“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).


Researchers do not fully support the ICMJE proposals on data sharing


In January of this year, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) outlined a proposal to share non-personalised data from clinical trials within 6 months of the publication of primary results. This month, an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine has revealed that researchers are not fully supportive of this initiative. The International Consortium of Investigators for Fairness in Trial Data Sharing, along with the backing of nearly 300 researchers from over 30 countries, has expressed dissatisfaction with the proposal and declared that a more in-depth investigation of the benefits, risks and costs is needed.

A key area of concern is the short time period (6 months) that was suggested between publication and data sharing. Many investigators plan to use trial data to publish additional articles to the primary report. Fast data sharing could affect these secondary manuscripts and discourage investigators from getting involved with large clinical trials. Alternatively, researchers may delay the publication of the primary trial data to give time for the preparation of these secondary articles, which would impede the publication of clinical results in a timely manner. The authors propose 2–5 years as a more realistic timeframe for data sharing, depending on the size of the trial. The authors also outline the challenges of data sharing. The process needs careful, controlled management to ensure that all data requests are dealt with fairly and that any further analyses are performed correctly and do not weaken the original results erroneously. The involvement of independent statistical reviews of all secondary data analyses could safeguard against inaccurate reports. Finally, the authors suggest that there should be some sort of financial recompense for sharing data, to allow the original investigators to recover some of the costs of conducting the trial and making the data available.

It seems that more consultation on the process of data sharing is needed to bring publishers and researchers together.


Summary by Jo Chapman, PhD from Aspire Scientific.


International Rheumatology Editors announce new policy to combat ghost authorship

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) clearly define four criteria that must be fulfilled for an individual to be credited as an author of a scientific paper. Those who do not fulfil all criteria, but have made a substantial contribution to the paper, should be named in the acknowledgements. However, ghost authorship, where an individual significantly contributes to a manuscript in the form of writing, editing or conducting research, but is not listed as an author nor appropriately acknowledged, still remains an issue. Honorary authorship is also a concern, where an individual is named on the paper despite having little to do with the work being reported.

In a recent article by Moots et al which was co-published in seven rheumatology journals, the authors report that although there is evidence of an overall decrease in inappropriate honorary and/or ghost authorship (from 29% in 1996 to 21% in 2008), the problem persists. The authors explain that this can have clinical implications, for example, when a clinical trial manuscript is written by employees of the sponsor but the first author is given as an academically-affiliated investigator. However, they do emphasise that properly acknowledged medical writing support is perfectly acceptable, stating: “We do not believe that medical writers/medical editing should be banned; they can and do have a legitimate place in assisting with the preparation of manuscripts. It is their concealment that is unacceptable.” The Good Publication Practice (GPP) 3 guideline can help individuals and organisations maintain ethical and transparent publication practices and comply with legal and regulatory requirements.

In order to combat the issue of inappropriate honorary and/or ghost authorship, it was decided at the meeting of International Rheumatology Editors in 2013 that ghost-authored papers submitted to any rheumatology-related journal would not be allowed. If authors are found to have breached the policy, a notice with the details of the ghost-written paper, the names of the responsible companies and the corresponding author will be published and the corresponding authors’ institute alerted to the violation. It is hoped that these actions will act as a deterrent within the rheumatology community.ghost authorship


Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

How to Manipulate a Citation Histogram

The Scholarly Kitchen

The scientific community needs to put less emphasis on Journal Impact Factors (JIFs), argued a bibliometrician and a group of distinguished science editors and publishers, and start embracing citation distributions. Their paper, posted to the bioRxiv, provides detailed steps on downloading article-level citations and plotting frequency histograms.

In my last post, I argued that this solution does not address their litany of criticisms of the JIF and may serve to confuse more than clarify. In this post, I describe how one can manipulate a histogram to selectively highlight or obscure the underlying data.

Unlike calculating a mean or median, both of which are mathematically defined, a histogram is a technique for visualizing data. There are no rules about how to bin one’s data or scale one’s axes. These decisions are left entirely to the author and their appropriateness is largely a matter of context.

Consider the following three histograms. While they look very…

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The career path of a medical writer: results from an international survey

career path

The results of a survey looking at the personal and professional experiences of medical writers by Walker et al., has recently been published in Medical Writing and makes for interesting reading. A summary of the results can be found below.

  • A total of 112 professionals responded to the survey with approximately two thirds based in Europe and one third in the USA. A majority (68%) worked primarily in pharmaceutical writing, 28% in medical devices and 5% were freelancers/consultants.
  • The top three answers to the question “What made you originally consider medical writing as a career” were:
    • Enjoy writing (70%)
    • Fitted degree/previous experience (52%)
    • Wanted a change (45%).
  • Many had a research background but other backgrounds included editorial, teaching and medical marketing.
  • Nearly all respondents (90%) considered a science degree a necessity.
  • A majority of respondents were solely office-based and most worked between 30–50 hours per week.
  • Career prospects and salaries varied widely, with large salary differences between the USA and Europe.
  • When asked about quality of life the positives included variety of work, home working opportunities, flexible working and job security. Negatives included pressure, out of hours working and limited opportunities for part-time working.

The article includes some of the advice offered by respondents to “new recruits or younger self” and provides some useful guidance for everyone involved in medical communications. Perhaps encouragingly for our industry, overall job satisfaction was high and a majority would recommend their job to others.


Summary by Jo Chapman, PhD from Aspire Scientific.

Why PhDs are a good fit for a career in medical writing

phd capIn a recent paper published in Medical Writing, Benjamin Gallarda from Ogilvy CommonHealth, discusses how the skills a researcher develops while completing a PhD can successfully be applied to a career in medical writing.

The author points out that writing a thesis, which can run into hundreds of pages and requires the researcher to examine and summarise large amounts of data and scientific literature, forms great training for a would-be medical writer. Similarly, the problem-solving and creative thinking required to overcome the hurdles that are almost always encountered during a PhD are good practice for when, as a medical writer, you must do what you can to meet a client’s demands. The ability to communicate ideas to audiences ranging from non-experts to specialists in the field is also necessary for both a PhD candidate and a medical writer.

The author goes on to discuss the new skills that can be gained from a move from research into the world of medical communications. These include those required to develop promotional materials and to interpret information from sources outside of the natural sciences.

In conclusion, the author asserts that if post-docs enjoy the non-laboratory aspects of research, are keen to talk about their work and are interested in subjects outside their primary field, medical writing could offer a good fit and an interesting and enjoyable career.


Summary by Alice Wareham, PhD from Aspire Scientific

[VIDEO] Peer review: a global view

Watch a snapshot of the findings from one of the largest research studies into peer review in recent years, examining authors, reviewers’ and journal editors’ opinions on the system at the heart of scholarly communication. Read the research here.

[VIDEO] History of the European Association of Science Editors (EASE)

Rachael Lammey, Member and Community Outreach at Crossref and European Association of Science Editors (EASE) Council Member, gives a brief history of the association which celebrated it’s 30 year anniversary in 2012.

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