Advice to reviewers from the Editorial Board Members of BMC Cardiovascular Disorders

The Editorial Board Member (EBM) of the month, a series of interviews with selected EBMs took place between May 2021 and April 2022 in BMC Cardiovascular Disorders. One of the questions of the interview was:‘’ What is one piece of advice you would give to reviewers as an EBM overseeing peer review ?“ Below are some of the insightful responses of the EBMs (edited for conciseness) that we hope current and aspiring reviewers of all journals will benefit from.

We asked the EBMs of the month of BMC Cardiovascular Disorders the question:

‘’ What is one piece of advice you would give to reviewers as an EBM overseeing peer review ?“ 

Here are their replies:

  • “I would advise reviewers to think about how the manuscript at hand could be improved. The ultimate goal is to make published research better, such that the benefit to the public is maximized. I believe this can be achieved by being unbiased, open-minded, and thorough in assessing submitted work”. Dr Christiana Kartsonaki, senior statistician, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, UK


  • “Treat every manuscript like treating your own paper. It’s vital to not only point out defects, but also to appreciate merits in each piece of work. Reviewers are not just making a choice between Accept and Reject. Instead, reviewers could offer valuable suggestions that are to the point and help authors improve the quality of the paper. Reviewers are not the opponents of authors, but teachers and friends who work side-by-side”. Prof Guo-wei Tu, Chief Physician and Associate Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Zhongshan Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai, China


  • I would advise reviewers to only commit to the review process if they have the time and required expertise for the specific manuscript. It is disheartening and inconvenient when reviewers agree to handle a manuscript but then don’t return any comments or provide very little feedback to the authors. The reviewing process should be constructive for the authors and it would be more beneficial if more highly experienced scientists were engaging with this”. Dr Stavroula Kanoni, Lecturer in Nutrigenetics and Cardiovascular Health, William Harvey Research Institute, Barts & the London Medical School, Queen Mary University of London, UK


  • “All reviewers, including me, are expected to abide by the ethical guidelines for peer reviewers published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). They are expected to spend adequate time to avoid missing anything. The history of medicine cannot forget the rejection of Sir Hans Adolf Krebs’ article by a prestigious journal in 1937, where he described the discovery which led him to obtain the Nobel prize. We should not let such egregious or even minor errors at lower scales be repeated”. Prof Elaheh Malakan Rad, Professor of Pediatric Interventional Cardiology, Children’s Medical Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Iran


  • “I would recommend reviewers pay more attention to the content of the paper and the validity of the proposed research rather than focus on the presentation. Some papers are written impeccably, but lack novelty or relevant research. I also suggest taking the right amount of time to review a paper since it is often the result of the authors’ significant effort that must not be disregarded”. Prof Stafano Omboni, Director of the Italian Institute of Telemedicine, Italy and Professor of Cardiology, First Moscow State Medical University, Russia 


  • “Reviewers are precious to every Journal because their judgements and comments represent an important part in the review process of a manuscript. For this reason, fulfilling the task of Reviewers requires time and dedication in terms of knowledge and engagement. Exhaustive comments received quickly help the authors progress in their research. I would hence recommend potential Reviewers to take some courses to learn how to become experts in the job. Also our Journal offers some training courses available online”. Dr Aldo Bonaventura, Division of Internal Medicine, Ospedale di Circolo e Fondazione Macchi in Varese, Italy


  • “I would generally recommend learning how to become an expert in reviewing. This is not an easy task. There are a few training courses available online. We must be focused on both the scientific approach and the manuscript’s quality. The published data can impair clinical practice and bring suffering to our patients. We are responsible to uphold the faith of the people in public health and must be careful in decision-making to prevent any complications deteriorating our patients’ quality of life”. Dr John Alexander Kharlamov, De Haar Research Task Force, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and Tallinn, Estonia


  • “The advice I would give to any reviewer is: accept reviewing a manuscript when you have specific expertise on the topic and the ability to appraise the methods and results presented critically. It is always ok to apologize and decline to review if you are unable to handle a manuscript, or because of conflict of interest. Another critical point is to try to finalize your recommendations in time. We have all been in these situations where our paper’s decision is delayed because of the one reviewer who did not complete his review. Please do not be that reviewer”. Dr Michael Megaly, Interventional Cardiology Fellow and Clinical Instructor Faculty, Banner University Medical Center and UA College of Medicine-Phoenix, USA


  • “I would advise a timely and constructive review for an efficient editorial process. Sometimes, the reviewers ignore adding a note to the editor, which might help make editorial decisions”. Dr Gaurav Sharma, early-career researcher, Advanced Imaging Research Centre, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, USA


  • “Remember that reviewing means being at the service of the authors. The first question a reviewer should ask themselves is whether the paper is out of scope or unsuitable for publication in that particular journal. If this is the case, do not delay your decision, as this will only harm the authors’ effort to find the right journal for their work. If the paper and journal are a good (or at least a possible) match, take the time to analyze the paper thoroughly, before making your decision and give feedback that will improve the author’s work”. Dr Claudio Montalto, Cardiology resident, University of Pavia, Italy and Interventional Cardiology Fellow, Oxford University Hospital NHS Trust, UK


  • “The peer-review process is critical for publishing exciting and authentic scientific findings, and the reviewer’s role is crucial here. Reviewer’s comments are the building blocks of the editorial board’s decision. My advice to all potential reviewers is: accomplish the assignment on time; keep an unbiased approach; provide comprehensive and constructive scientific comments in a friendly manner; highlight the significance of an article you review, thereby helping the associate editor make a final decision; inform the EBM if you cannot handle or understand any specific part of the manuscript, such as statistical and bioinformatics analysis. Additionally, if needed, reviewers should enroll in various training courses available online at various journals, including those available at BMC Cardiovascular Disorders, to improve the skills required for best and ethical review practice”. Dr Gourav Bhardwaj, senior research investigator, Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa, USA


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