by Jennifer Harman, Editor
JH: Tell us a bit about yourself and your current focus of research.
GS: My name is Giorgia Sulis, and I am a Postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health of McGill University in Montreal (Canada). I received my PhD in epidemiology from McGill in May 2021. Prior to that, I specialized in infectious and tropical diseases at the University of Brescia (Italy) in 2017, after obtaining my medical degree in 2011 and a post-graduate diploma in tropical medicine and international health in 2013. I work in the area of infectious disease epidemiology with three main lines of research (tuberculosis, antimicrobial resistance and vaccines), applying a variety of research methods that include knowledge synthesis approaches as well as observational and experimental studies. To do so, I build on my expertise in clinical infectious diseases, epidemiology, biostatistics, public health and global health.
JH: What do you think is the most fascinating recent development in pulmonary medicine?
GS: Pulmonary medicine is a very broad and complex field, so I will focus on the area I know better, which is also of utmost global importance: tuberculosis (TB). TB is the second most infectious killer globally, after COVID-19, and thus remains a major health threat. A lot has been done in the past few years to improve the diagnosis and treatment of this deadly and disabling condition, such as the development and implementation of new tools for rapid point-of-care diagnosis and the introduction of shorter regimens to treat drug-resistant forms of TB.
JH: Is there an area of pulmonary medicine that you think is currently under-explored?
I think that the biggest gap is that we still don’t have a good vaccine for TB. BCG, the only TB vaccine ever developed and used, is a hundred years old now, and its impact on TB incidence and transmission is quite limited. It does have a protective effect against severe and disseminated disease in newborns and infants, but this is not enough to curb the spread of TB. The main reason why we don’t have a better option is the chronic lack of funding. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated this problem and caused major disruptions in TB care services across countries. Given the important public health implications, it is key to explore the consequences of this phenomenon. A better understanding of how TB and COVID-19 interact would be extremely relevant for clinical and public health practice. For instance, we need to investigate whether COVID-19 increases the risk of progression from TB infection to active disease, and evaluate the short and long-term effects of TB/SARS-CoV-2 co-infection.
JH: Where do you see (or where would you like to see) the pulmonary medicine field in 10 years from now?
GS: In 2015, the United Nations set the ambitious goal to end TB-related deaths, transmission and catastrophic costs by 2030, as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda. In the current scenario and considering the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health systems, this goal seems out of reach. Yet, I hope that all major global health actors will understand the importance of funding and supporting TB research as needed. A safe, effective and universally accessible vaccine for TB is what I would like to see more than anything else in the coming years.
JH: What does it mean to you to be an Editorial Board Member for BMC Pulmonary Medicine?
GS: It is a privilege but also a big responsibility. Open access scientific journals play a key role in the research community, and I am very glad to be part of the process. Ensuring scientific rigor is essential and is something that each and every one of us should aim for and actively contribute to. Being an Editorial Board Member gives me access to the latest research findings from a wide range of settings and across research methods, so it is also an excellent learning opportunity for me.
JH: What is one piece of advice you would give to reviewers as an EBM handling manuscripts?
GS: I think it is important for reviewers to always keep in mind that authors of submitted manuscripts are peers, struggling with the same challenges as anyone else in the scientific community. Reviewers’ comments and suggestions should be polite, thorough and constructive. Of course this should never come at the expense of methodological rigour.
JH: What is one piece of advice you would give to the authors of submitted manuscripts?
GS: First, I would encourage authors to pay particular attention to the methods section of their manuscript, that should provide a thorough and comprehensive description of all procedures and decisions made to address the research question, in line with standard guidelines. Second, I believe that a good cover letter can be very helpful for the handling editor to quickly identify the strengths of the manuscript, so I would suggest all authors to prepare such a letter and do their best to present their work. Third, I would invite authors to consult the guidelines for manuscript preparation before submission, in order to make the editorial process faster.
JH: What would you change in scientific publishing if you could?
GS: I think that transparency is essential at every step of the process, from manuscript submission to publication. However, I know that many reviewers are not comfortable in having their names disclosed to authors and/or to the public. More efforts are needed to make this standard practice across journals, while ensuring a safe and collaborative environment. On another note, I am glad that BMC Pulmonary Medicine is compliant with Plan S, and I hope that more journals will follow the example. Yet, we need to be aware of the inequities that exist in scientific publishing, with female researchers and researchers from the Global South being particularly disadvantaged. It is our responsibility as members of the scientific community to eliminate this gap