Reviewer of the Month (2023)

Posted On 2023-09-27 17:52:11

In 2023, mHealth 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, 2023
Rodrigo Rodrigues Gomes Costa, Federal University of São Paulo, Brazil

February, 2023
Clarence Baxter, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

March, 2023
Masha Remskar, University of Bath, UK

April, 2023
Katie Fisher, University of Newcastle, Australia

May 2023
Benjamin Ribba, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, Switzerland

June, 2023
Dong Han, University of Connecticut, USA

July, 2023
Kanna N. Lewis, University for Arkansas, USA

September, 2023
Melissa J. Vilaro, University of Florida, USA

October, 2023
Robert Meadows, University of Surrey, UK
Kathryn Whyte, Columbia University Irving Medical Center, USA

November, 2023
Stacey L. Schepens Niemiec, University of Southern California, USA

January, 2023

Rodrigo Rodrigues Gomes Costa

Dr. Rodrigo Rodrigues Gomes Costa is a PhD student at the Federal University of São Paulo and works at the Spinal Cord Injury Department and Paralympic Sports Department in a rehabilitation center in Brazil. His role involves planning, organizing, and conducting rehabilitation programs for individuals with spinal cord injury (SCI) alongside Para sports programs (such as wheelchair rugby, handball, basketball, and powerlifting), as well as providing telehealth services. In the field of telehealth, his focus is on transitioning from in-person assessments to tele-assessments. For instance, he explores tele-assessment methods for evaluating strength in individuals with SCI and those with brachial plexus injuries. He also investigates whether a seven-month tele-exercise training program for individuals with tetraplegia who have SCI meets the recommendations outlined in SCI-specific guidelines. Connect with Dr. Costa on LinkedIn, X and ORCID.

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

Dr. Costa: Firstly, I am mindful of my own biases and work to recognize and mitigate them. This involves being aware of any preconceived notions or personal beliefs that could influence my evaluation of the manuscript. If I recognize a potential bias, I make a conscious effort to set it aside and evaluate the work objectively. Additionally, I follow established review criteria and guidelines provided by the journal to ensure a consistent and fair assessment. I pay attention to the quality of research, clarity of presentation, adherence to ethical standards, and relevance to the journal's scope. Lastly, I maintain confidentiality throughout the review process. This includes not discussing the manuscript with others and treating all submissions with the same level of respect and confidentiality. Overall, my goal is to provide constructive, unbiased feedback that helps improve the quality of the work while treating all submissions fairly and impartially.

mHealth: Is it important for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI)? To what extent would a COI influence a research?

Dr. Costa: Yes, it is of paramount importance for authors to disclose COI when submitting their research. Full transparency regarding potential conflicts allows readers, reviewers, and the scientific community as a whole to assess the research with clarity and objectivity. While having a COI doesn't necessarily invalidate research, it is essential to identify and understand these conflicts to evaluate the research's credibility and potential biases. This is why disclosure is so critical—it allows readers and reviewers to critically assess the research in light of any potential influences. Transparency in COI reporting is a fundamental element in maintaining the integrity and trustworthiness of scientific research.

mHealth: What is so fascinating about peer reviewing?

Dr. Costa: Peer reviewing is a significant opportunity for learning because each new study provokes fresh reflections on the rationale, methods, and discussions. Reading what others write teaches us a great deal about ourselves, including our own limitations and potential. It's akin to a 'patchwork quilt' being stitched together by the hands of all researchers. This concept is aptly summarized by Isaac Newton’s words: 'If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

February, 2023

Clarence Baxter

Dr. Clarence Baxter has a passion for leveraging ubiquitous mobile technology by means of digital devices to realize population and individual health improvements. He gained formative experience as a practicing clinical measurement scientist in hospital inpatient, outpatient and occupational health settings. He was awarded a PhD for novel (basic and clinical) research in mHealth (i.e., mobile health) and biomedical software engineering. His research focuses on digital health and potentially prescribable mobile and wearable health apps for diagnosis and therapy. He is a researcher in the Faculty of Health at Queensland University of Technology, Australia, and lead author in contemporary peer-reviewed international research publications in the fields of digital health, mHealth apps and the use of smartphone sensors in medicine. To date, Dr. Baxter has contributed 164 verified expert peer reviews of submitted original research article manuscripts at the invitation of 38 international medical and scientific journals. Learn more about his work here.

mHealth: What role does peer review play in science?

Dr. Baxter: “To verify then trust” is a widely quoted maxim in evidence-based medical practice, with particular relevance to digital health disciplines. Peer review is at the heart of imbuing confidence in the readership of journals (such as mHealth) that only those original research papers that have been rigorously vetted for accuracy, validity, suitability, originality, and relevance get published. Peer review contributes to asserting that a given article offers a trustworthy (emergent or additional) “source of truth” contributing to the body of knowledge that others may rely on for future research or clinical practice.

Peer review serves “several masters” in the context of science. In addition to offering feedback to journal editors to confirm conformance and compliance with journal requirements, authors benefit from critique and feedback on the structure, logical flow, content and presentation of their submitted research papers. Furthermore, peer review advocates on behalf of the needs of readers and researchers who vest their trust in journal publishers and contributing peer reviewers regarding the content and outcomes reported in published research.

I try to adopt the perspective of readers and researchers while conducting peer reviews. This work encompasses, in turn, scrutiny of the adequacy of background/related work information, experimental protocols, research ethics, statistical methods, results, discussion (including limitations and future research proposed), conclusions drawn and the use of relevant citations.

As a peer reviewer, I resist the temptation to read the abstract first. My preference is to get the whole story by reading the entire manuscript, only then returning to peruse the abstract when I can fully appreciate and reflect on what the authors have summarized. The abstract is sometimes the only thing that some potential readers may ever peruse, so I look for clear, concise, informative and accurate abstract content.

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

Dr. Baxter: I have found that my peer-reviewing duties are best performed early in the morning. I have tried (unsuccessfully) to schedule review activities during my work day or in the evening after work. But I also feel I can best review a manuscript if my focus is clear, uninterrupted, and powered by hot coffee. My first reading of a paper excludes knowing author names and affiliations and omits a preliminary reading of the abstract. In reading the full manuscript body in one sitting, I want to give the authors the chance to provide me with the full “story” in whichever way they choose to present it.

I try to embed short abbreviated comments in a PDF copy of each paper I review (so as to maintain the cadence of my reading). Despite the imperative to remit peer reviews in a timely fashion with a quick turnaround, my preference is to allow at least a day between the first reading of a manuscript and subsequent (and more in-depth readings).

I see my role in the peer-review process as a catalyst contributing to improvement in submitted manuscripts. It is not my role to write the paper for authors. I try to offer constructive suggestions framed in a positive and supportive way, tempered by the needs and perspectives of readers and researchers, as I described earlier.

mHealth: 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. Baxter: I extend my heartiest congratulations to those “unsung heroes” who go out of their way to support other researchers (and science) by means of performing peer reviews. The only advice that I would offer is to “do unto others as you wish they would do unto you”. We all benefit from the independent contribution that peer review makes to the quality and utility of published research. Having been on the receiving end of “good, bad and other” peer reviews as an author, I try to demonstrate care and respect in my dealings with authors in this vital process.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

March, 2023

Masha Remskar

Masha Remskar is an ESRC-supported doctoral researcher in behavioural science at the University of Bath, UK. Her research explores the combination of physical activity and mindfulness practice. She is particularly interested in how mindfulness can help change attitudes, mindsets and behaviour related to exercise and how to best deliver this through digital health tools. Masha’s previous training includes a BSc in Psychology with Sport & Exercise Science (University of Exeter ’19) and an MSc in Health Psychology (University of Bath ’20). Her work was recognised as the Highest Scoring Submission at this year’s UKSBM conference. She is passionate about collaborations beyond academia, supportive research culture, open science initiatives, and science communication. Outside of work, she enjoys running, looking after houseplants, playing board games, and dancing West Coast Swing. Connect with Masha on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Masha considers peer review as a cornerstone of the scientific process. It helps preserve the integrity, quality, and progress of published research and benefits both authors and reviewers. She explains, “As an early-career researcher, being on both sides of the process has been insightful and further developed my scientific writing, critical appraisal, and the ability to convey constructive criticism.”

In Masha’s opinion, the challenges our sector faces, such as heavy workloads and pressure to publish, are taking a toll on the peer-review process. Journals seem to be increasingly struggling to find peer reviewers because academics simply do not have the capacity to take on additional tasks and meaningfully engage in peer review. This, in turn, holds back the timely publication of findings and the advancement of science. She believes the sector needs changes that protect people’s time to ensure that peer reviewing continues to be a core part of being a researcher.

The way Masha sees it, reviewers should always try to remember that there are hardworking people on the receiving end of their reviews. Almost everyone strives to do the best science they possibly can and will appreciate constructive, kindly conveyed criticism. She continues, “Even if, as a reviewer, you ultimately recommend the paper’s rejection, no amount of disagreement with the rationale, methods, or results of someone else’s work warrants any kind of personal attacks or condescension. I strive to write the kind of reviews I would be happy to receive myself.”

Even peer reviewing is anonymous and non-profitable, I am keen on doing so seeing it as an integral part of the scientific process and knowing that I benefit from other researcher’s peer reviews. At minimum, I try to peer review at least two manuscripts for every paper I am an author on myself – a habit I modelled off my advisors. For me, this is a manageable approach to peer review that keeps me consistently giving back to the scientific community,” says Masha.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

April, 2023

Katie Fisher

Dr. Katie Fisher is an Australian General Practitioner who works clinically in Mayfield NSW and as a researcher with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP). She is also a Conjoint Lecturer at the University of Newcastle. She was the recipient of the 2022 RACGP General Practitioner in Training of the Year for NSW/ACT. Dr. Fisher completed an Academic Post as a GP trainee in 2021, and her research project focused on the use of telehealth by doctors-in-training during the pandemic. This was a cross-sectional analysis of data from a longstanding multi-site cohort study (the Registrars Clinical Encounters in Training project, ReCEnT). Dr. Fisher’s current research focuses on GP trainees as teachers, for which she was awarded a 2023 Education Research Grant. This project is a qualitative study that will explore the experiences of multiple stakeholders across Australia. Connect with Dr. Fisher on LinkedIn and visit her homepage here.

As an early-career researcher, Dr. Fisher admits that she is still new to peer-reviewing papers. Having said that, she believes a reviewer should be critical but fair and respectful. To her, the reviewer’s comments should ultimately aim to improve the quality and readability of the manuscript.

Speaking of the importance of research to apply for institutional review board (IRB) approval, Dr. Fisher indicates that this is equivalent to the Human Research Ethics Committees in Australia. In her opinion, it is essential that researchers apply for ethics approval for all research with human participants. This ensures that the study conduct meets ethical standards and protects the welfare, rights, and privacy of its participants. If this process were omitted, there would be a significant risk of harm to participants.

I am very grateful to all the researchers who have peer-reviewed my papers over the years. I believe it is our duty as researchers to give back to the academic community. Further, reviewing is an important skill and, in my opinion, it makes us better researchers who produce higher-quality manuscripts,” says Dr. Fisher.

(by Brad Li, Alisa Lu)

May 2023

Benjamin Ribba

Benjamin Ribba was trained as an engineer in applied mathematics and started his career working in biomathematics applied to oncology, in Israel in 2003. He received his PhD in 2006 in France. Successively, he was a researcher at the French institute for computational science: Inria. He joined F. Hoffmann La Roche (Roche) in 2015 to perform disease modeling activities in support of the development of large molecule modalities in oncology. Benjamin was appointed leader of the translational modeling and simulation team at Roche between 2018 and 2022, and he is now focusing his efforts on disease modeling support for neuroscience projects. Learn more about Benjamin and connect with him on LinkedIn.

In Benjamin’s view, the peer-review process allows for an independent review of the work. He points out that as an author, it is a time of high excitement as the work is going to be read, analyzed, and criticized by external peers. He says, “Beyond the consequence for acceptance or not in the journal, it is the moment to receive feedback from experts in the field about the relevance, the novelty, and the impact of the submitted work.” He stresses that this feedback contributes to significantly improving the papers. He also highlights the importance of reviewers being aware of their bias while reviewing papers, which is a key thing to start with peer review.

Although the burden of being a scientist is very heavy, Benjamin tends to easily accept reviewer positions when papers fall in his area of expertise. Meanwhile, he admits that he tends to postpone these peer-review tasks. Somehow, he still enjoys it very much and feels high contentment when he has done it. He adds, “Ultimately, I allocate time to it because I feel it is a privilege to get to see and work on a manuscript before its publication. As a scientist, I consider it as a kind of learning and development activity, and certainly one of the best ways to stay in contact with how my scientific area is evolving.”

Speaking of the use of reporting guidelines (e.g. STROBE, CONSORT), Benjamin believes that it is important to be aware of them so that authors can make the choice to use them when appropriate. He says, “Having had the opportunity to recently review two reviews where the authors followed the guidelines, I indeed appreciated the benefit of standardization and how it can improve clarity and quality. Nevertheless, I am also attached to personal styles and each and everyone’s originality when reporting scientific work, so I think the guidelines are important as long as they don’t make all manuscripts written the same.”

(by Wymen Chen, Brad Li)

June, 2023

Dong Han

Dr. Dong Han currently is a Postdoctoral Research Associate working at the University of Connecticut, USA. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Engineering from the same university in August 2023. Currently, her researches focus on the utilization of wearable devices to monitor cardiovascular diseases. She specializes in integrating biomedical signal processing techniques with machine learning models to enhance the accuracy of cardiovascular arrhythmia detection. Her notable recent project delves into monitoring atrial fibrillation using photoplethysmography on smartwatches. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Dr. Han points out that reviewers do peer review not only to bolster the scientific community, but also to increase their own knowledge. For the community, it is important because as experts, reviewers ensure that the assertions made by authors are scientifically accurate. For reviewers, it is equally important as it allows them to stay updated with the latest advancements and trends in the field.

Dr. Han reckons that a constructive review offers implementable suggestions that can enhance the quality of the manuscript with reasonable efforts. Such feedback also provides a good opportunity for the manuscript’s authors to deepen their understanding of the field on those omitted problems. In contrast, a destructive review often contains vague comments about languages or assertions about lack of novelty without providing specific evidence.

Lastly, Dr. Han highlights that it is crucial for authors to share their research data. First of all, it saves millions of research grant from redundant collection of the valuable medial data. Second, open access data motivates young researchers to join and stay in the academia over the industry; industries usually restrict access to data gathered with company fund to maintain a competitive position over other companies, which stymie the development of science. Finally, public datasets ensure replicable research, improving the transparency of the methods development and enhancing the generalizability of future research.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

July, 2023

Kanna N. Lewis

Dr. Kanna Nakamura Lewis is an assistant professor in the University for Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), Department of Family and Preventive Medicine. Originally trained as a mathematician, she specializes in application of quasi-statistical and complex research design in policy and program evaluations, with a special interest in the healthcare delivery systems and methods of intervention and treatment. She has served as a PI/co-PI on projects that focus on the transformation of care through virtual technology (e.g., prenatal opioid use disorder treatment delivered through telehealth, evaluation of virtual home visiting programs, inequality in accessing telehealth among Medicaid beneficiaries). She is passionate about maternal, infant, and early childhood health and serves on Arkansas Department of Health Maternal Health Task Force and Public Health Consortium. She currently leads a project aiming to assess the moderation of adverse childhood experiences with support for positive childhood experiences. Learn more about her here.

In Dr. Lewis’s opinion, determining the quality, importance, and relevance of colleagues’ work and be critiqued by other experts through peer-review process is an essential component of science. This process also lends an opportunity for a communication among scientists, which provides an opportunity for a growth for both submitters and reviewers. When she first started her academic position, she was overwhelmed by numerous tasks and was apprehensive to volunteer as a reviewer. With an encouragement from her mentors, she started out on her first year as a faculty and she is grateful for having received this advice. She is a better writer and researcher for having served the role of reviewer nowadays. Naturally, one reflects on their own work while assessing academic literature. The reflection is perhaps deeper when it is in the process of peer review, which can spark creative thoughts and ideas.

To support the integrity of scientific research, Dr. Lewis believes that reviewers should represent diverse expertise in the scientific field (e.g., clinician, public health researcher, statistician). Peer-review system is a part of science as well as the scientific community. As such, a good communication is crucial. It is important that reviewers read each manuscript carefully and thoughtfully, and not just grade the manuscript but also describe their thoughts to authors. As a submitter, the most important part of this process is receiving feedbacks from the experts in the field. There is always a room for improvement and manuscripts are better with more eyes and thoughts on them. It should be enjoyable, exciting, and educational for authors to receive feedbacks, not an experience that one would dread.

Dr. Lewis emphasizes that it is absolutely crucial for authors to disclose Conflict of Interest (COI). In her view, a COI does not necessarily influence or bias research, nor would it invalidate the manuscript. However, COI disclosure allows editors, reviewers, and readers to evaluate and interpret the manuscript with a full transparency.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

September, 2023

Melissa J. Vilaro

Dr. Melissa J. Vilaro is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Youth and Community Sciences and UF/IFAS Extension Health and Wellness State Specialist at the University of Florida. She is an active member of the University of Florida Health Cancer Center (UFHCC) and a member of NHLBI-funded, PRIDE-CVD cohort 10. Her research includes developing culturally tailored behavior change interventions for chronic disease prevention with a focus on the cancer continuum. Her expertise in the areas of public health, social and behavioral sciences, community nutrition, and health communication informs her work using mixed methods, qualitative analysis, and community-engaged approaches. Dr. Vilaro has served as PI, co-investigator, or trainee on CTSI- and NIH-funded projects. She collaboratively developed a virtual human technology a web-based intervention to communicate nutrition risk factors and screening information to promote colorectal cancer risk reduction among rural adults. She also co-led a study assessing telehealth implementation in rural communities and works to develop cancer risk reduction programs with collaborators in Extension to address modifiable risk factors at the individual, interpersonal, and community levels. Connect with Dr. Vilaro on X @vilaromel or learn more about her here.

Dr. Vilaro reckons that peer review provides the opportunity for authors to receive expert feedback and insights on work and ensures that high-quality work is published. It is an important part of the academic process that also allows a diversity of perspectives to inform robust work.

To minimize the potential biases during review, Dr. Vilaro’s goal in peer review is to make sure the authors can present their science with clarity and accuracy. She accepts review invitations for papers only if she feels she can share expertise that will be beneficial to authors.

Though peer reviewing is often anonymous, Dr. Vilaro sees reviewing as a part of being a successful academic as much as publishing. While reviewing is often not incentivized in the same way other services are, she tries to review at least two papers for each manuscript she submits. It helps disseminate important information that advances and builds the scientific fields.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

October, 2023

Robert Meadows

Dr. Robert Meadows is a Professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Surrey. His current research largely operates at the nexus of sleep, technology and mental health – and he is working on a project looking at chatbots for mental health wellbeing, a project looking at adolescent sleep and mental health and at the same time a co-edited collection on the global history of sleep and dreams. Recent publications include a co-authored book titled ‘Technosleep: Frontiers, Fictions and Futures’ (Palgrave 2023). He is also currently an Editor in Chief of the journal Sociology. Connect with Dr. Meadows on Twitter @RobertMeadows16.

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

Dr. Meadows: I think Richard Smith’s article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine summarized the challenges well – possible bias, time consuming, inconsistency, potential abuse, etc. From my position as a journal editor, I am most mindful of the challenge of ‘time’. Time seems to be an increasingly scarce resource and yet reviewers are clearly still prepared to invest a lot of energy into reading articles and providing detailed, constructive, comments (to both author and editor). I wonder how sustainable this is moving forward. To improve the situation, I think it is interesting that Smith’s article shows 1,243 citations on Google Scholar and this possibly reflects the ongoing complexities here. I do think peer review is important. Mentoring and offering feedback to reviewers can be useful but this, of course, takes us back to the challenge of ‘time’. I would like to see us continue to explore ways to recognize reviewer’s work. ‘Recognition’ is multilayered and we need to look at this across journals, disciplines, institutions, etc. For those working within universities, for example, it is often workload allocation models which determine priorities and shape the things we ‘should’ be taking time on.

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

Dr. Meadows: I am mindful of possible bias when I review articles. A particular challenge I have is related to what we might call disciplinary biases. Much of my work touches upon different fields and I am often asked to review things framed differently from my parent discipline. I tend to do a first read with a series of questions in mind: Do claims to originality stand up? Is the method clear? etc. I will always ask myself ‘Am I evaluating this manuscript solely on what is presented’ and try to focus primarily on the consistency of what is being argued across the paper. I think this is also where the ‘comments to editor’ box can also be useful as a reviewer and I have on occasion noted that I may be reading this through a different lens.

mHealth: 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. Meadows: As previously noted, I do think peer review is important and probably will remain important for quite some time. For all the complexities and challenges, it is currently an important form of quality assurance. Whilst this has significant implications at policy, funding levels, etc, the question you ask does make me think about my students. Although they are encouraged to always read things critically, there is a comfort in knowing that the pieces they are reading and learning from were reviewed by numerous experts in the field.

mHealth: From a reviewer’s perspective, do you think it is important for authors to follow reporting guidelines (e.g. STROBE and CARE) during preparation of their manuscripts?

Dr. Meadows: I think it can make it clearer to a reviewer what was done and why. It can also possibly increase inter-reviewer reliability. However, I am not always a fan of hard and fast requirements. One of the criticisms of peer review is that it might lead to conservatism through suppression of innovation. As Tennant and Ross-Hellauer note, it remains virtually unknown what the dynamic trade-off is between innovation and quality control and this is something I think we also have to keep in mind.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

Kathryn Whyte

Dr. Kathryn Whyte is a clinically trained registered dietitian and physical activity interventionist with an extensive background in dietary and physical activity assessment and prescription. She received her BS in Exercise Science from Manhattan College, a primarily undergraduate institution, where she presented her first national poster on body composition assessment validation. Dr. Whyte received her MS and PhD from Teachers College, Columbia University in Applied Physiology and Nutrition and Behavioral Nutrition. During her time at TC, she worked with Dr. Xavier Pi-Sunyer at the flagship NY Nutrition Obesity Research Center as a coordinator and research dietitian on his pharmacology and lifestyle intervention trials. Dr. Whyte’s areas of expertise are energy expenditure by whole room calorimetry, application of body composition methodologies and metabolic phenotyping. Her publications focus on exposures to ultra-processed food, the relationships between lifestyle behavior modifications and metabolic phenotyping, and impact of diet quality and physical activity exposures on metabolic health across the lifespan. She is currently an Associate Research Scientist at Columbia University Irving Medical Center and co-investigator on the new NIDDK funded trial investigating phenotypes related to weight loss maintenance. This trial, Physiology of the Weight Reduced State (POWERS), is actively recruiting and enrolling participants.

According to Dr. Whyte, peer review plays a critical role in the maintenance of integrity and credibility of the published works in her fields and can also serve as an invaluable scientific communication teaching tool for pre doc and early career post docs. She always looks forward to receiving the constructive feedback on her own writings as she learns more from others than anywhere else.

An objective review, in Dr. Whyte’s opinion, is characterized by thoroughness and expertise as demonstrated by the reviewer’s attention to how a work fits into the current body of literature versus the reported outcome of the paper. She ensures her review is objective in that she uses the same approach. She reads a manuscript first to see if the conclusion is supported by the results presented and aligns with the proposed aims of the paper. This also allows her a sense of the clarity and directness of the writing style. Her second read is a line-by-line approach to go through the abstract, methods, results, and discussion to help provide helpful feedback and comments. She then provides comments on how she thinks the paper serves the body of literature on the topic and if the results are clinically meaningful, regardless of whether the findings are negative or positive. She does not provide any feedback on the grammar, English, etc., as she finds these comments are not helpful at this stage of the review process.

For Dr. Whyte, the peer-review process has a two-fold purpose: firstly, she can share what she has learned from past reviews of her own work coupled with her expertise. It is a means of giving back to the scientific community and she thinks keeping it non-profitable encourages unbiased reviews. Secondly, it serves as a venue for showing real-world examples of clear scientific communication with her mentees where allowed. Importantly, it keeps her in the loop about new directions the field is heading in.

(By Lareina Lim, Brad Li)

November, 2023

Stacey L. Schepens Niemiec

Dr. Stacey L. Schepens Niemiec, PhD, OTR/L, DipACLM, is Associate Professor of Research at the University of Southern California (USC) Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. From Wayne State University (WSU), she earned a BS and MS in Occupational Therapy and PhD in Instructional Technology. She also completed a pre-doctoral fellowship in Aging and Urban Health at WSU, postdoctoral fellowship in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of Michigan, and postdoctoral fellowship in Clinical Trials Methodology from USC. She is a licensed occupational therapist and certified lifestyle medicine professional. Dr. Schepens Niemiec's research focuses on promotion of health and wellness in older individuals. Her work centers on the underlying mechanisms that affect healthy aging, and methodologies—especially ones incorporating cutting-edge technology—that emphasize activity participation. Her multidisciplinary background guides her investigations to develop culturally responsive lifestyle interventions that counterbalance chronic health problems experienced by diverse older populations. Learn more about her here.

mHealth: What reviewers have to bear in mind while reviewing papers?

Dr. Schepens Niemiec: There are key considerations reviewers should bear in mind when evaluating scientific papers. The first is understanding the reviewer’s role in the publication process. Reviewers help to maintain the integrity of scientific literature. They are responsible for providing constructive feedback to authors, assessing the scientific merit of the research, and ensuring that manuscripts adhere to ethical standards. It is essential for reviewers to recognize the significance of their role in contributing to the advancement of knowledge within their respective fields.

Reviewers must be vigilant in identifying and addressing any ethical concerns within the submitted manuscript. This includes ensuring the proper citation of sources, confirming that the research has been conducted in accordance with ethical guidelines and standards, and identifying any potential conflicts of interest. Maintaining the ethical integrity of the scientific process is fundamental to the credibility of the research.

The originality and significance of the research presented in the paper is another important consideration. Does the study contribute new knowledge to the field and do findings have the potential to impact existing paradigms or inform future research? A paper's significance is often linked to its potential to advance the field and address gaps in current understanding.

Methodological rigor of the study should be carefully evaluated. This process will involve assessment of the study design, data collection procedures, and analytic methods to ensure their appropriateness and validity. Rigorous methodologies are essential for drawing accurate conclusions and enhancing the overall credibility of the research.

Reviewers should consider the effectiveness of the authors’ communication. The clarity and coherence of the manuscript is foundational. The introduction should clearly outline the research question(s), the methods should be described in sufficient detail, results should be presented logically, and the discussion should include interpretation of the findings in the context of existing literature. A well-structured and clearly written paper enhances the accessibility of the research to a broader audience.

Finally, reviewers should reflect on whether they are providing constructive and specific feedback to help authors improve their work. Pointing out strengths and weaknesses, suggesting ways to enhance clarity or refine methodologies, and highlighting any areas that require further elaboration is useful. A thoughtful and constructive review contributes not only to the improvement of the current manuscript but also to the professional development of the authors.

mHealth: What do you regard as a healthy peer-review system?

Dr. Schepens Niemiec: A healthy peer-review system as a part of the scientific publication process is characterized by several key attributes. First, it should prioritize impartiality and fairness, ensuring that reviewers are unbiased and evaluate manuscripts solely on their scientific merit. Transparency is crucial, with clear communication between editors, reviewers, and authors to foster a collaborative and constructive review process. Timeliness is another essential aspect of a healthy peer-review system. Efficient handling of submissions and timely feedback not only respects the efforts of authors but also ensures knowledge mobilization. Additionally, diversity among reviewers, representing various perspectives and expertise, enhances the robustness of the evaluation process. Maintaining confidentiality and integrity is fundamental. Reviewers must treat manuscripts confidentially, respecting the intellectual property of authors. Simultaneously, editors play a vital role in upholding the ethical standards of the peer-review system, addressing any conflicts of interest, and preventing potential misconduct. Flexibility is also crucial to accommodate the evolving landscape of research. A healthy peer-review system should adapt to emerging methodologies, interdisciplinary research, and innovative approaches. Finally, continuous improvement through feedback mechanisms and periodic assessments helps refine the peer-review process, ensuring its effectiveness and relevance in advancing scientific knowledge.

mHealth: Why do you choose to review for mHealth?

Dr. Schepens Niemiec: I chose to review for mHealth for a few reasons. Reviewing for this journal allows me to contribute to the advancement of knowledge in the mobile health arena. By evaluating and providing feedback on the submitted manuscripts, I am actively helping to shape the scientific discourse in mHealth and ensuring the quality of published research. Reviewing for mHealth, which has a respectable impact factor, also offers an opportunity for me to continue my own professional development. As a reviewer, I am granted access to the latest research in mobile health, allowing me to stay informed about recent developments, emerging trends, and cutting-edge innovations. Finally, reviewing for a reputable journal like mHealth enables me to connect with fellow experts, authors, and editors in the field which has potential to lead to future collaborations.

(By Brad Li, Lareina Lim)