Reviewer of the Month (2022)

Posted On 2023-08-03 17:47:10

In 2022, JMAI 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, 2022
Joshua Levy, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, USA

August, 2022
Joel Palko, West Virginia University School of Medicine, USA

June, 2022

Joshua Levy

Dr. Joshua Levy currently affiliates with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center as an Assistant Professor in the departments of Pathology and Computational Biomedicine. He serves as the Director of Digital Pathology Research. His previous tenure was at Dartmouth Health, where he served as faculty in the Departments of Pathology, Dermatology, and Epidemiology. At Cedars-Sinai, his research direction is to advance digital pathology technologies, ensuring they seamlessly fit into clinical workflows, and explore spatial molecular heterogeneity, particularly around tumors. They are currently developing numerous AI diagnostic aids that show promise in various areas of anatomic pathology– for instance, enhancing surgical precision and simulating tissue staining processes. Particularly in cytopathology, they are leveraging AI for bladder cancer screening—a venture that has led them to an exciting multi-center validation study. Additionally, their team is utilizing machine learning to enhance departmental processes, such as tools designed to audit pathology reports via interactive web dashboards. Connect with Dr. Levy on LinkedIn, or learn more about him here.

JMAI: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Levy: Peer review acts as a vital checkpoint in the scientific process, ensuring that published research is robust, relevant, and of high quality. It provides authors with insightful feedback to refine and enhance their work. The process entails a meticulous evaluation to ascertain if the research aligns with the journal's scope, is methodologically sound, yields reproducible results, effectively addresses the posed questions, and if the gathered data support the draw conclusions. Additionally, reviewers assess the clarity of presented limitations. While some perceive reviewers as gatekeepers due to their substantial influence on an article's fate, their primary role is advisory. They guide authors to make improvements, ensuring that even if an article is not accepted in one journal, it is well positioned for submission and publication elsewhere.

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

Dr. Levy: Navigating potential biases is integral to a transparent and fair peer-review process. One common concern is “affiliation bias”, where the author’s institutional ties or any affiliation with the reviewer might carry unintentional influence. I try to maintain as objective as possible during my review and do not accept reviewer invitations that I feel may compromise my ability to provide objective feedback based on affiliations. I will usually only weigh in on areas within my domain of expertise, confining my feedback to what I know and suggesting additional required reviewer expertise to the editor if supplementary input is required. Authors frequently have a deep understanding of their subject, sometimes surpassing that of their reviewers. It is crucial for authors to articulate any specialized knowledge clearly in a way that readers can understand, even if it extends beyond the reviewer's domain of expertise. This is important feedback that the reviewer can also provide in addition to methodological considerations to maximize the impact of their work.

Another form of bias, “confirmation bias”, can be tricky. I might harbor certain expectations about a study based on prior knowledge or beliefs. However, if authors present compelling evidence that challenges my initial perspective, I am open to reevaluation. It is commendable when authors earnestly address feedback, either by incorporating suggestions or articulating what limitations exist to explain why prior research might not align with their findings. An effort to engage with reviewer feedback, even if it is partial, speaks volumes about the research's integrity.A rising trend is the double-blind peer-review process, enhancing objectivity by removing potential “affiliation bias”. Publicly publishing reviews alongside the articles also fosters accountability on behalf of the reviewer, ensuring more balanced assessments.

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

Dr. Levy: Data sharing in scientific research has grown significantly in recent years, and I firmly believe it is essential to support such endeavors. At its core, data sharing bolsters reproducibility, allowing peers to corroborate research outcomes, identify biases, and potentially enrich the collective findings by integrating additional data. In addition, it lays the groundwork for broader collaborations, inviting partner institutions to harness the research data or facilitating a broader understanding of findings across diverse patient demographics. Furthermore, this shared data can be repurposed. Researchers can leverage it to boost the statistical power of their studies or even derive new insights that the original authors might not have anticipated. For instance, in the context of meta-analyses, it is often essential to pool data across institutions. Yet, without shared data, this becomes challenging, especially when interpreting multivariable findings that need to be contextualized against the adjusted confounders.

When disseminating data, it is imperative to recognize the effort and resources behind its generation and to identify/interface with all involved stakeholders. Moreover, we should be mindful to prevent any unintended use of the data beyond what is stipulated during its release. Funding bodies, like the National Institutes of Health, are increasingly spotlighting data sharing and management, earmarking specific resources for these initiatives. However, the associated costs can fluctuate depending on the nature of the data being shared.

Privacy and security, particularly when it comes to identifiable patient data, stand at the forefront of our concerns. Risk mitigation strategies to prevent potential leaks of identifiable data are essential. However, they can sometimes act as a constraint to seamless data sharing among institutions. Addressing them necessitates secure computational environments, and while there are platforms to facilitate safe data sharing, inherent barriers persist. Instead of sharing comprehensive datasets, we might need to consider sharing only essential statistical parameters or encrypted data snippets, obfuscated to maintain privacy. This paradigm shift emphasizes the importance of algorithmic innovations like federated learning, secure multiparty computation, and homomorphic encryption. Such methodologies empower researchers to utilize shared insights without jeopardizing data confidentiality.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

August, 2022

Joel Palko

Dr. Joel Palko is a clinician-scientist in the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, USA. His research interests include understanding the role of ocular blood flow in the pathophysiology of glaucoma and the creation of clinical support tools to aid glaucoma surgeons in personalizing glaucoma treatment strategies. Ongoing projects include the development of multimodal models to help predict glaucoma surgical outcomes and the use of novel ultrasound imaging to measure blood flow to the optic nerve head.

In Dr. Palko’s mind, taking time out of a researcher’s busy schedule to thoughtfully and respectfully critique scientific literature is critical to our current scientific method. Peer review, while not without flaws, contributes greatly to the confidence of the reader in the quality and integrity of the publication. He also believes peer review is essential to help authors provide the best possible version of their work to the scientific community. The invaluable perspectives and critiques have undoubtedly elevated the impact of his own publications.

Dr. Palko reviews manuscripts in the same manner in which he would want his own submissions to be reviewed. He underscores the importance of generosity with one’s time and respect for the dedication authors invest in their manuscripts. He will commonly delve into related research when reviewing a manuscript, which is a learning opportunity that provides the context necessary to thoughtfully critique manuscripts. In addition, his motivation for engaging in peer review is rooted in a passion for both learning from fellow researchers and contributing to the enhancement of scientific literature within his field.

Lastly, Dr. Palko advocates for increased Conflict of Interest (COI) transparency in the research community. He emphaszies the importance of a tiered COI system based on magnitude. A tiered system is critical, as all COIs do not carry the same weight and risk to the stakeholder.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)