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Review the ‘peer review’

Article in Reproductive biomedicine online · August 2017


DOI: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2017.08.017

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5 authors, including:

Christophe Blockeel Panagiotis Drakopoulos


University Hospital Brussels Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Liège
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Nikolaos Polyzos
Instituto Universitario USP Dexeus
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ARTICLE IN PRESS

1 bs_bs_query
Q2 Commentary
2 bs_bs_query

3 bs_bs_query Review the ‘peer review’


4 bs_bs_query

5 bs_bs_query
Q1 Christophe Blockeel a,b,c,*, Panagiotis Drakopoulos a,b, Nikolaos P Polyzos a,b,d,
6 bs_bs_query Herman Tournaye a,b, Juan Antonio García-Velasco e
a
7 bs_bs_query Centre for Reproductive Medicine, UZ Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 101, 1090 Brussel, Belgium
b
8 bs_bs_query Department of Surgical and Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
c
9 bs_bs_query Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, School of Medicine, University of Zagreb, Croatia
d
10 bs_bs_query Department of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Health, Aarhus University, Denmark
e
11 bs_bs_query IVI Madrid, Madrid, Spain
12 bs_bs_query

13 bs_bs_query

14 bs_bs_query A B S T R A C T
15 bs_bs_query

16 bs_bs_query Peer review has been the main form of appraisal of scientific knowledge for over a century. In essence, this process involves the evaluation of a sci-
17 bs_bs_query entific finding by independent experts prior to its dissemination to the scientific community, in an attempt to ensure that both the research and conclusions
18 bs_bs_query meet the necessary standards regarding quality, accuracy, relevance and novelty. However, although ‘peer review’ is considered the current gold stan-
19 bs_bs_query dard, it is far from perfect. A focus on the methodology of an article and reviewers’ training are key messages for the scientific community. Guidelines
20 bs_bs_query on how to review an article are needed and may help reviewers deal with this difficult process.
21 bs_bs_query © 2017 Reproductive Healthcare Ltd. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

22 bs_bs_query

23 bs_bs_query

Given the absence of relevant articles regarding ‘peer review’ in 46 bs_bs_query

24 bs_bs_query Is peer review necessary? journals of reproductive medicine, the purpose of this opinion paper 47 bs_bs_query

25 bs_bs_query
is to evaluate the current status of peer review in this field of medi- 48 bs_bs_query

26 bs_bs_query Peer review has been the main form of appraisal of scientific knowl- cine per se. There is no intention to criticize potential conflicts of 49 bs_bs_query

27 bs_bs_query edge for over a century. In essence, this process involves the evaluation interest, publication biases, or evaluate other contentious aspects of 50 bs_bs_query

28 bs_bs_query of a scientific finding by independent experts (i.e. referees) prior to the process (e.g. whether the ‘peer review’ should be anonymous, or 51 bs_bs_query

29 bs_bs_query its dissemination to the scientific community, in an attempt to ensure whether authors should be blinded to reviewers and vice versa), as 52 bs_bs_query

30 bs_bs_query that both the research and conclusions meet the necessary stan- these controversial topics have been extensively debated already in 53 bs_bs_query

31 bs_bs_query dards regarding quality, accuracy, relevance and novelty (Burnham, the medical literature (Manchikanti et al., 2015; Smith, 2006). 54 bs_bs_query

32 bs_bs_query 1990).
33 bs_bs_query Scientific journals are under considerable pressure to ensure the 55 bs_bs_query

34 bs_bs_query integrity and accuracy of the scientific articles they publish, in order
56 bs_bs_query

35 bs_bs_query to maintain the continued trust placed upon them. Furthermore, as


36 bs_bs_query the number of submitted articles has increased substantially over
Tasks of the reviewer 57 bs_bs_query

37 bs_bs_query recent years (Spier, 2002), it has become routine for journals to select 58 bs_bs_query

38 bs_bs_query only the highest quality manuscripts for publication. In order to achieve Reviewing with an imposed deadline is a time-consuming and labo- 59 bs_bs_query

39 bs_bs_query this challenging goal, a number of qualified reviewers seems fun- rious task. It can take several hours over a number of days to consider 60 bs_bs_query

40 bs_bs_query damental for every scientific journal. a manuscript appropriately, reviewing previous relevant literature, 61 bs_bs_query

41 bs_bs_query

42 bs_bs_query * Corresponding author.


43 bs_bs_query E-mail address: Christophe.Blockeel@uzbrussel.be (C Blockeel).
44 bs_bs_query http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rbmo.2017.08.017
45 bs_bs_query 1472-6483/© 2017 Reproductive Healthcare Ltd. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article in press as: Christophe Blockeel, Panagiotis Drakopoulos, Nikolaos P. Polyzos, Herman Tournaye, Juan Antonio García-Velasco, Review the ‘peer
review’, Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2017.08.017
ARTICLE IN PRESS
2 REPRODUCTIVE BIOMEDICINE ONLINE ■■ (2017) ■■–■■

62 bs_bs_query evaluating the methodology, formulating comments and a conclu- homogeneous reviewing, which may standardize and improve the 119 bs_bs_query

63 bs_bs_query sion. The report of the reviewer, which itself is an intellectual quality of the review process. 120 bs_bs_query

64 bs_bs_query document, should be clear and concise, to help the associate/ 121 bs_bs_query

65 bs_bs_query section editor and the editor decide whether to proceed or not with 122 bs_bs_query

66 bs_bs_query the manuscript. Therefore, it should be written in a clear, succinct Focus on methodology 123 bs_bs_query

67 bs_bs_query and neutral but decisive tone.


124 bs_bs_query

68 bs_bs_query

One of the most crucial skills is the meticulous evaluation of the meth- 125 bs_bs_query

69 bs_bs_query odology of a research paper. We consider that the Methods section 126 bs_bs_query

70 bs_bs_query Standardization of peer review of a manuscript is the most vital part, because a poor methodology 127 bs_bs_query

may lead to biased results, limiting the clinical extrapolation of an 128


71
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article. Although scientific interest and innovation remain key com- 129 bs_bs_query

72 bs_bs_query Although ‘peer review’ is considered the gold standard for the ap-
ponents of medical research, the lack of proper methodology 130 bs_bs_query

73 bs_bs_query praisal of scientific knowledge, it remains far from perfect (Godlee


undermines the value of any novel idea. On the other hand, even less 131 bs_bs_query

74 bs_bs_query et al., 1998). Furthermore, the process itself seems to have re-
interesting clinical results may have merit when the research is based 132 bs_bs_query

75 bs_bs_query mained largely unchanged over the years, which is in stark contrast
on a robust methodological approach. In this regard, reviewers should 133 bs_bs_query

76 bs_bs_query to the evolution in evidence-based medicine following the establish-


be encouraged to prioritize manuscripts using the correct method- 134 bs_bs_query

77 bs_bs_query ment of uniform criteria for reporting of randomized trials


ology instead of those that are fluently written or present statistically 135 bs_bs_query

78 bs_bs_query [Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) statement]


significant results (Garmel, 2010), only showing P-values for data in- 136 bs_bs_query

79 bs_bs_query (Schulz et al., 2010) and meta-analyses [Preferred Reporting Items


terpretation (Farland et al., 2016). Nevertheless, given that several 137 bs_bs_query

80 bs_bs_query for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA statement)]


reviewers have no or limited statistical knowledge, a panel of per- 138 bs_bs_query

81 bs_bs_query (Moher et al., 2009).


manent statistical reviewers with expertise in the field would be a 139 bs_bs_query

82 bs_bs_query
valuable option, because it is the only way to safeguard high-quality 140 bs_bs_query

83 bs_bs_query
assessment before publication. 141 bs_bs_query

84 bs_bs_query Lack of training in peer reviewing 142 bs_bs_query

143
85
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86 bs_bs_query Most reviewers learn how to evaluate the research of their peers by
Should the impact factor matter? 144 bs_bs_query

87 bs_bs_query practice rather than by instruction or training (Benos et al., 2003). Al- 145 bs_bs_query

88 bs_bs_query though most journals do have instructions to guide the reviewers Another crucial question that should be asked is whether reviewers 146 bs_bs_query

89 bs_bs_query through the process, these vary significantly from one to another and are influenced by the impact factor of the journal to which the article 147 bs_bs_query

90 bs_bs_query fail to specify which prerequisites are to be expected from a quali- has been submitted. That is, reviewers may be more rigorous with 148 bs_bs_query

91 bs_bs_query fied reviewer. Consequently, the lack of coherent training and manuscripts submitted to high-indexed journals and less so with ar- 149 bs_bs_query

92 bs_bs_query specialization of peer reviewers could jeopardize the scientific quality ticles submitted to journals with a lower impact factor. Although we 150 bs_bs_query

93 bs_bs_query of published manuscripts and little is currently being done to raise believe that the criteria for the evaluation of a submitted article should 151 bs_bs_query

94 bs_bs_query awareness of the necessity of formal teaching in this essential skill be uniform, regardless of the journal’s impact factor, it may be stated 152 bs_bs_query

95 bs_bs_query (Schroter et al., 2004). As the current availability of training oppor- that the above-mentioned discrepancy may be part of human nature, 153 bs_bs_query

96 bs_bs_query tunities on how to perform a review is lacking, initiatives such as those not only observed in the peer review process. 154 bs_bs_query

97 bs_bs_query promoted by the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), Nevertheless, even if the reviewer judges that the submitted manu- 155 bs_bs_query

98 bs_bs_query the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) script is not suitable for publication in a journal with high impact factor, 156 bs_bs_query

99 bs_bs_query and the World Congress on Controversies in Obstetrics, Gynecology one of his/her fundamental tasks would be to provide comments that 157 bs_bs_query

100 bs_bs_query and Infertility (COGI), in organizing regular courses for reviewers, as- could help authors to improve the overall quality of a rejected paper, 158 bs_bs_query

101 bs_bs_query sociate and section editors should be further encouraged; however, and therefore make it appropriate for eventual publication in another 159 bs_bs_query

102 bs_bs_query it is notable that topics covered by ESHRE and ASRM at courses in journal. As every study has its limitations, one must bear in mind that 160 bs_bs_query

103 bs_bs_query 2017 were clearly oriented more to authors than to reviewers (Table 1). manuscripts should be judged on the study that was conducted rather 161 bs_bs_query

104 bs_bs_query Appropriate training of reviewers could be the first step towards more than the study the reviewer thinks the authors should have performed. 162 bs_bs_query

163 bs_bs_query

105 bs_bs_query

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The role of predatory journals 165 bs_bs_query

107 bs_bs_query Table 1 – Topics covered by ESHRE and ASRM at courses in


166
108 2017.
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Finally, this opinion paper would be incomplete if we did not comment 167
109 ESHRE ASRM
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on the constant generation of predatory medical journals. In fact, there 168 bs_bs_query

110 bs_bs_query Principles of study design Types of studies


is an increasing appearance of online journals publishing articles with 169 bs_bs_query

111 bs_bs_query Ethics of performing and publishing How to design a study


a questionable (if not clearly exclusively business-oriented) motiva- 170
112
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bs_bs_query research
113 bs_bs_query Writing a study How to read a paper tion, without tribute to scientific evidence and the need for excellence 171 bs_bs_query

114 bs_bs_query How does the review process work? How to evaluate a manuscript in research. Emails congratulating authors for their research and im- 172 bs_bs_query

115 bs_bs_query Engaging readers and achieving impact Media resources available to portant contributions to the field, inviting them to submit any type of 173 bs_bs_query

116 bs_bs_query interact in the communication manuscript which will be published in a short timescale due to a ‘fast’ 174 bs_bs_query

117 bs_bs_query A good oral presentation How the journal is organized review process, have become a daily phenomenon. Provocatively 175 bs_bs_query

118 Post-publication care Ethics in publishing


speaking, many of these journals with a very low or frequently 176
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Please cite this article in press as: Christophe Blockeel, Panagiotis Drakopoulos, Nikolaos P. Polyzos, Herman Tournaye, Juan Antonio García-Velasco, Review the ‘peer
review’, Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2017.08.017
ARTICLE IN PRESS
REPRODUCTIVE BIOMEDICINE ONLINE ■■ (2017) ■■–■■ 3

177 bs_bs_query unexciting impact factor may tend to accept a lower threshold of peer REFERENCES 203 bs_bs_query

178 bs_bs_query review quality and publish research of controversial value. 204 bs_bs_query

205 bs_bs_query

179 bs_bs_query
Benos, D.J., Kirk, K.L., Hall, J.E., 2003. How to review a paper. Adv. 206 bs_bs_query

Physiol. Educ. 27, 47–52. 207 bs_bs_query

180 bs_bs_query Burnham, J.C., 1990. The evolution of editorial peer review. JAMA 263, 208 bs_bs_query

181 bs_bs_query Suggestions 1323–1329. 209 bs_bs_query

Farland, L.V., Correia, K.F., Wise, L.A., Williams, P.L., Ginsburg, E.S., 210 bs_bs_query

182 bs_bs_query

Missmer, S.A., 2016. P-values and reproductive health: what can 211 bs_bs_query

183 bs_bs_query In conclusion, peer review, the current arbiter of scientific quality, clinical researchers learn from the American Statistical 212 bs_bs_query

184 bs_bs_query requires further improvement. Incentives for reviewers in order to Association? Hum. Reprod. 31, 2406–2410. 213 bs_bs_query

185 bs_bs_query enhance their motivation, such as free access to a publisher’s jour- Garmel, G.M., 2010. Reviewing manuscripts for biomedical journals. 214 bs_bs_query

Perm J 14, 32–40. 215


186 nals, could be an interesting option, especially for younger scientists.
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Godlee, F., Gale, C.R., Martyn, C.N., 1998. Effect on the quality of peer 216 bs_bs_query

187 bs_bs_query A larger focus on the methodology of an article and guidance and train- review of blinding reviewers and asking them to sign their reports: 217 bs_bs_query

188 bs_bs_query ing for reviewers would also be paramount for the broader scientific a randomized controlled trial. JAMA 280, 237–240. 218 bs_bs_query

189 bs_bs_query community. Manchikanti, L., Kaye, A.D., Boswell, M.V., Hirsch, J.A., 2015. Medical 219 bs_bs_query

190 bs_bs_query Received 16 March 2017 journal peer review: process and bias. Pain Physician 18, E1–E14. 220 bs_bs_query

191 bs_bs_query Received in revised form 8 August 2017 Moher, D., Liberati, A., Tetzlaff, J., Altman, D.G., Group, P., 2009. 221 bs_bs_query

192 bs_bs_query Accepted 8 August 2017 Preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta- 222 bs_bs_query

analyses: the PRISMA Statement. Open Med 3, e123–e130. 223


193
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bs_bs_query Declaration: The authors report no


Schroter, S., Black, N., Evans, S., Carpenter, J., Godlee, F., Smith, R., 224 bs_bs_query

194 bs_bs_query financial or commercial conflicts of 2004. Effects of training on quality of peer review: randomized 225 bs_bs_query

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Schulz, K.F., Altman, D.G., Moher, D., Group, C., 2010. CONSORT 2010 227 bs_bs_query

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statement: updated guidelines for reporting parallel group 228 bs_bs_query

randomized trials. BMJ 340, c332. 229 bs_bs_query

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Smith, R., 2006. Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science bs_bs_query

200 bs_bs_query Peer review and journals. J. R. Soc. Med. 99, 178–182. 231 bs_bs_query

201 bs_bs_query Review Spier, R., 2002. The history of the peer-review process. Trends 232 bs_bs_query

202 bs_bs_query Scientific quality Biotechnol. 20, 357–358. 233 bs_bs_query

Please cite this article in press as: Christophe Blockeel, Panagiotis Drakopoulos, Nikolaos P. Polyzos, Herman Tournaye, Juan Antonio García-Velasco, Review the ‘peer
review’, Reproductive BioMedicine Online (2017), doi: 10.1016/j.rbmo.2017.08.017
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