Whether because of biases or lack of insight and information, all people commit errors. As what an ancient Latin proverb says, “Hummanum est errare”, to err is human. It is inherent for human beings to overlook their own actions; even if they consider themselves experts in their own field.
In the sphere of Medical Sciences, where it is directly affected by the rapid advancement of technology, information is always being updated and verified. Researchers are always working for the improvement and efficiency of the current tools and methodologies to gather useful data in this ever-changing environment.
In short, because of the constant and rapid renewal of information, researchers are always prone to error. Whether because of cognitive bias or obsolete information, it is always ideal to have a Research Paper reviewed to ensure the accuracy and relevance of a study being conducted.
Importance of Reviewing a Clinical Research Paper
According to Turk J Turol, in his article “How To Write a Review Article?” (2013), he states that, “an essential part of the review process is differentiating good research from bad and on the results of the better studies.” The importance of reviewing an article is not only to verify information and how good the paper is, but also to point out errors and, more importantly, rectify them for better understanding and learning.
In the same aforementioned article, Turol (2013) also states that, “The main and fundamental purpose of writing a review is to create a readable synthesis of the best resources available in the literature for an important research question or a current area of research.” In addition to that, the article also pointed out that reviews serve as the starting point for many clinicians if they wish to update their knowledge on a certain topic. A review can quickly provide them answers to the questions of what has been done, what has been found, and how they were presented.
Furthermore, also from the same article, Turol (2013) says that the institutions funding a Clinical Research would resort to reviews to justify the need for conducting research on the given topic. The significance of a review isn’t only for the ultimate success of a research but also for the foundation of it.
Moreover, reviewing a Clinical Research Paper is not just a normal proofreading and editing. In the Medical Field, where the accuracy of information being disseminated is very critical, all details should be factual and be based on empirical data. According to Hernandez MD, MPH & Gerson MD, MSc, in their article “A Guideline for Reviewing a Clinical Research Paper” (2015), they state that, “bad grammar is fixable. Bad science is not.” So, a Clinical Research Paper, being inherently scientific, should be, as much as possible, free of biases and blind speculations. Therefore, having it reviewed by oneself or with the help of others would solve or minimize unforeseen errors.
Peer Review or Volunteer Review
Peer Review (or also known as “Volunteer Review”), is one of the most common, convenient, and fundamental steps in scientific publication. Seeking insights and approval of colleagues working in the same field is one of the most logical steps into verifying the validity and significance of the study being conducted. However, as handy as it sounds, Peer Review is also considered to be quite inconsistent and prone to biases.
According to the article entitled, “The Validity of Peer Review in a General Medicine Journal” (Jackson, Srinivasan, Rea, Fletcher, & Kravitz, 2011), states that, “It may not be surprising that two experts looking at the same paper from different perspectives may rate the articles differently and make divergent recommendations.” The article also adds that, “Review quality varies widely from reviewer to reviewer. This could contribute to a lack of agreement.” From these statements, it can be inferred that because of the individual differences in knowledge,experience, and expertise, Clinical Research Paper review from colleagues could suffer from inconsistencies, biases, disagreements, and multiple explanations that could affect the course of the study.
However, Hernandez and Gerson (2015) proposed a framework on how to conduct a fair and factual Peer Review that can minimize its inherent faults. It is as follows:
The 1st Pass
The main objective of the research paper should be stated clearly. Search for similar or related studies that have been already conducted and find how the current study being reviewed can contribute to the field.
The 2nd Pass
Assess the rationale, results, and conclusion. Check for focus and consistency.
Write a critique by summarizing the paper into 2 to 4 well-written sentences.
Divide the Critique into Major and Minor Comments
Major comments should be the priority. In this part, all of the elements that are vital and have bearing to the study and outcome of the paper should be at the top of the priority list of checking. Syntax, Grammar, and Novelties should be least of the concerns. Because not all researchers and writers are native English speakers.
Review from a Mentor
Nowadays, the public interest and opportunities in the Clinical Research field is increasing. Along with its popularity and growing numbers, the need for mentors in Clinical Researches are very vital. According to the article “Clinical Research and Global Health: Mentoring The Next Generation of Healthcare Students” (Shah, Nodell, Montano, Behrens, & Zunt, 2012), “with this increase in demand comes an increase in the need for mentors at international and home institutions to provide guidance with designing, implementing, and analyzing clinical research projects that benefit both the trainees and the research site.”
Furthermore, in the same article, it states that, “Ideally, mentors would have access to more dynamic forms of training, such as workshops centered on communication and education skills, as well as reference materials for mentors and trainees” (Shah, et al., 2012). Undeniably, mentors are equipped with enough experience, expertise, and knowledge to provide key insights to a paper.
However, as academically superior as “mentorship” could sound like, there are also pitfalls and dilemmas in this. According to an article entitled “Mentoring Clinical Researchers” (Howard Bauchner, 2002), it states that, “Despite the best of intentions, the mentor's availability can diminish as they become busier in their own careers.” These are Bauchner’s dilemmas in the aforementioned article: (1) mentors must attend to their own careers, (2) inappropriate authorship, (3) immature relationship, (4) inability to communicate points for improvement, & (5) confusion between research productivity and sustainment of academic success. He explained that these conflicts are often hidden and not openly discussed to be addressed.
It can be inferred that there is no absolute way to review a research paper that is free of conflict and bias. However, the dilemmas could be minimized. The beauty in publishing a paper, especially in the medical science field, is that a researcher can publish it over and over again for clarification, rectification, validation, and fortification.