Medicine. He is a board-certified urologist with fellowship training in sexual medicine. After completing a urology residency at Loyola University, he completed a fellowship in Andrology and Male Genital Reconstruction at Rush University in Chicago. Dr. Bajic is the chair of the Young Clinicians Committee of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America and holds committee appointments in several national and international organizations. He is an avid researcher with primary interests including genitourinary microbiome, penile prosthesis biofilms, Peyronie’s disease and prostate cancer survivorship. As Director of the Center for Men's Health, Dr. Bajic oversees a team of 12 men’s health physicians and advanced practice providers, as well as the center's operations, research, and education. He specializes in penile reconstruction, urologic prosthetics and BPH. Connect with Dr. Bajic on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram.

To Dr. Bajic, being a reviewer is not about ticking off a checklist, but about having a genuine commitment to upholding the highest standards when critically examining scientific manuscripts. It is also crucial to be free of personal or financial bias. He adds, “I believe it's essential to always remember why we're here: to enhance the health and well-being of patients worldwide. By reviewing with a keen and fair eye, we're not just working with words on a page but playing a part in safeguarding the health of countless individuals.

From a reviewer’s point of view, Dr. Bajic believes getting an institutional review board (IRB) approval is not just another step in the research process but a cornerstone of ethical research. This process ensures we are putting the well-being and interests of patients and participants front and center. Sometimes, the risks involved in research are not straightforward, and that is where the expertise of IRB members comes in. They are adept at spotting these nuances. Without IRB approval, we risk compromising ethical standards, and that is a line we should never cross.

Peer reviewing, for me, goes beyond just the advancement of medicine. Sure, it directly benefits patients and drives innovation, but it also provides a unique opportunity to guide and nurture authors, especially those just starting their careers. It's like passing a torch – I've been helped and guided by others in the past, and this is my way of paying it forward. Even if it sometimes feels like a thankless task, the impact it has on the scientific community is truly immeasurable, and that in itself is rewarding,” says Dr. Bajic.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

April 2023

Edmund Chiong

Associate Professor Edmund Chiong is currently the Head and Senior Consultant of the Department of Urology, National University Hospital, Singapore. He is also an Associate Professor at the National University of Singapore (NUS) and Chairman of the Genitourinary Cancer Programme, National University Cancer Institute, Singapore. Prof. Chiong completed his undergraduate medical, post-graduate surgical training, and Urology specialist training in Singapore. He subsequently underwent a 2-year clinical fellowship program in Urologic Oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, USA. His clinical sub-specialty interests are in Urologic Oncology and robotic surgery. His research interests include investigating diagnostic modalities and new therapies for urologic malignancies (especially prostate and bladder cancers), and with minor interests in investigating urinary tract infections, and medical device innovation. He publishes actively in those fields and he also runs a number of clinical trials in bladder and prostate cancers.

TAU: What role does peer review play in science?

Prof. Chiong: I believe that anonymous, non-profit peer-review that is unbiased is critical to ensure high standards and maintain rigor in scientific publications. This process of allowing experts of the same field to assess the article and provide feedback will not only help to ensure quality publications, but also maintain a level of trust in the scientific community by the general public and researchers. This may have important societal implications, especially when practices are adopted or changed based on the scientific publications cited, which in turn can affect scientific development, clinical protocols, as well as people’s lives and health. The reviewers’ suggestions may also potentially help authors to improve their study design, methodology, data analysis, interpretation of results and how their study fits into the body of knowledge in published literature. Overall, I feel that peer review is an essential process of assessing the scientific quality, and providing scrutiny for the merit and integrity of any articles, before it can be accepted for publication.

TAU: What reviewers have to bear in mind while reviewing papers?

Prof. Chiong: Reviewers should understand that they bear the important responsibility of determining between quality research and work that suffers from poor design or methodology, unsubstantiated conclusions or biases. When reviewing articles, reviewers may need to do background “homework” of ensuring that they are up-to-date on the latest developments and guidelines in the relevant field, so as to be able to provide a clear, objective and unbiased opinion on the assessed article. Despite this being an often unrecognized and non-publicized service, I feel that reviewing can still be meaningful and rewarding, if reviewers have the perspective of trying to constructively help authors improve on their paper or study, and that they are also contributing to the maintenance of high-quality research in general. This perspective could also help reduce the chance of introducing personal biases, unconstructive or unrealistic criticisms and lack of objectivity in the review process. Furthermore, reviewing other’s work could also benefit the reviewer by helping to improve one’s own knowledge in the field and scientific thinking.

TAU: Data sharing is prevalent in scientific writing in recent years. Do you think it is crucial for authors to share their research data?

Prof. Chiong: Data sharing can be useful to provide stronger evidence to substantiate specific findings. It may also allow for less biases and increased transparency in handling data. However, one must be aware of the potential risks and pitfalls of data sharing, which can include introducing unintended variability from heterogeneity of the population or intervention studied, data-protection and patient confidentiality issues.

(by Masaki Lo, Brad Li)

May, 2023

Teppei Takeshima

Dr. Teppei Takeshima is currently an Assistant Professor at the Department of Urology, Reproductive Center, Yokohama City University Medical Center, Yokohama, Japan. He holds a Ph.D. and a Master’s degree in Health Data Science, specializing in andrology (male infertility, male sexual disorder and late-onset hypogonadism). He is a board-certified urologist of the Japanese Urological Association and a reproductive medicine specialist of the Japanese Society for Reproductive Medicine. His current research interests include biomarker search for male infertility and prediction model building using artificial intelligence technology. In his clinical practice, he has performed numerous varicocele repairs, testicular sperm extraction, and seminal tract reconstruction surgeries. Connect with Dr. Takeshima on Twitter, LinkedIn, and ResearchGate.

In Dr. Takeshima’s view, a healthy peer-review system is one that does not impose the reviewer's ideas but rather respects the author's arguments and incorporates a third party's ideas to help make the research results better. He explains, “Instead, we emphasize evidence and previous research reviews that support the authors' assertion. I believe the purpose of publishing research papers is to add new knowledge to existing knowledge, thereby leading medicine in a better direction. For this reason, we emphasize impartiality and evidence.”

Nonetheless, there are some limitations to the existing peer-review system, according to Dr. Takeshima. Since sufficient credit is not given to reviewers, their motivation may be lowered, and they may not be sufficiently motivated to make meaningful improvements that will enhance the academic value of the paper. He believes that giving reviewers some kind of justifiable credit will lead to higher quality peer review.

I am grateful for the opportunity to encounter excellent research papers. I conduct peer reviews with gratitude for being able to contribute to bringing such outstanding research to the world through the peer-review process. I review with the hope that my comments and opinions will enhance the academic value of the research,” says Dr. Takeshima.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

June, 2023

Alessandro Caputo

Dr. Alessandro Caputo is a pathologist at the University Hospital of Salerno in Italy with a great interest in computer science. His main research area is digital pathology in all its ramifications. He has recently coordinated the DELYCYUS project, a large international and multi-institutional study that for the first time applied digital pathology to lymph node cytopathology and validated the recently proposed Sydney System. His ongoing projects aim to enhance and streamline the application of computer-aided diagnosis to routine surgical pathology practice, leveraging a team of peers working at the intersection of the two fields to solve problems that are clinically relevant. You may follow Dr. Caputo on Twitter at @ACaputoMD.

Dr. Caputo regards that peer review as pivotal for quality control within the scholarly community. The process demands considerable time and effort, yet it is mutually beneficial for authors and reviewers alike. Engagements in this arena can even spark the creation of new work. On the flip side, Dr. Caputo stresses that peer review is not infallible and has shortcomings. It can be a lengthy process; thus, certain time-sensitive findings might be best disseminated as preprints as is customary in some other fields such as engineering. Moreover, Dr. Caputo highlights an often-overlooked aspect of the system: “While peer reviewers (together with editors) are responsible for quality control and gatekeeping before publication, no one is formally responsible for quality control of the peer reviewers themselves! Almost two thousand years ago, the Latin poet Juvenal asked, ‘Who is responsible for guarding the guards themselves?’ While he most certainly was not referring to peer reviewers, this is certainly still a hot topic to this day.”

Therefore, the quality of reviews truly stands out. “Some of the most useful and constructive suggestions offered by reviewers can sometimes be written between the lines,” Dr. Caputo illustrates. “A reviewer might offer a very constructive and actionable review without suggesting a single edit, but by framing the whole study from a different point of view or by expressing doubts and asking for clarifications.” To facilitate constructive reviews, Dr. Caputo suggests that reviewers should possess the following four criteria (1) the time to perform the review, (2) expertise in the subject matter, (3) expertise in the process of peer reviewing, and (4) should be free of conflicts of interest. However, he notes that not all reviewers meet these criteria, leading to destructive reviews that result from haste, unfamiliarity with the subject matter, lack of peer review experience, or conflicts of interest.

While preparing a manuscript, Dr. Caputo recommends adhering to guidelines as it saves time for both authors and reviewers, allowing for an efficient peer review process. Even if all details are present in the manuscript and nothing is missing, following reporting guidelines ensures that the paper, as a whole, follows a coherent and familiar structure. From a reviewer’s perspective, reporting guidelines are of great help. Most first-round reviews of works that did not follow these guidelines will essentially ask the authors to provide the missing details. Only after that will the work undergo actual peer review that leverages the reviewers’ skills and knowledge.

Dr. Caputo encourages other reviewers who have been devoting themselves to advancing scientific progress behind the scenes, “Thank you and keep up the good work. Know that peer review is a cornerstone of modern science, and by peer-reviewing you are contributing to science. Furthermore, you are improving your skills and understanding of the subject. One final but crucial tip: peer reviews are useful in their own right, but can be exploited further to improve your skills in deliberate practice. When you review a manuscript, always compare your review to the other reviewers’: did you overlook something? Did they offer an interesting suggestion you hadn’t thought about? Similarly, when a manuscript of yours gets peer-reviewed, before starting to work on the revision, study the reviewers’ comments as if the manuscript weren’t yours: it will make you a better author and a better reviewer.”

(by Lareina Lim, Karina Yang)

Celeste Manfredi

Dr. Celeste Manfredi is a PhD Student at University of Campania “Luigi Vanvitelli” (Naples, Italy), Research Fellow in Urology at Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, IL, USA), and Former Clinical Fellow in Andrology at HM Hospitales (Madrid, Spain). He is Member of ESSM Scientific Committee, Full Member of YAU Working Group Sexual and Reproductive Health, Associate Member of ESGURS, and Committee Member of ICSM.

His main fields of interest are Sexual Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. The core areas of his expertise include erectile dysfunction, Peyronie’s disease, male genital aesthetic surgery, and BPH.

He is Academic Editor of PLOS ONE, Editorial Board Member of BMC Urology, and Associate Editor of Revista Internacional de Andrología. He has served as a peer-reviewer for European Urology, BJUI, Minerva Urology and Nephrology, Prostate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases, Andrology, Journal of Sexual Medicine, AUA Guidelines, and Cochrane Urology. In the last two years (2021-2022), he was recognized as Platinum Reviewer for Journal of Sexual Medicine and Top 5 Reviewer for International Journal of Impotence Research. To learn more about his work, visit his website. You can also follow him on Twitter at @ManfrediCeleste or on Linkedin.

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

Dr. Manfredi: Peer review is the pillar upon which any good article is built. It is a cornerstone of the scientific method, ensuring that research published in a journal is based on correct concepts, contributes new knowledge to the field, employs appropriate methodology, is well-organized and clearly written, and is conducted ethically. In summary, peer review allows the reviewers to reasonably assume that a paper is of good quality contains reliable data, and is, therefore, worth reading.

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

Dr. Manfredi: Peer review should be conducted by experts who are experienced not only in clinical/surgical aspects but also in research, in order to properly evaluate the article. Peer reviewers should be numerous, should not know the authors personally, and should be free from conflicts of interest. In this regard, peer review should be anonymous and blinded.

Conceptual, methodological, organizational, grammatical, and statistical review of each article should be conducted. Grammatical peer review should be performed at least by one English native speaker. Statistical review should involve a statistician in case of complex data analysis. An article should always be reviewed in its entirety (including Tables, Figures, References, Supplementary Materials, and Statements). Special effort should be devoted to reviewing the ethical conduct of authors, such as Ethics Committee approval and informed consent.

Peer review should always be rigorous; however, it should be balanced and weighted according to the journal in which the article has been submitted (i.e., the greater the importance of the journal, the greater the claims of the reviewers). Sufficient time is needed to conduct a proper peer review; however, it should be conducted within a reasonable deadline so as not to delay publication of the article.

Peer review should not be a means for self-citation or for venting one's frustrations. It must always remain objective.

The awarding of payments, prizes, or recognition for peer reviewing may be reasonable but should not be the sole driving force behind the reviewers or alter the rigor of the review process. However, this is a topic of great debate that goes beyond this interview.

Peer review should always be rigorous, even in totally open-access journals that require authors to pay a fee for publication. Economic interest should never push for the publication of an article.

Finally, editors have a fundamental role in a healthy peer-review system. They are the first "filter" when a paper is submitted. They are the guarantors of the quality of the peer review and of all the above points. Editors should not know the authors directly (or at least, they should avoid favoritism). Furthermore, they, like peer reviewers, should not have conflicts of interest. Lastly, they should never be included among the authors if they are directly involved in the peer review of an article.

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

Dr. Manfredi: Carrying out clinical and surgical activities takes a lot of time, and then there are also daily extra-work commitments; consequently, free time is always very limited. On the other hand, the time needed for an adequate peer review can be quite variable and may even amount to several hours. Therefore, dedicating part of your time to peer review, typically without compensation, is primarily the result of a genuine passion for research and a firm belief that this can improve the quality of the evidence. I personally try to spend a few hours on peer reviews every evening and on weekends. Of course, accepting the role of a peer reviewer only for topics in which you are truly an expert and only from select journals can optimize your time. When you already have many commitments or during holidays, it is better to decline the role of a peer reviewer to avoid sending the review with a significant delay or submitting a review that is not rigorous.

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

Dr. Manfredi: First of all, it is important to point out that human studies almost always require IRB approval, and even if researchers assume it is not necessary, the study protocol must be submitted to the local Ethics Committee to receive exemption. Obtaining IRB approval is crucial for ethical and legal reasons in research involving human participants. It ensures participant protection, informed consent, data privacy, and scientific validity. It is essential for conducting research responsibly and maintaining the credibility of the data. Skipping the IRB process can lead to ethical concerns, harm to participants, unreliable results, legal consequences, and professional repercussions. If a research team has not obtained IRB approval, the validity of the entire manuscript should be questioned.

(by Lareina Lim, Karina Yang)

July, 2023

Makoto Kawase

Makoto Kawase currently serves at Department of Urology, Gifu University Hospital, Japan. His main research interest is in urology, urologic surgery, prostate cancer and kidney transplantation. Ongoing projects focus on efficacy and safety of neoadjuvant chemohormonal therapy and robot assisted radical prostatectomy for oligometastatic prostate cancer. Learn more about Dr. Kawase through his research page here.

Dr. Kawase believes that the desire to produce a superior journal is essential to review a paper. He points out that assurance of objectivity and quality is of paramount importance in peer review. The adherence to the deadline should also be taken into consideration as part of the qualities a reviewer should possess.

As a reviewer, Dr. Kawase respects those who make effort to review and contribute to science. To allocate time to do peer review, he sets aside a certain amount of time outside of work even though the burden of being a doctor is heavy.

In Dr. Kawase’s opinion, it is important for a research to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval as it ensures the ethical validity and scientific rationality of research. If this process is omitted, he worries that the rights of patients will not be protected or worthless papers with poor scientific basis and ethical validity will be scattered.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

August, 2023

Julian Chavarriaga

Dr. Julian Chavarriaga is a medical doctor and Urologist with his training completed at Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogota, Colombia. Currently, he is in the final stages of an SUO Uro-oncology fellowship at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. Prior to this, he served as a Staff Urologist at Clinica Imbanaco-Quiron Salud in Cali, Colombia. Throughout his career, he has successfully led numerous research projects, both during and after his training. His primary research focus at this time revolves around testicular and prostate cancer, with a strong passion for advancing the field of testicular cancer and exploring the role of miRNAs. Connect with Dr. Chavarriaga on the following platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, ResearchGate and ORCID.

Dr. Chavarriaga views a review as constructive when the reviewer invests time in thoroughly evaluating a manuscript, offering valuable feedback to enhance its quality, and guiding the authors toward the appropriate tools and methodologies. In contrast, what he considers a destructive review entails reviewers who primarily aim to critique the paper, injecting their personal opinions, but fall short of delivering substantial suggestions for manuscript improvement.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Chavarriaga reckons that authors should prioritize the sharing of their research data upon request, as this practice enhances the transparency of the results presented in their manuscript. To ensure the responsible management of such data, steps must be taken to anonymize it and restrict its usage without the explicit authorization of the authors before sharing.

The role of a clinical scientist carries a substantial burden, often with limited recognition and financial compensation for the significant efforts invested in advancing the scientific field. Nevertheless, the personal gratification derived from reviewing a manuscript can serve as a motivating force, enabling one to surmount these challenges. It's common that peer reviewing necessitates the allocation of one's own research time,” says Dr. Chavarriaga.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

September, 2023

Daniele Castellani

Daniele Castellani is a consultant urologist working in Ancona, Italy, at Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria delle March. His main research focuses on urolithiasis and lasers for BPH, particularly in the setting of endoscopic enucleation. Recently, he has been attracted by minimally invasive BPH procedures and is focusing on the use of Urolift in elderly, frail, and high-risk patients with an indwelling catheter. He is currently in the third year of his Ph.D. and his project focuses on the development of an artificial intelligence model to predict major infectious complications following flexible ureteroscopy for kidney stones. Connect with Dr. Castellani on X @D_Castellani and LinkedIn.

TAU: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Castellani: Peer review plays a fundamental role in science for several reasons. First of all, peer review acts as a quality control mechanism, helping to ensure that scientific research is of high quality and credibility. Secondly, peer review serves as a means of validating research findings. A study in a scientific journal means that it has met certain standards of excellence and can be trusted as a credible source of information. Reviewers are truly important because they often provide constructive feedback to authors, helping them improve their research and the clarity of their presentation. This iterative process can lead to better science and more robust research. Finally, peer review acts as a gatekeeper, preventing the publication or dissemination of poorly conducted or flawed research. This helps maintain the integrity of the scientific literature.

TAU: Biases are inevitable in peer review. How do you minimize any potential biases during review?

Dr. Castellani: Minimizing potential biases during the peer-review process is crucial to ensure fair and objective evaluations of scientific research. Therefore, peer review should be kept as a double-blind process where both the authors and reviewers are anonymous to each other. This prevents potential biases based on the reputation or affiliation of the authors. Minimizing bias in peer review is an ongoing process, and it requires the cooperation of journals, editors, reviewers, and the scientific community as a whole. While it may not be possible to eliminate bias, these strategies can help reduce its impact and maintain the integrity of the peer-review process.

TAU: Is it important for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI)? To what extent would a COI influence a research?

Dr. Castellani: Yes, it is critically important for authors to disclose any potential COI in their research. A COI can have a significant impact on the credibility, objectivity, and interpretation of research findings. When authors have financial, personal, or professional interests that may benefit from a particular research result, they may unconsciously or consciously shape the research in a way that aligns with their interests. By disclosing these conflicts, it becomes possible to assess the potential impact on objectivity. Disclosing COIs promotes transparency in research. It allows readers and reviewers to understand any potential biases that could influence the research.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Simone Sforza

Dr. Simone Sforza is a PhD candidate for the University of Florence, at Azienda Ospedaliero Careggi and Meyer Hospital in Florence, Italy. Dr. Sforza does research in minimally invasive surgeries, renal cell carcinoma, and pediatrics. The most important topics of research are urology, oncology, and pediatric urology. Connect with Dr. Sforza on X @SimoneSforza4.

Speaking of why peer review is essential, Dr. Sforza reckons that peer review is designed to assess the validity, originality and the quality of articles for publication and it represents a milestone for the Editor. Its ultimate purpose is to maintain the uprightness of science by filtering out invalid or poor-quality manuscripts.

Dr. Sforza indicates that constructive review is guidance that helps the Authors achieve a positive outcome. The main goal is to improve the manuscript, to highlight the criticism and to modify it according to the reviewer’s experience and the guidelines in that field. On the contrary, a destructive review focuses only on ‘destroying’ the manuscript without suggestion and is disrespectful to the work done by the authors.

To be ethically acceptable, nowadays, a clinical study must be reviewed and approved by the institutional review board (IRB). Dr. Sforza believes that the IRB determines whether the risk to potential patients of the proposed study is minimized and reasonable in relation to the impact of the expected knowledge and outcomes. Failure to obtain or omitted IRB approval before conducting clinical research could result in the researcher being powerless to use data and other information collected through the research procedure.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

October, 2023

Omer A Raheem

Omer Raheem is an American board-certified urologist specializing in men’s sexual health, male infertility and male genitourinary reconstruction in the Section of Urology, Department of Surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine. He also holds a joint appointment as an assistant professor of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. In addition, he directs the Men’s Wellness Program and Clinics at the University of Chicago Medical Center. He works closely with the University of Chicago’s Center for Reproductive Medicine and Fertility team to provide care for patients suffering with male factor infertility and supports cancer survivors at the Comprehensive Cancer Center to improve quality of erectile, urinary, and reproductive health in men. His research has been published in over 150 peer-reviewed publications and nine book chapters, most recently Male Factor Infertility. He is an associate editor of Sexual Medicine Reviews, Video Journal of Sexual Medicine, the official journals of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America as well as Associate Editor of the newly launched Journal of Urology Open Plus and Online Content Associate Editor of the Journal of Urology, the official journals of the American Urologic Association. Learn more about Dr. Raheem here, and connect with him on Twitter @OmerRaheemMD.

Dr. Raheem thinks journal peer review helps ensure the quality and accuracy of scientific research in the subject matter and even before a manuscript is accepted for publication, it undergoes scrutiny by experts in the particular field who assess the study design, methodology, data analysis, and conclusions of the manuscript been peer-reviewed. This helps identify and correct errors, biases, or methodological flaws that could compromise the validity and reliability of the research. Additionally, the peer review provides a system of checks and balances. Experts in the field evaluate the validity and significance of the findings, helping to ensure that the research contributes meaningfully to the existing body of knowledge. This process helps prevent the dissemination of unreliable or misleading information.

While the peer-review system is a crucial component of scientific publishing, it has several limitations, in Dr. Raheem’s opinion:

  • Bias and subjectivity: Peer review can be subject to biases, both implicit and explicit.
  • Inefficiency and time constraints: The peer-review process can be time-consuming, leading to delays in the dissemination of research findings.
  • Limited scope for interdisciplinary research: Traditional peer review may struggle to adequately evaluate interdisciplinary research that falls outside the expertise of individual reviewers.
  • Inability to detect fraud or misconduct: While peer review helps identify flaws in study design and methodology, it may not always detect instances of research misconduct, data fabrication, or plagiarism.
  • Lack of standardization: The peer-review process lacks standardized criteria across journals, which can lead to inconsistencies in the evaluation of manuscripts. Different journals may have different expectations and standards for review.

To address these limitations and improve the peer-review system, Dr. Raheem points out that several strategies are being explored:

  • Open peer review and post-publication peer review: Implementing more transparent and open peer-review processes can enhance accountability and reduce biases. Open peer review involves disclosing the identities of reviewers or making the entire review process publicly accessible. This model involves publishing manuscripts first and then subjecting them to peer review.
  • Diversifying reviewer pools: Ensuring a more diverse pool of reviewers can help mitigate biases and provide a broader range of perspectives.
  • Training and rewarding for reviewers: Providing training and guidelines for reviewers can help improve the quality and consistency of reviews. Additionally, recognizing and rewarding reviewers for their efforts can incentivize timely and thorough reviews.

An objective review in the context of scientific peer review refers to an unbiased, impartial, and fair evaluation of a manuscript based on its scientific merit. Here are some key principles and practices that Dr. Raheem adopts to ensure objectivity in a review. First and foremost, he separates personal biases by acknowledging and consciously set aside personal biases or preconceived notions. He systematically evaluates the science presented by assessing the manuscript based on the quality of the research design, methodology, data analysis, and interpretation of results. While its occasionally challenging, he tries his level best to focus on evidence presented in the manuscript. Avoid making assumptions or drawing conclusions not supported by the data. Importantly, he discloses his conflicts of interest (COI) to avoid any issues and he is transparent about any potential COI that could affect the ability to provide an unbiased review. This includes personal relationships, financial interests, or institutional affiliations that might impact the objectivity.

Well respected journals like TAU often provides a comprehensive Reviewer Guidelines which one could adhere to when you are conducting the review. These guidelines typically outline the specific criteria and expectations for the review process. Within the peer-review process provided by the journal, I usually provide constructive feedback that can help the authors improve their work focusing on the strengths of the manuscript as well as areas that need improvement, maintaining a balanced perspective,” says Dr. Raheem.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Jamshidkhan Chamani

Dr. Jamshidkhan Chamani is currently eminent professor of Biophysics at Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University. He graduated from Ferdowsi University of Iran with a BSA in Biology, 1995, from Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics (IBB), University of Tehran, with a M.Sc. in Biophysics, 1997, and from University of Tehran, Iran, with a Ph.D in Biophysics, 2002. In recognition of his outstanding research in the field of Science, he was selected as Essential Science Indicators (ESI) 1% citation scientist in the field of Biology in 2023. He has supervised Ph.D and M.Sc students in the cited area. He is the author of 11 books and numerous research full papers published in mostly international research journals mainly in the area of structural elucidation of protein, enzyme, DNA, and nano-formulation of anti-cancer drugs. To perform the aforementioned research works, he is working with various biophysical techniques such as: different spectroscopes, various calorimetric and electron microscopy. Learn more about him here.

The value of a scientific work, according to Dr. Chamani, depends on its expert judgement. If expert judgment is considered for scientific activities, it will cause the advancement of science and technology. Therefore, in order to approve any scientific activity, it requires specialized and deep scientific judgment. One of the methods of advancement of knowledge and technology is accurate scientific and specialized evaluation of scientific activities, because lack of scientific supervision in scientific activities will cause science and technology to go astray.

Peer reviewing is often anonymous and non-profitable. What has encouraged Dr. Chamani to engage in scientific work for more than 25 years is observing the growth and progress of students, which leads to the advancement of science and technology. Therefore, in judging the articles, he tries to examine the articles in a completely specialized way, which is a step forward.

Over the years, Dr. Chamani has experienced quite a lot of memorable stories of peer-reviewing. He thereby shares one of these stories with us, “Several years ago, a journal article was sent to me for reviewing. I designed questions about the submitted manuscript. Depending on my questions and other judges, it seems that the Editor-In-Chief of the journal rejected the article. Corresponding author of the article sent the article to another journal. Again, from the same journal, the article was sent to me for judging, and I asked the same questions. It seems that the article was rejected again. The manuscript was sent to another journal and for the third time they sent the article to me for judging and I asked the same questions again. This time, the authors performed the necessary experiments and discussed the results in the section on accuracy and results, and the article was accepted.”

(By Brad Li, Lareina Lim)

Aaron Potretzke

Dr. Aaron M. Potretzke, MD, is a consultant and associate professor of urology in the Department of Urology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, USA. He joined the staff of the Mayo Clinic in 2016. He attended medical school at the University of Minnesota and residency at the University of Wisconsin. He then completed a fellowship in minimally invasive urologic surgery and endourology at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Potretzke is the program director for the fellowship in Endourology and Minimally Invasive Urological Surgery. His clinical and research interests lie in minimally invasive surgical approaches to upper tract urothelial carcinoma, renal cell carcinoma, and upper tract stone disease. Connect with him on Twitter @potretzke.

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

Dr. Potretzke: Peer review is so important for many reasons. Perhaps most notably, it offers the work of others to be critically assessed by those with expertise, but possibly a different point of view. In many or even most cases, I think that the revision process allows authors to improve on their work and think of things that may have not initially been considered. In some cases, entirely new research questions may result. In this way, I think the review process moves us all forward.

TAU: What do you regard as a constructive/destructive review?

Dr. Potretzke: A constructive review is one in which the critical assessment of one’s work can lead to improvements in questions, tests, clinical implications and assessments. It brings other perspectives to someone’s work. A destructive review is critical without providing any insight or direction to how to make the research or the presentation of the research better.

TAU: Data sharing is prevalent in scientific writing in recent years. Do you think it is crucial for authors to share their research data?

Dr. Potretzke: Data sharing is important, but it must be done with safeguards and discretion. I think many of us are a part of groups that share data. Ultimately, we are all stewards of the research process and need to make sure that data (especially the data from our very own patients) is used in a responsible way – to try to answer important questions with accuracy and oversight. I think that well-considered data-sharing agreements and a group of authors and reviewers that can critically assess the shared data is paramount.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Ryan Flannigan

Dr. Ryan Flannigan is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urologic Sciences at the University of British Columbia, and Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Urology at Weill Cornell Medicine. He serves as the director of the Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Research Program, the Male Infertility, Sexual Medicine and Microsurgery Fellowship Program, and is the Clinical Lead at the Sexual Health Clinic for the Prostate Cancer Supportive Care Program. He has developed a research program investigating the mechanisms of cellular dysfunction for patients with non-obstructive azoospermia, and along with potential regenerative strategies. He is also working to develop technological solutions for rare sperm identification, as well as automated Peyronie’s curvature assessments in the digital medicine space. Connect with him on Twitter @RyanFlannigan00.

Dr. Flannigan thinks that peer review is critical to progress our field. It offers opportunities for our peers to offer critical insights to research, to improve the quality and reproducibility of the work. “Scientific and clinical research is the foundation by which we practice clinical medicine. As we ask more important questions, and answer these using the scientific process, we will be able to offer higher levels of clinical care,” says he.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Flannigan reckons that systematic processes for research are extremely helpful tools to guide authors to produce a more reproducible, effective, and clearly communicated contribution to the scientific literature. Therefore, he encourages authors to follow reporting guidelines, such as CONSORT and STROBE.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

December, 2023

Michael Whalen

Dr. Michael J. Whalen, MD, is Associate Professor of Urology at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Science and Director of Urologic Oncology at George Washington University Hospital. Dr. Whalen’s specialty focus involves treatment of urological cancers, with expertise in major open, minimally invasive, and robotic surgery. He is actively involved in several IRB-approved clinical outcomes research projects focusing on cancer of the prostate, bladder, and kidneys. He has published numerous original research articles in peer-reviewed journals. His current research interests including multiparametric prostate MRI and phyto-nutritional strategies for prostate cancer prevention and mitigation of disease progression for prostate cancer patients on active surveillance. Dr. Whalen also participates several ongoing national, multi-institutional cooperative group clinical trials through SWOG and ECOG-ACRIN. He is also involved in medical student education at the GW School of Medicine and Health Sciences, serving as Urology resident Research mentor. He earned the Commission on Cancer Liaison Program Outstanding Performance Award (9/2021) for his role as the Cancer Liaison Physician for GW Hospital. Learn more about him here.

In Dr. Whalen’s opinion, a reviewer should be detail-oriented, knowledgeable of the contemporary literature and existing clinical standards of care, and able to provide actionable avenues for methodological improvement for their colleagues’ projects. A reviewer brings their own cumulative experience of statistical analysis, knowledge of the evolution of historical treatment paradigms, understanding of the meaningful outcomes of interest to the critical appraisal of others’ work.

I applaud the strong efforts of those investigators committed to expanding the frontiers of knowledge and eager to engage in ongoing dialogue about impactful trends in the field. Scientists engaged in peer review have the privilege of steering the course of scientific progress and upholding the highest standards of conduct. These collective efforts coalesce into tangible improvements in medicine that ultimately promote patient wellbeing,” says Dr. Whalen.

In addition, Dr. Whalen believes that institutional review board (IRB) ensures adherence to ethical standards of clinical research, promoting not only integrity but most importantly patient safety. Without a thorough review by the IRB as part of the regulatory process, independent assurance of these standards and the qualifications of the investigators is omitted. Therefore, seeking IRB approval is a crucial step toward maintaining the highest-quality research, which then can serve as firm bedrock for evidence-based clinical decision-making.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)