It is my pleasure to present an exclusive interview with Dr. João Monteiro, the Chief Editor of Nature Medicine, one of the top medical journals worldwide. He leads an international team covering news, opinion and research across the entire landscape of medical research. João has spoken about medicine, science and publishing in many international conferences, and has championed efforts to raise ethical standards and transparency in the reporting of translational and clinical research. João cares about supporting young investigators, creating opportunities to make scientific publishing more inclusive, and harnessing the potential of scientific research to reduce health inequalities globally.
As one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world, Nature Medicine has a long-standing reputation for publishing groundbreaking research in the field of medical sciences. With Dr. Monteiro at the helm, the journal has continued to push the boundaries of medical publishing, consistently providing a platform for innovative research and fostering interdisciplinary collaboration. In this interview, we delve into Dr. Monteiro’s vision for the journal, his approach to publishing, and his thoughts on the future of medical research.
Join us as we explore the world of medical publishing with one of its foremost leaders!
Could you discuss the increasing importance of clinical medicine in the field of medical research, and how Nature Medicine addresses this need in the current scientific landscape?
Clinical medicine has changed a lot in recent years, with the advent of new technologies and therapeutic modalities to meet clinical needs that had remained unmet for a very long time. Think for instance of how immunotherapy has upended the landscape of cancer treatment, or how gene therapies are beginning to deliver cures for conditions that were intractable. All these advances are truly amazing but bringing them to patient care requires well-designed studies and high-quality data. Journals like Nature Medicine aim to fulfill that gap, by championing research that is transformative and that will shape the future of medicine and healthcare.
What sets Nature Medicine apart from other prominent medical journals, such as NEJM, Lancet, Annals of Medicine, and JAMA, and makes it particularly attractive to clinicians?
We are always looking for the next big advance in medicine that will meet an important unmet clinical or health need in a new way – innovation is part of what makes our journal unique in the clinical landscape. The studies we publish tend to bridge fields, what makes sense because we have a very broad audience, which includes translational, clinical and health researchers.
What role does Nature Medicine play in shaping the future of clinical medicine, and how does the journal seek to stay ahead of emerging trends and developments in the field?
Our goal is to set an agenda for the future of medicine and health research. We do not do that alone, but in constant dialogue with researchers, clinicians, policymakers and healthcare professionals more generally. Every year our team participates of dozens of conferences, visits research centers and hospitals, organizes scientific events, and reaches out to hundreds of members of the scientific community. These critical interactions help to shape the journal’s priorities and agenda, so that we can support our communities and meet their needs.
Randomized clinical trials are often considered the gold standard for evaluating the effectiveness of medical treatments. How does Nature Medicine approach the publication and evaluation of such trials, and what criteria are used to determine their suitability for publication?
Every clinical trial that we receive is carefully assessed by a member of our editorial team who has expertise in that area of medicine. That means not only reading the paper and searching the literature, but also assessing the clinical trial protocol, adherence to ethical standards, prespecified endpoints, and statistical analysis plan. Nature Medicine follows the recommendations of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE, of which I am a core member), and only considers clinical trials prospectively registered in a primary registry that meets the WHO requirements for content, quality and validity, accessibility, unique identification, technical capacity and administration. After this initial assessment, if the study is deemed of interest to the Nature Medicine audience, our team members will seek the input of peer reviewers, with expertise in different areas of medicine and statistics. Studies that meet the editorial bar of novelty and advance, and receive support from peer reviewers on technical aspects will then be strong candidates for publication.
Nature Medicine has consistently published a high number of research papers each year. Could you elaborate on the editorial process that ensures the quality of each paper, and how the journal maintains its reputation for publishing groundbreaking research?
The number of papers that Nature Medicine publishes is actually very small, compared with the number of submissions that the journal receives – approximately 4-5% of the submissions will be accepted for publication in a typical year. These studies represent really the most impactful and solid research that comes to our desks, and each paper will be thoroughly vetted both in-house, but our editorial team, and in collaboration with expert reviewers.
Could you mention any recent advancements or breakthroughs in clinical medicine that have been published in Nature Medicine, and how they are influencing medical practice?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our journal published critical studies that helped the community understand how SARS-COV-2 is transmitted, the impact of the infection in children, and the long-term consequences in adults. Outside of COVID-19, two highlights for me are the phase 1/2 trial demonstrating preliminary safety and efficacy of topical gene therapy for recessive dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (a devastating skin condition with very limited therapeutic options) that is now headed for approval by the US Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and the first phase 3 MDMA-assisted therapy for severe post-traumatic stress disorder, which was really a pivotal study that shifted perspective on the therapeutic use of psychedelics. There have been many others, including some of the first studies of neoadjuvant immunotherapy in melanoma, which is now becoming the standard of care for patients with that disease, and important advances in the application of artificial intelligence systems for the early detection of sepsis.
With the increasing focus on translational research in medicine, how does Nature Medicine bridge the gap between basic science and clinical applications, and what role does it play in promoting interdisciplinary collaboration in the field?
Helping research move from the bench to the bedside is one of the core missions of our journal. That means engaging researchers on both sides of the problem – those who are working on innovation and new solutions for unsolved challenges in medicine, and people who are actually running the trials and doing the feasibility, safety and efficacy studies. We think we are quite unique in that aspect. Our editors really have a lot of experience in identifying and championing the research that will actually bridge the gaps and improve patients’ lives.
How does Nature Medicine prioritize publishing research that has a direct impact on patient care, and what kind of studies are most likely to be accepted for publication?
The number one question for us is always what the impact of the research will be for people in the real world. Sometimes it will be by changing public health policy, other times by providing the pivotal results that will lead to the approval of a new drug for a disease, and in other instances, it could also be by paving the way for a new type of therapy to make to trials or giving us knowledge of how a disease works.
In recent years, there has been a growing focus on open access and open data in scientific publishing. How does Nature Medicine approach these issues, and what steps has the journal taken to promote greater transparency and accessibility in medical research?
Nature Medicine, like all journals in the Nature Portfolio, is a transformative journal, meaning that authors can choose to publish their work either through the traditional subscription publishing route or gold Open Access. Beyond access, we fully embrace open science, and we work with authors to promote data accessibility whenever possible while keeping in mind the need to protect research participant privacy.
Which added value could Nature Medicine bring to the Italian clinical research community? How could Italian clinicians contribute?
I am fortunate to have met and interacted with many clinical and translational Italian researchers throughout my career. I think that there is a very vibrant, active community in Italy, really at the cutting edge of medical research in many areas, like oncology, immunology, gene therapies and infectious diseases. But I am certain that there are a lot more opportunities for us to expand our reach in Italy, and to work with researchers doing groundbreaking work in all areas of medicine. We encourage submission of clinical trials and we are always happy to work with researchers and advise on whether a study is a strong candidate for the journal.
We would like to thank Dr. Monteiro for this interview, which we believe will foster further engagement by Italian scientific community on Nature Medicine.
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