Reviewer of the Month (2024)

Posted On 2024-01-29 10:29:22

In 2024, JSS 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
Won Hyung A. Ryu, Oregon Health & Science University, USA
Oscar Krol, Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, USA

February, 2024
Patrick Chang, Allegheny Health Network, USA

March, 2024
Robert F McLain, Cleveland State University, USA

January, 2024

Won Hyung A. Ryu

Dr. Won Hyung (Andrew) Ryu is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Oregon Health & Science University, USA. He completed his neurosurgical residency at the University of Calgary and fellowship training in complex and minimally invasive spine surgery at Rush University. Dr. Ryu’s academic focus is on spine surgery with a subspecialty interest in minimally invasive spine surgery and spine oncology. Aside from a busy clinical practice, he continues to be active in clinical and translational research. His research projects range from spine oncology, utilization of artificial intelligence in the management of spinal disorders, simulation-based surgical education, and large database analysis. Dr. Ryu is an executive committee member for the AANS/CNS Section on Disorders of the Spine and Peripheral Nerve along with a contributing member of the AANS/CNS Joint Guidelines Review Committee. Learn more about him here.

The responsibility of a peer reviewer, according to Dr. Ryu, is to provide an independent and unbiased assessment of scientific research to ensure that published studies have upheld proper standards of the scientific process. This requires the reviewers to be knowledgeable about research methodology, statistics, and the subject matter of interest. Furthermore, reviewers should have an in-depth understanding of the current body of evidence and published research. Utilizing these qualities, reviewers should provide constructive criticism and suggestions to improve the quality of the scientific manuscript. The peer-review process is essential in maintaining the quality of the scientific process and journal integrity.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Ryu believes that reporting guidelines are beneficial for all stakeholders of scientific research, including the authors, the journal, and the readers. They establish standardization of communication along with ensuring key components of the scientific process have been considered for the research project and manuscript.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Oscar Krol

Oscar Krol, a graduating medical student at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine, will begin a surgical prelim year in 2024 with PENN State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. In 2021, he decided to pursue a two-year research fellowship with NYU Langone Department of Orthopedic and Neurological Surgery: Division of Spine Surgery. This position got him involved with every phase of the research process, from abstract conceptualization and analysis all the way to manuscript submission and publication. This fellowship founded his desire to stay involved in academics as a clinician. The experience taught him how valuable it is for physicians to have familiarity with the research process in order to better utilize literature in clinical practice. Additionally, he finds satisfaction and enjoyment in being able to contribute some part, however large or small, to the ever-evolving body of literature which is the foundation for modern medicine.

In Dr. Krol’s experience, a healthy peer-review system is one where open collaboration and debate is encouraged. Being challenged, respectfully, by peers is crucial to provide opportunity for discussion, growth, different perspectives, and ultimately results in higher-quality evidence-based literature. He learned early on to try to leave ego out of academics, because when the goal is not to be right but to learn and advance medicine, the peer-review system works at its best.

To minimize the any potential biases during reviewing, Dr. Krol believes the first step is to acknowledge that these biases will exist, especially if the work being reviewed is potentially challenging to some aspect of the work the reviewer has performed themselves. There are several ways bias can surface and reviewers should be honest with themselves to decide whether they can provide an objective review or perhaps it is better for another peer to offer their insights.

Throughout my research experience, I have extensively discussed, and circulated my own manuscripts among fellow researchers, followed by a formal review during the publication peer-review process. The feedback and insight received provided ample opportunities to revise and strengthen work to become a higher-quality contribution to literature. Collaboration was absolutely essential and guided my growth as a researcher. Now with more experience, I enjoy paying it forward and also find satisfaction in contributing to literature in a different way, which is essential for further development as an academic clinician,” says Dr. Krol.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

February, 2024

Patrick Chang

Patrick Chang is a rising MD graduate of Drexel University College of Medicine and a research affiliate with Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Neuroscience Institute. His primary research with the AHN Neuroscience Institute focuses on spine deformity, spine quality, and patient-reported outcomes. He has a basic science research background working with Drexel University’s graduate Neurobiology and Anatomy Department investigating therapies for Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia. Under the Humanities division at Drexel University College of Medicine, he explores topics of medical humanities, including neurotics, the experience of illness, social determinants of health, and the relationship between art and medicine.

Speaking of the qualities a reviewer should possess, Dr. Chang points out that, first and foremost, a reviewer should be honest. That honesty can come in different forms, but it should always be with the priority of establishing a learning environment. Any submissions presented are a culmination of hard work and discovery, and it is our job as the reviewers to simulate the reader’s experience whilst ensuring that what is being read is held to the professionalism befitting of an academic journal. As a reviewer, he more greatly upholds the inquisitive and critical-thinking approach than assuming that one is inherently knowledgeable in the topic being presented. He believes that it is the reviewer's prerogative to verse themselves in any background knowledge that may enhance their understanding of the material while taking note that it is okay to point out where clarification may be needed. The process of reviewing should be less like an evaluation and more of a communication to determine if the key findings that the submitters are attempting to convey are properly elucidated. He adds, “At the end of the day, we have the privilege of participating in the greater machine of collective knowledge, so our intentions to ensure the quality of that knowledge and its delivery should be of essential priority over any associated accolades that may be achieved from the review process.”

According to Dr. Chang, an objective review is grounded on evidence for any logical suggestion or interpretation mentioned that is not premised on feedback related to the subjective read of the individual reviewer. That is not to say that some subjectivity is without its merits. For instance, he believes that it is perfectly appropriate to pose questions for clarification because something simply does not make sense to the reviewer, as that could be valuable feedback for the submitters as they improve the writing of their material for their target collegial audience. However, the premise of the review should be stationed in universally agreed-upon standards. Grammar, formatting, and professionalism are excellent points of scrutiny, especially with international papers. For medical journals, a proper fund of medical knowledge can be addressed with evidence to ensure that the conclusions being drawn follow a rational pattern and are not driven by researcher bias. Open-ended academic questions that further the discussion presented by the submitters can also be posed for inspiration.

From a reviewer’s perspective, Dr. Chang believes that reporting guidelines are validated tools that can help any author understand the process of an objective review of their submission, and to that end, he is not opposed to the implementation of these guidelines to fulfill reproducible self-evaluations. However, he thinks the quality of any written material, be that a submission or a review, is in its utility as constructive information, and therefore the use of reporting guidelines is not of necessary import if the information itself can be shared more concisely and understandably.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

March, 2024

Robert F McLain

Dr. Robert McLain is a spine surgeon and educator who has spent his career treating a wide variety of cervical, thoracic, and lumbar disorders. As an acknowledged expert in the diagnosis and treatment of complex spinal disorders, including scoliosis, fractures, tumors and infections, Dr. McLain’s recent focus has been on disc replacement surgery for the cervical and lumbar spine. Trained in Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Iowa, he completed an NIH Research Fellow before Spine Surgery Fellowship. He has authored over 190 peer-reviewed articles and chapters and served as the Principle Investigator on many research and surgical trials. He is a recipient of the AOA’s North American and American-British-Canadian Traveling Fellowships, and OREF and NASS Research awards. He has also served as an editor/reviewer for several top-tier academic journals. He has earned Top Doctor recognition annually since 2006 and Crain’s Healthcare Hero Award in 2012. He is the Past-President of the Mid America Orthopaedic Association, and the President-elect of the Western Orthopaedic Foundation, 2024. Connect with him on Facebook.

Dr. McLain points out a few qualities that he believes a reviewer should possess. First of all, reviewers need to remain curious. They need to be excited by their field and maintain an unwavering interest in the new developments and trends that advance their specialty and its underlying science. At the same time, they have to have a little streak of cynicism: they cannot take things at face value and assume the authors have thought their experiment, their analysis, or their conclusions through correctly. And they have to be interested enough in the process to read carefully, read the supporting literature – if they do not know it already – and think about how a flawed study or manuscript might be made better, or see where a great sounding paper might be making an unsound assumption. The best reviewers will be constructive, will educate and guide, as well as criticize. “My very first manuscript was a case report, four pages in length. The editor’s comments - from an esteemed JBJS reviewer - was 4 1/2 pages, single-spaced, and contained a wealth of advice and recommendations that have stuck with me to this day!” adds Dr. McLain.

Dr. McLain believes that reviewers must ensure that the methods used were appropriate to the study and that they were carried out carefully and properly. They must also ensure that the conclusions proposed are supported by the data and the analysis. Finally, the reviewers have to make a judgement – whether the findings and the observations are of sufficient interest and value to the readership of that particular journal, or whether they would be better presented in another journal.

The world of medical science and clinical research continues to expand. While we need more avenues to present our ongoing work and discoveries, it is crucial that open-access and any other journal maintain strict guidelines for peer review and critique,” says Dr. McLain.

(by Lareina Lim, Brad Li)