Thread: Promising Practices

Peer review at Hormozgan Medical Journal: Searching for a solution after disappointing results

Shahram Zare and Nepton Soltani – Bandar Abbas, Iran

Objective: This poster aims to assess the present situation of peer review in the Hormozgan Medical Journal (HMJ), to evaluate its performance, and to assess quality of the reviews.

Background: Peer review is simply asking a peer to review an article, to give an unbiased, independent and critical assessment. Peer reviewer in fact helps the journal editors to decide which article is suitable for publication and helps the authors to improve quality of their work.

For the HMJ, we have a bank of peer reviewers in different fields, and for each article the editorial board of the journal choose three appropriate and knowledgeable peers from this bank. The reviewers have a checklist for each part of the paper. The reviewer is asked to check originality, manuscript title, essential aspects of the abstract, design of the study (including sampling technique, sample size, inclusion and exclusion criteria of the samples, statistical analysis), organization of the results, scientific importance, conclusions, study limitations, ethics, composition and general organization of the paper, and overall desirability of the paper in the journal. General comments for editors and the authors are asked for. The reviewer is paid for the service.

Problem: In 2006 we received 382 manuscripts and in 2007, 224 manuscripts in 12 different medical and basic science categories. However, during last two years, the reviewer’s response rate was 1.6 out of 3 and more than 50% of the checklists were incomplete. More than 70% of the reviewers did not send the checklist on time. There were no comments for editors or for authors in more than 80%. Moreover, in some cases a completely different point of view about a paper was expresses by different peer reviewers, making it difficult for the editorial board to make the final decision.

Solution: We believe that: 1) universities should teach peer review together with research methodology and medical journalism, because it will help in constructing and understanding medical articles, 2) medical journals should stimulate research on peer review by means of conferences, seminars and work shops, and 3) regional offices or journals should provide a framework and a guideline to reviewers.

Shahram Zare, PhD, and Nepton Soltani, PhD, are professors at the Hormozgan University of Medical Science, school of medicine, Bandar Abbas, Iran. They teach biostatistics and physiology, respectively, to medical students. Dr. Zare has been manuscript editor and statistical advisor and Dr Soltani has been deputy editor of the Hormozgan Medical Journal since 1999. Dr. Zare holds research methodology workshops for academic staff and medical students at the university. Dr. Soltani is research manager of the university.