Reviewer of the Month (2024)

Posted On 2024-03-01 14:17:15

In 2024, JECCM 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, 2024
Michael Semanco, Lakeland Regional Health, USA

February, 2024
Morten A Horn, Oslo University Hospital, Norway

January, 2024

Michael Semanco

Michael Semanco, PharmD, BCPS, BCCCP, FCCM, is a Critical Care Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at Lakeland Regional Health. He graduated with his PharmD from Duquesne University in 2002 and completed a PGY1 Pharmacy Residency at UPMC Mercy and a PGY2 Critical Care Residency at WellSpan York Hospital. He has been at his current position since 2006 and his practice includes caring for patients in the medical, surgical, and trauma ICUs. He is the current Chair of the Code 99 Committee and actively participates in various other committees including the ECMO Steering Committee, Council of Pharmacy Residency Research, and the ICU Committee. He is also a preceptor for multiple pharmacy residency programs and has served as the Director of both the PGY1 Pharmacy and PGY2 Critical Care Residency Programs. Dr. Semanco’s current research and practice areas of interest include pain, agitation, and delirium, resuscitation, and sepsis management. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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

Dr. Semanco: I think some of the limitations are the selection of the reviewers and the lack of a consistent definition of a peer. It is difficult to identify reviewers who have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide meaningful feedback concerning a submission. Reviewers should not only be an expert in the field of study, but they should also be an expert in study design and statistics. These skills are necessary in order to fully evaluate the study and to provide questions and constructive feedback to the authors. As for the peer concept, how do you define a peer to the author? Reviewers are usually volunteers who provide their personal time and effort in the review process. I would like to think reviewers are professionals who have a desire to participate in the process and ensure manuscripts are completed in an ethical manner. I think one way to improve the process is for journals to offer a mentorship program to young professionals to teach them the necessary skills and knowledge to become a skilled reviewer.

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

Dr. Semanco: I try to limit bias by acknowledging any preconceived ideas I have about the topic being reviewed. I attempt to begin the review process with an open mind and place myself in the author’s role. What message is the author trying to deliver and is there validity to that message? As the reviewer, I try to evaluate the manuscript and answer those questions without thinking I already know the answers. I try to be objective and provide feedback based on the manuscript and not what my personal feelings or experiences are with the subject.

JECCM: Would you like to say a few words to encourage other reviewers who have been devoting themselves to advancing scientific progress behind the scene?

Dr. Semanco: Yes, being a reviewer is a very important part of the publication process. Although we are not financially compensated for our efforts, I think authors, and ultimately the readers, appreciate our time and expertise. Personally, I find it very challenging and rewarding to review manuscripts and feel I am contributing to patient care in a very different way than I do on a daily basis in my clinical role. I would encourage anyone who is interested, or who would like to publish manuscripts in the future, to get involved in the process and contribute to patient care in a different way!

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

February, 2024

Morten A Horn

Morten Andreas Horn, MD, PhD, is a senior consultant in neurology at the Department of Neurology, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway. His PhD work from 2016 centered on a survey of Norwegian patients with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy. In addition to working with leukodystrophies, he is currently the leader of a multidisciplinary team for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as a working group for intensive care neurology at his department. He has an invested interest in neuropalliation and in neuroethics, in particular the ethics of end-of-life issues.

Dr. Horn thinks peer review is the foundation of the system of scientific publications. Any reader can study a published paper and make up one’s own opinion of the quality and soundness of the research. However, there are few real options for a discussion about the methods, the results and the interpretation, once a paper has been published and printed. Therefore, the peer-review process offers a unique and timely opportunity for a critical review of the proposed paper. Importantly, the peer reviewer may offer the authors a chance to clarify issues that are unclear or ambiguous, or to revisit assertions that may not really hold water, or that may be interpreted in ways they will not condone. Therefore, in order to present their best arguments to the readership, authors will benefit from a thorough examination of their paper by a peer reviewer. In daily medical practice, with the ease afforded by the internet and sources like PubMed, medical papers are readily retrieved and used to inform complicated decisions with real consequences for patients. This practical application of medical science is founded on the reliability of the printed research – while the users rarely can be expected to perform their own expert review of the paper. Therefore, peer reviewers play an important role in safeguarding the quality of scientific papers.

In Dr. Horn’s experience, the main limitation of the peer-review system is the lack of time for qualified peer reviewers to critically review papers submitted for publication. Perhaps the productivity of the scientific community is simply too high for the peer-review system to keep up. Infrequently manuscripts at a glance are unfinished upon submittance. He suggests editors might play a more active role in rejecting obviously unfinished manuscripts (or asking for resubmitting a more completed document), with less involvement of peer review in the initial phase.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)