“The Publication Plan” is now also launched on Facebook


“The Publication Plan” has launched its official Facebook page, as a new platform to share news and information with authors, researchers, medical writers and communications professionals, pharmaceutical industry managers, medical journal editors and publishers (amongst others).

Interested parties now have an additional means to find out about the latest news on medical publications development, relevant event updates, as well as being able to view various videos. Allowing for fast and easy interaction, the new Facebook page will enable medical publication professionals to share experiences and add their own comments and news stories.

Ryan Woodrow, manager of The Publication Plan, commented: “Social media is a powerful communication tool and via Facebook we have been able to create a visually attractive and content-led community that can be easily accessed by medical publications professionals, even when on the go.”


Can more be done to improve the peer review process?

peer reviewDue to the human element, peer review, a critical component of the publication process, can be biased and is often inefficient. Drummond Rennie, a former president of the World Association of Medical Editors, has championed research into peer review for many years and in a recent article has highlighted the improvements that have been made and where more work is needed.

Rennie was moved to act after coming across cases of plagiarism by reviewers and the revelation that fabricated data could get through peer review and be published. He was involved in the setup of the Peer Review Congress, which is held every 4 years. The ensuing research into peer review has contributed to milestones such as the CONSORT guidelines to improve the reporting of clinical trial data and the EQUATOR Network now has more than 300 reporting guidelines to aid the writing of scientific research.

The question of which is the best method of peer review–open, blinded, pre vs. post publication, portable–is open for debate. Rennie highlights the need for further research to examine the claims and counterclaims of the advantages and disadvantages of each method so that this important question can be investigated. Progress is being made and the launch last year of a journal specifically for research into this area, Research Integrity and Peer Review, can only help. Rennie stresses the need for all those involved in the publication process, authors, editors and reviewers, to use the existing guidelines to uphold standards and to continually monitor and develop the practice as needed.


Summary by Jo Chapman, PhD from Aspire Scientific.

Is the tide turning against journal impact factors?

Journal impact factors (JIFs) are a topic often found at the centre of debate within the scientific community. Designed as a measure of the quality of a journal as a whole, many believe that researchers, funders and employers now inappropriately use the measure to assess the quality of individual papers or authors. This type of misuse has led to many big players in the science publishing world calling for its removal or replacement, as reported in a Nature news article recently.

JIFs are calculated using the average number of citations that articles published by a journal in the previous two years have received in the current year. Although a sound concept, evidence in a recent paper authored by senior employees at a number of science publishers indicate that the JIF is heavily influenced by a small number of papers that are highly cited.

The paper, posted to preprint server bioRxiv, looked at the distribution of citations for articles published in 11 journals between 2013–14 and compared this with each journal’s 2015 impact factor. They found that 65–76% of papers received fewer citations than the impact factor of the journal. The authors propose that journals adopt citation distributions as a more appropriate representation of a journal’s status and they provide instructions on how to do this. Others argue that the JIF still has value and that removing it completely would be a mistake. The debate continues….



Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

[VIDEO] Highlights from the 2016 conference of the European Association of Science Editors (EASE)

In this video, Rachael Lammey, Member and Community Outreach at Crossref and Council Member of the European Association of Science Editors (EASE), gives a summary of the 13th EASE Conference, held in Strasbourg on 10-12 June 2016. The theme of the conference was ‘Scientific Integrity: editors on the front line’.

This recording was made on 6 July 2016 in Oxford, at a MedComms Networking event.

Free online course: ‘Design and Interpretation of Clinical Trials’


John Hopkins University is running a free online course (via Coursera) on the design and interpretation of clinical trials. Randomised clinical trials are usually considered to provide the highest level of evidence for determining whether a treatment is effective.

The 6-week course (beginning 18th July) will explain the basic principles of randomised clinical trial design and reporting. Initially students will be introduced to the terminology used in clinical trials as well as the several common trial designs. The course will then go on to explain the mechanics of clinical trials, such as randomisation and blinding of treatment, before covering outcomes and the gold standard for analysis. The second half of the course will review the essential ethical considerations involved in conducting experiments on people. Finally, guidance will be provided on how to report the results of clinical trials, including details of the CONSORT statement.

Enrolment for the course will close on 23rd July.

Improving data sharing for the advancement of research

data sharing

Many organisations and journals advocate the sharing of individual patient-level clinical data to facilitate additional analyses and increase transparency around clinical trials. Are the current strategies for facilitating data sharing both effective and ethical? Merson et al., examine this question in a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The authors argue that the benefits of data sharing may be undermined by inadequate platforms. They discuss the risk of creating “data dumpsters”, where authors deposit data without providing the appropriate documentation necessary for meaningful interpretation. The authors recommend that systems are put in place to standardise and curate data to maximise data re-use. However, they acknowledge that there is a lack of investment and expertise in this area. The authors also express concerns that high resource countries, who may be better equipped to make use of data, will disproportionately benefit from data sharing compared to those with more limited resources.

The authors use the WorldWide Antimalarial Resistance Network (WWARN) of 260 collaborators in 70 countries as an example of how data sharing can be done effectively and fairly. WWARN use pooled harmonised participant-level clinical trial data to answer specific research questions. The network  encourages those who generate data to become involved in meta-analyses and ensures that their contributions to any subsequent publications are recognised in accordance with established guidelines on authorship.

The principles and practices behind WWARN have been expanded by the Infectious Disease Data Observatory who aim to apply the model to other neglected tropical diseases. Pooling data from the small number of studies investigating these diseases can maximise the utility of any data generated. This will ultimately benefit lower-income countries, where the knowledge generated by these studies is needed most.


Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

Understanding the role of real-world evidence (RWE) in a medical publication plan

An educational meeting was held at Alderley Park in Cheshire on the afternoon of the 7th July, entitled: “Understanding the role of real-world evidence (RWE) in a medical publication plan“. The meeting was chaired by Ryan Woodrow of Aspire Scientific and John Gonzalez of AstraZeneca.

Some of the slides that were shown at this meeting are now available and can be accessed from the links below, or by clicking on the images.

Fundamentals of RWE, and how evidence is gathered
Speaker: Andy Shaw of AstraZeneca


What are the specific issues for RWE study publications?
Speakers: Stephen Sweet and Gary Male of Oxford PharmaGenesis


How should an RWE study plan be developed and communicated?
Speakers: Tim Koder of Oxford PharmaGenesis