How to review a paper for a journal Dr Stephanie Dancer Editor Journal of Hospital Infection
What is Peer Review? • Peer review (also known as refereeing) is the process of subjecting an author's scholarly work, research or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the same field. • It can be anonymous or it can be open, i.e. the authors may, or may not, know who the referee is Source: Wikipedia
Why do we review papers for journals? Helps select an article among many others that is worthy of publication Usually improves an article Helps to detect publishing fraud We have a duty to publish articles that are ultimately going to make life better for everyone; reviewing a paper is in essence a public service
You are asked to review an original article for a journal But is it appropriate for you?
Look at the title; does it interest you?Read the abstract; is it within your area of experience or expertise?Do you feel comfortable in passing an opinion on it? HAVE YOU GOT TIME TO REVIEW THE PAPER?
Evaluation of an article Is it new? Is there enough new data to interest the readership? Is it readable (logical sequence of sentences)? Can you understand it? Is the content of the article within the appropriate section headings?
Before the paper is even accepted for review • Manuscripts must be accompanied by a signed letter indicating that all named authors have seen and agreed to the submitted version • All those being acknowledged or who have provided personal communications must agree to be mentioned • The material is original, unpublished and has not been submitted elsewhere • Size of the paper (word count) does not exceed set limits • Written in Journal style……including the references • Any previous or pending publication of the material must be declared (e.g.. conference presentations) • All authors must declare their sources of funding and whether there are any potential conflicts of interest. • Do people really copy other people’s work?
“I’ve already written the paper. I can’t understand why the results don’t fit!”
What makes up an original scientific paper? • Title • Abstract: • Introduction: • Methods: • Results: • Discussion: • Conclusion: • Acknowledgements; Conflict of interests; Funding; Search strategy • References
Title page • Title page: this should show the title, names of all authors and the department where the work was done, as well as the contact details of the author for correspondence. • A running title not exceeding 40 characters and spaces should also be provided. • Some journals specify key words, to help with internet searches for related papers • What’s in a title?
Abstract or Summary • Accurately and succinctly describes the objective, methods, results and conclusion of the paper in <250 words • Some journals like it structured • The summary is the most important part of a paper to write well, since it is seen by far more people than the paper itself. It must therefore be concise, clear and accurately reflect the contents of the paper.
Introduction • Sets the scene – have the authors included the most recent and most appropriate references? • Are you told exactly what the objectives are?
Methods • Types of study: Prospective; retrospective; cross-over; outbreak; laboratory-based; clinical; quasi-experimental; blinded; double-blinded; controlled (or not); randomised (or not); interventional; descriptive; observational; surveillance; survey; analytical; educational; quantitative; qualitative; systematic; population-based; cohort; local; multi-site; compassionate; voluntary; sponsored; pilot; hospital, healthcare or community; • Adequately described; appropriate for objective; MIC’s of Pestiococcus to wundermycin • Ethics • Statistics
Results • Logical; sequential; comprehensive • Results take time to go through; look for visual Figures or Tables that illustrate the main findings. Would the text stand alone if the Tables and Figures are removed? Do they aid comprehension or are they just clutter? Are they properly labelled? • Are values correctly notated, and are they accompanied by statistical values? If the word ‘significant’ is used, then there should be some statistical values….whatever statistics are reported, it should still be obvious from the reported data what the main findings are!
A picture paints a thousand words Imprint of a health care worker's gloved hand after examining a patient with C.difficile. The larger yellow colonies outlining the fingers are the spore-forming anaerobe. The patient had showered an hour before examination. Bobulsky GS et al, CID 2007
S. aureus dispersal from nasal & perineal carriers Solberg, Acta Med Scand Sppl.1965
Figure: Five-year changes in antimicrobial susceptibility patterns in nosocomial strains of Escherichia coli. SAM, sulbactam-ampicillin.
Discussion • Should not describe the meaning of life! • Should not repeat the results again • Should not make claims that are not fully supported by the findings • Can speculate….but only if it is clearly speculation • Should make recommendations on new policy, or policy changes, or further work and future direction of that work
And the rest…. • Conclusion (or concluding paragraph): Leaves you in no doubt; summarise any further work or policy change • Acknowledgements: Authors should acknowledge help received in carrying out the work reported, e.g. supply of bacterial strains, permission to study patients, molecular or biotyping of strains, etc • Dedication • Conflict of interests • Funding • Search strategy
The references…. • Were the most appropriate references chosen? • Over-referenced! • Duplicate referencing • Insufficient • Annotation within the text • ‘Ghost’ references • Written in the correct style for the Journal
Reference Style References should comply with the ‘Vancouver’ style. For a full explanation of this see the Br Med J 1988; 286: 401–405. Fallon RJ. Nosocomial infections with Legionella pneumophila. J Hosp Infect 1980; 1: 299–305. Some journals stipulate that www addresses must not be used as references. Put them into the text or use an annotation for a footnote. The best way to check the reference style is to get hold of a copy of the journal to which the paper is being submitted.
Verdict options • Reject • Revise to a letter • Revise & resubmit • Accept after revision • Accept as is • Remove after acceptance • Retract
What will help you to make a decision? Is this paper saying anything new?Is it going to change anything?Is it going to be cited by others?Is it going to ignite media interest?Could you stand up and justify publication?Do you actually care whether it’s published?
If the paper does not offer new material, then it should not be published.Why not?One exception, would be a variation on a theme that nicely illustrates an old lesson worth remembering.
Open access vs. traditional • Supposedly quicker • The authors have to pay for the privilege • No internet: no access • Unlimited text; tables; figures; appendices • Freely available to everyone • Referees are identified • Pre-publication history available • Worldwide review - and the world’s comments!
What’s in it for the referee? • Professional satisfaction • Continued professional development • Ideas for the future; easier to get published yourself • Networking and teamworking • Peer recognition • Public service Peer review is a courageous thing to do, because you have to put yourself on the line professionally
Feedback!How did you do?What was the editorial verdict?Author challenge! A conflict of interest arises when a reviewer and author have a disproportionate amount of respect (or disrespect) for each other.
Want to be a referee? • How do you start? • Find an editor or mentor and ask • Establish an area of interest and expertise • Don’t refuse anything (at the start) • Return a timely review • Know your limitations • Be kind to authors
"There seems to be no study too fragmented, no hypothesis too trivial, no literature too biased or too egotistical, no design too warped, no methodology too bungled, no presentation of results too inaccurate, too obscure, or too contradictory, no analysis too self-serving, no argument too circular, no conclusions too trifling or too unjustified, and no grammar and syntax too offensive for a paper to end up in print." The ‘Black Box’ of Peer Review………… Drummond Rennie, Deputy Editor, JAMA
Reviewing for JHI • Instructions for authors: • www.editorialmanager.com/jhi/AuthInstr.html • Instructions for referees: • www.editorialmanager.com/jhi/account/referee.html • Is the paper appropriate for YOU? • Is the paper appropriate for JHI?
Acknowledgements • Authors and potential authors! • All my assistant editors • All the referees on the JHI database • Both statistical advisors • Nichola Atherton, Editorial Assistant
Dress codes for NHS staff: January issue J Hosp Infect: all has been revealed………………….. Cartoon from Private Eye, 2007