The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) relies on the devotion and hard work of the reviewers that contribute to our sixteen scholarly journals. Peer review has been defined as the “evaluation of research findings for competence, significance, and originality by qualified experts”, a definition that we take for granted in the 21st century, but a quick tour through time shows it was not always true.
From around 450 B.C. Hippocrates, Aristotle and Galen are all reported to have recorded their ideas and theories as written works, even if the authenticity of the actual authors is sometimes questioned. Theirs were perhaps some of the earliest scholarly articles. However, for one of the earliest examples of a formal scientific review process, we must look to Al Raha, Syria and a book entitled Ethics of the Physician by Ishap bin Ali Al Rahwi who lived between 854 and 931 AD. The book’s contents reveal that doctors risked legal proceedings if a “peer” review of their notes by the local council revealed that the treatment was incorrect.
A jump forward in time to 1731 and the year in which the Royal Society of Edinburgh published Medical Essays and Observations, thought to be the first peer-reviewed collection of medical articles. The editor sent articles out for review to those he thought to be “most versed in these matters”.
Journals multiplied at about the same speed that printing presses became established around the civilised world. Many types of journal and peer review system were tried and tested with varying levels of success until the outbreak of the Second World War. Medical journals began to flourish in the middle of the 20th Century and records of systematic peer review started to be kept.
Since the ESC began publishing the European Heart Journal (EHJ) 40 years ago, hundreds of articles received each year are now thousands and spread across fifteen other ESC journals - The ESC Journal Family. Managing such a phenomenal workload of complex scientific and medical writings would simply not be possible without excellent editorial teams, talented authors and a team of expert reviewers.
In the 21st Century, authors submit work online and receive responses and guidance in record time. In submitting their work to an ESC Journal, they are in fact accessing one of the biggest online Universities in the world, staffed by professors at the height of their art who will advise, comment and criticise constructively.
On a paper-by-paper basis, reviewers work anonymously to further their chosen field of cardiology, but looking back at the last year has allowed us to identify the men and women who have given freely of their time to ensure the articles you read are as good as they can be.
Each year, during the Annual ESC Congress, the ESC Publications Dinner allows the ESC to show their appreciation for the work carried out by the reviewing force of our ESC Journal Family. The EHJ Editorial Board Meeting that precedes the dinner sees the best and most productive reviewers receive a small token of appreciation in the form of an award from Editor-in-Chief, Filippo Crea.