REVIEWING FOR JSES – OR
OTHER MEDICAL JOURNALS
Bill Mallon MD
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery (JSES) (2008-)
JSES REVIEWER ALL-STAR TEAM
• Phillip Hansen
• Steven Hattrup
• Jesse Jupiter
• Scott Kaar
• Jonathan Levy
• Peter McCann
• Michael Moskal
• Wesley Nottage
• David Ring
• Scott Rodeo
• Matthew Saltzman
• John Sperling
• Quin Throckmorton
• James Tibone
• Stephen Weber
• Jeffrey Abrams
• Samuel Antuna
• Keith Baumgarten
• Kamal Bohsali
• Caroline Chebli
• Sean Churchill
• Akin Cil
• Robert Cofield
• Lieven de Wilde
• Nathan Everding
• Paul Favorito
• Edward Fehringer
• Mark Frankle
• Steve Gunther
• Kazutoshi Hamada
GEORGE BURNS, JOHN FEAGIN, OKISE
• George Burns on how to be a good actor – “If the script says ‘Open the door
and walk in the room,’ and you open the door and walk in the room – you’re
a good actor. If you don’t, you’re not.”
• John Feagin – “Find one society that most interests you, that fits what you
want to do in medicine – and focus on that society. Don’t try to be in every
society or try to be a leader in all of them. In that society, when they want
you to do something, say yes.”
• OKISE and Kim Tuck – my answer to Kim when they wanted me to see a
patient was “OKISE” = “OK, I’ll see ‘em” It didn’t matter if it was a back, a
diabetic foot, or whatever, I would see it.
REVIEWING FOR JSES
• To be a good reviewer – the most important thing to do is say “YES” and
then do the review. Like George Burns, that will usually make you a good
• You will be tempted to say “I’m too busy” – look around the room, tell me
somebody who does not think they are busy?
• You will be tempted to say “Its not in my area of expertise.” You’re in ASES –
you’re an elite member of a sub-specialty society – you know shoulder and
elbow surgery or you would not have been selected. I assume you know how
to review a paper – so do it – say “YES”
• OKIRE – “OK, I’ll review it.”
• “Whenever you are asked if you can do a job, tell ‘em, ‘Certainly I can.’” –
• I will not overburden you. We know how many papers people have reviewed.
• I understand when people have new responsibilities – department chairs,
society leaders (Gerry Williams), fall sports team coverage, etc.
• I will try not to get you out of your comfort zone. We know if you have
written on topics before or not.
• However, my main responsibility as journal editor, is to publish a monthly
journal, and get reviews done, and make decisions on articles submitted so …
• I will ask you to review papers and articles – I will do my best to be fair
• I know that there are busy times for reviewers
• From my experience – there are 12 months of the year that seem
to be particularly busy for ASES Members
• I will ask you to review during those 12 months
• But if you let me know if you’re having problems – health, new
responsibilities, family matters – your health, your career, your
family always comes first – and I will understand and back off.
HOW WE REVIEW PAPERS
• I get each paper and select an Associate Editor and one reviewer, usually
• Pierre Mansat (Deputy International Editor) selects an International reviewer –
this is done to decrease bias
• Reviewers are asked to read the paper, make comments, queries, and
suggestions about it, and make a preliminary decision and rating
• The Associate Editor takes the 2 reviews, and his/her own reading of the
paper, and makes their own preliminary decision, which is sent to me
• I then make the final decision – but I rarely (very rarely) change the decision
of the Associate Editor
• We ask you make only three decisions – Reject, Revise, Accept
• DO NOT USE – this seems to be hard to understand, but this means – DO
• Accept – very rarely chosen – it needs to be a special paper
• Reject – the most common decision for JSES – our acceptance rate is only
about 25% at the moment
• Revise – the paper is good, but we see ways it can be improved, or note
problems with it that can be fixed – again, this should be chosen about 25%
of the time
• Ratings – rate the paper as in the EES system – Top 10%, Top 25%, Top 50%,
JERRY TARDE AND DICK TAYLOR
• Editors of Golf Digest and Golf World – old friends who helped me learn
some things about editing
• “Don’t over edit – it makes it your paper, not the authors, and it makes you
no friends. If the article needs that much editing, reject it.”
• DO NOT be derogatory in your reviews. These people are your colleagues.
You have all done papers – you know how hard it is, and how much work is
put into it. Respect that.
• So make your suggestions, queries and comments – but if it needs so much
work that it is basically going to be re-written – choose “Reject”
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• Introduction – it should not be too long. It should not summarize all the
world’s literature on the topic. It should simply introduce why the authors
chose to do this study – nothing more, nothing less.
• Materials and Methods – most important part of the paper. Is the study well-
designed? Ideally, it should state its basic design at the outset “This was a
retrospective, case-control study.” The authors should not make you try to
figure it out.
• Follow-up – is there adequate follow-up? We ask for 2 years minimum for
clinical papers but violate this all the time and realize it is not necessary in
many problems – e.g., clavicle fractures. Many times not even mentioned.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• M/M – are the authors comparing apples and oranges? Do they tell us what
the inclusion and exclusion criteria are?
• Is there some obvious bias? This is supposed to be revealed up front, but
sometimes more can be found in the M/M. Is the study looking at something
the authors designed – such as an outcome instrument, or a surgery they
pioneered. That will not be listed under Disclaimers, but it is bias
• Statistics – we have a statistical editor (Deanne Dilley) but she only reviews
papers selected for her. I look at this myself carefully, and if I don’t
understand the stats, I ask her to look at it. But you can suggest that this
should be reviewed by the statistical editor.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• Results – how are they presented? Train wreck paper as a Duke resident. If
there are too many stats, and they simply ramble on and on, they should be
summarized in Table or Chart formats. You can suggest this if they are
• Do the results contain all the pertinent information you are looking for in this
study? If not, can it be rescued by providing more details of the study. If you
have to suggest they go back and re-do parts of the study with more
subjects or something like that, it should be rejected. We can’t ask authors to
re-do studies. Reject, recommend re-doing the study, and re-submit as a new
paper. We’re only evaluating the studies they present to us, not some vague
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• Relevance – is the topic meaningful or important? “There’s a reason nobody
has looked at this topic before … Nobody cares!”
• Writing Style – is this important? Yes, it is, to a degree. The science is more
important, but a poorly written paper suggests sloppiness or that the authors
did not pay attention to this. That gets demerits, and makes you wonder
about how careful they were in general.
• English Grammar/Syntax – do we penalize this? We try not to, and we
understand that many of our international authors do not have English as a
primary language, but … if it is so poorly written that you cannot understand
it, you should reject and suggest they re-write it with help from a primary
English language speaker, or an editing service, and then re-submit it.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• Discussion – should not be too long – “A River Runs Thru It” – half again as
long. Be on the look-out for resident written papers. They usually start out
“Neer described 3 phases of impingement syndrome.” JSES is a sub-specialty
journal – our readers know that.
• Conclusion – the biggest problem authors make is making sweeping
conclusions from their study. The conclusion should only state what they
showed. Very few papers in JSES will end up curing cancer, ending world
hunger, or solving global warming. Very few orthopaedists win Nobel Prizes,
but many article conclusions make grandiose claims about the utility of their
article. Beware of this.
WHAT YOUR REVIEW LOOKS LIKE
• 1) A general statement – what’s good, what’s bad, what you basically think of
it, and state your conclusion
• 2) A line-by-line list of comments, as in “Line 17 – why did you decide to
include Worker’s Compensation patients in your article on pediatric
• 3) A decision – Reject, Revise, Accept (do not use – DO NOT USE)
• 4) A rating – Top 10%, Top 25%, Top 50%, Bottom 50%
• Remember, our acceptance rate is about 25%. If you select Revise, the paper
should be in the Top 25% - or sometimes in the Top 50%. The rare selection
of Accept should be in the Top 10%.
• You will be asked to review for JSES
• It is a responsibility of membership in ASES
• Reviewing status is being monitored and rated, and your reviewing record
may be considered in advancement to Associate status, or Active Member
• It may seem onerous – but it can be fun, and it should be educational. I try
never to overburden you, but reviewing occasional papers keeps you on the
cutting edge. It sharpens your own mind, to read a paper critically, and really
see what is good and what is bad in it.
• Thank you for reviewing for JSES. It is appreciated far more than you will ever
• Without reviewers, there are no orthopaedic or medical journals.
• Your job is crucial
• And we greatly appreciate it.
Slides from a talk at the ASES Annual Meeting on how to become a good reviewer for JSES, or any orthopaedic journal.