Author: Jo Chapman, PhD (Aspire Scientific Ltd)
Over two days last week, around 250 delegates and exhibitors braved sub-zero temperatures to attend the European meeting of the International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) in London. The agenda was centred around publication planning in the era of data sharing and transparency and included a keynote address, lively panel discussions, smaller roundtable case-study reports and interactive parallel sessions. The Publication Plan will post summaries of the plenary and poster presentations from the meeting for those of you that could not attend, as well as acting as a timely reminder of the highlights for those that did.
A summary of the second day of the meeting is provided below. For a summary of the first day, see here.
Day 2: Wednesday 20th January 2016
Publishing and journals: Practical considerations for medical publication professionals in 2016
The faculty for the first session on day 2 included Amy Bourke-Waite (Senior Communications Manager, Springer Nature, UK), Dr Maria Kowalczuk (Biology Editor, Research Integrity Group, BioMed Central, UK), Dr Tom Rees (Scientific Strategy Advisor, PAREXEL International, UK) and Dr Anna Sharman (Founder, Cofactor Ltd, UK). Anna kicked off the session with a talk entitled “Factors to consider when choosing a journal”. With so much time and money invested in a piece of research, it is imperative that the investigators take the time to consider the best journal in which to publish the work. In this respect, Anna mentioned that impact factor is one measure, but in isolation can it really identify the best journal? There are other important considerations as well. Reaching the correct audience is crucial but it is also important to reach as wide an audience as possible. There is evidence to suggest that open access (OA) articles receive more citations. Navigation, length of time from submission to publication, and cascading peer review should also be considered. Anna described a number of online journal selector tools that are available to help with navigation through this critical process. Anna has recently published a useful article on journal selection.
Tom Rees then gave an interesting account of the impact of social media on an article. Over recent years there has been a rapid rise in the amount of online sharing of articles. Tom discussed a concept entitled the “Kardashian Index”, which suggests that researchers with a higher profile on social media may inflate the impact of their research. However, Tom pointed out that high activity on social media does not always result in a larger audience for an article, as measured by the number of page views. To capitalise on the digital age, researchers are encouraged to include “sharable nuggets” such as interactive models, videos and supplementary data with their article. Tom reviewed the range of metrics (citations, online chatter, media coverage) that can be used after publication to give an idea of the level of attention the article is getting. These metrics may be useful when selecting a journal to publish in.
Maria Kowalczuk gave an editor’s view on publication ethics and the issues of pre-publication. Scientific integrity, consensus and trust are the foundations of publication ethics. Misconduct covers data fabrication, falsification and plagiarism, but perhaps should also include non-transparency of authorship and breaches of trust (such as lack of consent, peer review manipulation and undisclosed conflicts of interest). Misconduct can lead to retractions and Maria discussed a study by Fang and colleagues that found that of the 2047 retractions indexed by PubMed up to 2012, 67% were due to misconduct. The need for research into the areas of publication ethics and peer review has been acknowledged and a new journal called Research Integrity and Peer Review has been launched. Maria finished by highlighting the issue of pre-publications in the era of encouraged data sharing. Journals differ in their policies regarding this topic.
The final talk in this session was about OA and peer review given by Amy Bourke-Waite. OA publishing is on the rise and 63% of scientists have published an OA paper in the last 3 years. The Author Insight 2015 Survey found that 35% of scientific, technical and medical respondents considered the option to publish OA as an important factor in journal choice. Overall, concerns regarding the quality of OA published results are declining. With respect to peer review, the survey also reported that scientists view peer review as an important hallmark of quality, but can be frustrated with the time taken to complete this process. Peer review may well have to diversify in the future, and portable or cascading peer review could be options. The debate on whether peer review should be open and transparent will rumble on with strong arguments on both sides.
This session allowed invited ISMPP members, selected by blinded peer review, to present their research.
Sana Eljamel from Costello Medical Consulting Ltd presented results from an investigation into whether acknowledgement of professional medical writing support in industry-sponsored publications had kept in line with Good Publication Practice (GPP) recommendations. Interestingly, although there has been an improvement since the release of GPP2, there is still much to be done to fulfil the guidelines. GPP guidelines state that the writer’s name, qualifications, affiliation and funding source should be provided as a minimum. Of 42 articles published in 2014/2015, only 12% included the minimum information required by GPP. Hopefully, these numbers will change as communication around the new GPP3 guidelines increases.
Professional medical writing support has previously been shown to improve the reporting of randomised-controlled trials (RCTs), and Will Gattrell (Oxford PharmaGenesis) asked whether this is “reflected in the impact of the published research”. When impact factor, citations, article views and altmetric scores of articles with medical writing support were compared with those without medical writing support, papers with medical writing support were found to be published in journals with a higher impact factor and to receive significantly more citations within the first year than those with no support. Effects on article views and altmetric scores were not so obvious.
Bernard Kerr from Succinct Medical Communications described research on the transparency of reporting both positive and negative clinical trial data, and whether negative results are disseminated as effectively as positive data. In this study, using the ClinicalTrials.gov identifier as a search tool increased the traceability of primary publications, and surprisingly Google Scholar proved more effective than PubMed as a search engine. Of the primary publications retrieved, 128 reported positive data and 47 negative (did not meet primary endpoint or reported unfavourable results). However, time to publication and journal impact factor were comparable for both sets of results, so it would seem that the distribution of negative data is happening as well as positive data.
Andrew Desson (Shire) and Noelle O’Regan (Oxford PharmaGenesis) outlined their research on the factors influencing journal choice, which involved an online survey of publication professionals. Listing on PubMed, a defined target audience, and short lead times were all considered to be very important. However, their relative influence changed according to the type of data being reported. For ground-breaking results, impact factor and short lead times were most important, whereas for secondary data, PubMed listing and low rejection rates were top of the list.
The final talk in this session was given by Daniel Portsmouth (Boehringer Ingelheim Pharma GmbH & Co). Daniel compared the publicly-accessible publication policies/statements of the top 14 pharmaceutical companies. The Joint Industry Position on the Publication of Clinical Trial Results in the Scientific Literature states that “all industry-sponsored clinical trials should be considered for publication in the scientific literature irrespective of whether the results of the sponsors’ medicine(s) are positive or negative”. The research from Daniel found that 86% of companies include such a statement in their publicly-accessible publication statement, although only 50% included discontinued studies within this remit. Fewer still (43%) provided information on the publication of non-company sponsored studies, and only 37% specified a timescale. Daniel concluded that pharma companies should review their publication policy statements to bring them into line with those recommended by the industry, and acknowledged that this might happen as companies implement the new GPP3 guidelines.
Parallel sessions: Other guidelines and regulations impacting publication planners
Three parallel sessions ran during the first part of the afternoon on day 2. The Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research (EQUATOR) Network (http://www.equator-network.org/) gave an overview of the resources available on their website, and outlined their commitment to training individuals and raising awareness of best practice in research reporting. The minefield that is copyright was tackled in another session. There was general agreement that copyright is difficult to understand and more needs to be done to improve awareness and compliance within the industry. The different types of creative commons licences were discussed. The third session covered corporate integrity agreements.
Keynote address: Publications: Where do we go from here?
The meeting came to a close with the keynote address, which this year was given by Vitek Tracz, Chairman of the Science Navigation Group and founder of BioMed Central. Vitek outlined how journals control the dissemination of medical and scientific information, and that the delay that is inherent in this process may be detrimental to the scientific community and the general public. He suggested that the flaws that exist in the current peer review process can result in many important papers not being published or delayed, and that some rejections may be based on the number of predicted citations as they in turn affect the impact factor of the journal. Vitek stressed the damaging effect of impact factors on publishing data; it was invented as a tool for librarians as a measure of the journal’s total citations, and was not meant to infer the quality of an individual article.
Vitek also asked how a reviewer can do an optimal job if they do not have access to the data used to generate the results. He asserted that people read articles rather than journals and proposed, perhaps rather controversially, that journals should be abolished altogether! He went on to describe F1000Research (http://f1000research.com/) an open platform that publishes research, including all source data, within a few days. Transparent peer review occurs after publication removing the possibility of editorial bias. Once an article receives two ‘Approved’ statuses, or two ‘Approved with Reservations’ and one ‘Approved’ status, it is indexed in various bibliographic databases. Readers have easy access to the most recent version of the data, but also have the ability to view all previous versions of the publication. A digital object identifier code is assigned to every referee report, so that it can be cited independently from the article. It would be fair to say that Vitek captured the audience’s attention with his views on the current status of research publishing and people were generally intrigued by the idea of phasing out journals. He left everyone with a lot to think about.
After a successful 2 days in London the European ISMPP meeting drew to a close. The sessions were well attended and full of interesting and thought provoking content. There is still much to be done but by working together perhaps the concept of data sharing and transparency can be more fully realised in the near future.
By Jo Chapman, PhD (Aspire Scientific Ltd)
Aspire Scientific is a boutique medical writing and publication planning agency led by professionals with at least a decade of medical writing experience and supported by PhD-educated writers and academics at the forefront of their specialist fields.