This month, Editor Spotlight features Dr. Mabel Aoun who shares with us her editorial process, her experience as a nephrologist and a public health researcher, and her thoughts on the importance of open science in her field.
Dr. Mabel Aoun is an Assistant Professor at the faculty of medicine of Saint-Joseph University of Beirut and currently practicing medicine at the chronic kidney disease institution at AUB Santé, Lorient. She has been involved in supervising medical students’ theses and research projects. She is the author of more than 30 peer-reviewed publications, first author of 25 papers, a reviewer for several international journals, kidney disease and hypertension guidelines and member of PLOS ONE and BMC Nephrology Editorial Board.
She is curious about kidney disease epidemiology, complications and outcomes, social and environmental causes of kidney disease, chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology, quality of life of chronic kidney disease patients, drugs and kidneys, acid-base disturbances, polycystic kidney disease, non-communicable diseases especially hypertension, primary healthcare, health systems, continuous quality improvement, kidney health advocacy and policies.
What do you enjoy most about being an Editorial Board member at PLOS ONE? What are some of the challenges?
Before being an Editorial Board member at PLOS ONE, I have been an author and a reviewer for several years. I find these three roles very complementary as they strengthen each other and enhance together the knowledge sharing experience. I challenge myself as an academic editor to be as fair and rigorous as possible with my first assessment of the manuscript, my choice of reviewers, my evaluation of reviewers’ responses until my final decision. I try to remind myself of some common editorial flaws that I was exposed to as an author, flaws that could have resulted from a shallow assessment of the manuscript, lack of knowledge of specific topics or blind trust of reviewers’ judgment.
I would like to acknowledge all experts who have hundreds of publications and decades of experience and humbly accept to review a paper. These people make my day and provide us with very precise and insightful comments.
So first, I try to read the whole manuscript twice, once before sending it to review and another time before the final decision. It is a time-consuming process but I enjoy very much how a couple of good reviewers with a brief editorial synthesis would improve a manuscript of acceptable quality and sound methods to make it clearer to the readers. Second, I do not handle manuscripts that are outside my area of expertise, whereas I make an effort-even if I am overwhelmed- to accept handling a paper that is closely related to my field. Here, I would like to acknowledge all experts who have hundreds of publications and decades of experience and humbly accept to review a paper. These people make my day and provide us with very precise and insightful comments. The science will not progress if renowned experts do not provide time to evaluating new papers.
But being an academic editor comes with challenges as well. It is frustrating when we knock on all experts’ doors and cannot secure a reviewer for months to evaluate a certain manuscript. It is also hard when we detect some flaws in the methodology that prevent us from accepting a paper but at the same time, we are aware of the big efforts put by researchers to conduct and write their work. I wish I could be sometimes less sensitive to the endeavor of researchers worldwide for it is always with sadness that I press the reject button.
As a nephrologist and a researcher, you practice medicine and study both clinical and public health aspects of kidney diseases. How do you think these experiences complement each other?
I have been a nephrologist since 2004 and a public health professional since 2012. I also got my Master of Public Health in 2020. I love nephrology but public health with its different fields of epidemiology, biostatistics and health management broadened my horizon, and enhanced my management and research skills. As a nephrologist, I act on patients and diseases, it is rewarding and challenging at the same time. But as a public health professional, I target the preventive aspects in nephrology, I appreciate the important role of primary healthcare, I enjoy screening campaigns during World Kidney Day and I look more at the benefits of educating communities about kidney health and not only treating individuals. With my background in nephrology, the path of public health made me see the environmental, socio-economic and political sides of kidney diseases; it pulled me out of my small kidney disease room and exposed my brain to the extremely fascinating aspects of global health.
Why is open science important to your field?
I know very few people who pay to get an article. An open access journal ensures that new knowledge reaches, in a faster way, researchers, clinicians, decision makers and even communities. A research paper has no impact if it is not disseminated, read and used. Open science makes it easy for physicians and researchers to get access to new data. My papers published in PLOS ONE or another open access journal are the most read and most cited. However, I would like to emphasize that not all open access journals have a robust and sound peer-review process. What I love about PLOS ONE is the well-organized system and the dedicated journal staff who are always ready to assist academic editors and to provide them with tools and advice to make optimal decisions. I also like the fact that PLOS ONE focuses on the methodology of research papers and not the novelty. This gives opportunities to good researchers from all countries to share their own experiences and make them easy to access.
Open science makes it easy for physicians and researchers to get access to new data. My papers published in PLOS ONE or another open access journal are the most read and most cited.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by contributors are solely those of individual contributors, and not necessarily those of PLOS.
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