DEPARTMENTS: From the Editor
Within a very short period of time, 2 new mechanisms will be in place to assist peer reviewers and the editor of Cancer Nursing: An International Journal of Cancer Care to more expeditiously review and disseminate manuscripts of research findings accepted for publication in our journal. The 2 mechanisms, electronic Publish Ahead of Print and Express Review, will address one of the criticisms of peer review: it takes too much time. Time is important to cancer patients, their families, and their clinicians, as well as to researchers.
Our journal exists to benefit the society in general and, most specifically, individuals of any age with cancer or individuals who are attempting to reduce their risks of developing cancer. We shall continue to serve in this way, relying upon our well-established usual peer review system for most of the submitted manuscripts. The electronic Publish Ahead of Print mechanism will assist us in making several accepted manuscripts from each planned issue of the journal available to readers on the journal Web site, PubMed and our other usual dissemination mechanisms in advance of the hard copy version becoming available. We shall soon also rely upon Express Review for the manuscripts identified by the submitting authors, reviewers, and me as representing highly significant findings that have implications for public health and/or for the conduct of essential research in oncology. As is true with our usual manuscript review process, Express Review will use blinded review. The final publication decision for each of the journal's review and dissemination mechanisms will be guided by the following question: "will this manuscript contribute reliable, valid, and significant knowledge to cancer care?"
Express Review will be the speedy processing of manuscripts that contain striking and compelling findings, with particular promise to affect positive care or research outcomes. This process will be initiated by authors who believe that their manuscript includes highly significant findings. The authors will submit their work to this new process with a written explanation of why their work qualifies for this review. As the editor, I shall carefully review such submissions to ascertain that, in fact, a manuscript is eligible for Express Review. We shall also consider submitted manuscripts for Express Review that reflect highly novel methods or controversial findings that invite readers to engage with an idea contained within the manuscript for its immediate or future contributions to new knowledge and to care.
Speedy review will not mean poor-quality review. Instead, it will mean an intense, compressed review by stellar reviewers, with the final editorial decision being my responsibility. The authors, reviewers, and I will do our best to ensure that the submitted research will withstand the critical evaluation by others. The reviewers and I will be cautious about claims of applicability of findings, and we will be mindful always of the principles related to confidentiality, thoroughness, and objectivity. Two concerns with peer review have been noted in recent years: nonperformance by reviewers who provide insufficient review, and hesitancy by editors to make difficult editorial decisions.1 Those of us involved in the Express Review mechanism will monitor ourselves and other aspects of the review process to prevent our process from being burdened by nonperformance by peer reviewers or the editor.
Concerns about a speedy review are understandable. After all, the recent history in science contains now infamous examples of rapidly reviewed scientific manuscripts with claimed highly significant findings that were later discredited, such as the work related to the N rays2 (a claimed exotic form of radiation) or to cold fusion, now described as the scientific fiasco of our century.3 Peer review systems can err in judgments but the scientific process does not because subsequent efforts to replicate and validate findings effectively dispute published works that are erroneous.
With Express Review, we will continue to adhere to the guidelines of the "Uniform Requirements for Manuscript Submission to Biomedical Journals" from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (http://www.icmje.org). In addition, we will rely upon our same values underlying peer review: honesty, justice, and responsibility. We will give the same judicious review for all types of submitted research. Our journal has the power to inform, a very significant responsibility. I trust the power of the written word to effect improvements in cancer care. We now pledge to match the power of words with the power of time.
My very best to you.
1. Goodstein D. Peer review after the big crunch. Am Sci
2. Langmuir I, Hall RN. Pathological science. Phys Today
3. Huizenga JR. Cold Fusion: The Scientific Fiasco of the Century
. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1993.