Over two days last month (21–22 February 2017), around 100 delegates and exhibitors attended The 16th Annual International Publication Planning (TIPPA) meeting in San Diego. The agenda was centred around collaborative approaches to increasing the reach and readership of global scientific communications, and included topics such as publication planning ethics and guidelines, authorship challenges and ‘ghostwriting’, lay summaries, and maximising the use of social media and enhanced journal content. A summary of the second day of the meeting is provided below for those of you who could not attend, and as a timely reminder of the highlights for those who did. A summary of the first day of the meeting can be found here.
Scientific journal tell-all – focus on trends in publishing in 2017
In this opening session on the second day of the meeting, Leslie Citrome (International Journal of Clinical Practice [Int J Clin Pract]) and Tanya Stezhka (Taylor & Francis) gave their perspectives on the emerging trends in scientific publishing. Leslie began by commenting on the massive influx of papers received by Int J Clin Pract and the criteria used to decide which papers will be sent for peer review. Manuscripts that are usually rejected outright include case studies, basic/animal studies, cross-sectional or open-label trials with small numbers of participants, meta-analyses with limited appeal, ‘data-mining’ studies, and papers not formatted for Int J Clin Pract or previously rejected by the journal. He highlighted that publishers want papers that will drive other highly citable submissions, generate reprint sales, and generate favourable press coverage; these criteria are subjective, vary from journal to journal, and can vary over time. Leslie then turned his attention to ‘smarter’ submission systems that have easier access to plagiarism detection software; these systems can also help to verify the identity of suggested peer reviewers, the recruitment of whom remains a challenge for journals. Other emerging trends are the use of Publons to record the contributions of reviewers, ORCID as a way of assigning authors a unique and permanent identifier, and eLocators to replace page numbers for online articles.
Continuing the session, Tanya introduced the concept of predatory publishers/journals and how they abuse the open-access model, can set up websites that closely resemble legitimate online publishers, often have false editorial boards, and aggressively encourage researchers to submit articles (usually without disclosing a publication fee) or to join their editorial board. In many cases, the fee is only demanded after acceptance/copyright transfer, which makes it difficult to withdraw the paper. Unfortunately, due to the current ‘publish or perish’ philosophy in medical and scientific research, such publishers have flourished – it is now estimated that over 8000 predatory journals exist. To fill the gap left by the disappearance of Beall’s list, which had its own critics, Tanya communicated the benefits of using whitelists such as DOAJ, OASPA and Cabell’s, and guidelines from societies like ISMPP, WAME and COPE. She concluded by discussing the Think Check Submit resource that can help authors to select appropriate journals and to avoid predatory journals/publishers.
Leveraging collaborations and partnerships for maximum benefit
Charles Rosenblum (Merck & Co., Inc.) and Amy Frankovich (Peloton Advantage, LLC) gave an insightful presentation on cross-company collaborations, looking at how effective partnerships can be initiated and maintained at the publication team level. When starting a collaboration, several important factors should be considered, including:
- Collaboration agreement – check if one is in place and if so whether it includes language pertaining to publications and publication committees; if an agreement is not in place, try and input into the publications section during its development
- Publication expenses – agree who will pay, e.g. whether one partner will absorb all costs versus cost sharing
- Internal and external stakeholders – understand whether there are rules related to commercial involvement, whether a partner is under a Corporate Integrity Agreement, and whether partners are familiar with ICMJE, GPP3 and other publication industry standards.
The creation of a Joint Publication Team (JPT) charter was cited as an example of best practice. The charter should define who the JPT reports to, how frequently the team will meet, whether each company will prepare its own publications or if the companies will collaborate, who will report the primary data, whether there are any restrictions on the types of publications that can be developed after the primary data are reported, and what the reviewing process will be for publication drafts.
The presenters believed that communication was critical to the success of a JPT. As well as the frequency of meetings, it is important to agree whether they will be face-to-face or via teleconference, for the purposes of information sharing or decision making, and whether each company will have additional, separate publication meetings. For ongoing information sharing, considerations include whether either company uses a publication planning tool (if so, will access be provided?), who the main points of contact are at critical times, and how data will be shared to permit post-hoc analyses. Concluding the presentation, Charles and Amy proposed that the success of a collaboration can be measured by the productivity of the JPT, the level of knowledge sharing, and whether both companies benefit from the arrangement.
Publication planning for the medical device sector – defining differences and similarities
In this session, Val Injev (Alcon) provided an overview of considerations for the planning and execution of publications related to medical devices. After defining what a medical device is and how they are regulated by the FDA, as pharmaceutical products are, Val continued by outlining some of the differences between devices and pharmaceuticals. The use of a device in clinical practice can be complex and often involves multiple steps, including prescription, training, user proficiency, and customisation. Moreover, although a doctor prescribing a pharmaceutical is the primary decision maker, the use of medical devices can involve many stakeholders (including doctors, hospital managers, nurses, and case workers) who can influence the adoption and use of a device. The multitude of target audiences should be kept in mind when planning medical device publications.
Compared with pharmaceuticals, the research and development approach for medical devices differs as most devices cannot be evaluated using randomised clinical trials. Reasons for this include the difficulty in conducting double-blind studies, the challenges in doing head-to-head studies, the relative expense of device trials compared with drug trials, and the ethical and practical issues in selecting a comparator. Nonetheless, the considerations for developing publications and publication plans for devices, and the skill set of those people involved in such processes, are largely similar to those for pharmaceutical products, although there are some exceptions. For example, device publications tend to have more of an engineering (versus biology) focus; there is typically more pre-clinical research conducted for devices; and health economic and outcomes research often focuses more on whether the general concept of using devices for a given condition offers benefit, rather than the advantages of one device over another. With respect to the expertise needed for successful device publications, Val believed that publication planners should be mindful of the time and effort taken to understand the science, which often has an engineering-related component, and recommended partnering with properly trained and experienced medical writers.
Research-based communication planning – strategy is not a dirty word
Publication and communication planning can be enriched through the use of various ‘strategies’ and approaches to optimise the success of publications, explained William Glass (Allergan). Citing research conducted within his organisation, he showed that a peer-reviewed publication was the third most important source of information considered by physicians when deciding whether to use a new treatment – data that highlight the importance of optimal publication planning and execution. Approaches that can help achieve publication success were presented.
The first was a technique used to forecast the data that physicians will be exposed to in future years. This was achieved using ClinicalTrials.gov to identify when data will likely become available (based on study end date) and the importance of that data (based on study phase, endpoints, and patient numbers). The second aspect related to publication authorship. Using tools such as Scopus it is possible to identify publication ‘leaders’ in a therapy area and map how many of those authors have published on a particular product or competitor products. William also showed how an author ‘fingerprint’ can be generated, which comprises a 1-slide summary detailing information such as the number of manuscripts authored (by position in the author list), number of citations of the author’s work, which authors they’ve associated with on publications, industry affiliations, which journals they’ve published in, and society/journal editorial board involvement.
The second part of the presentation focused on the use of publication metrics to track and improve on publication success, and optimising publication titles. Recommended metrics included: time from initiation to submission of a manuscript; acceptance rates; submission to notification time of your own manuscripts (rather than journal advertised statistics); congress activity and location, acceptance rates, and posters versus oral presentations; numbers of authors worked with year on year; and adherence to pharmaceutical company internal processes and standard operating procedures (SOPs). For the final topic on title optimisation, William suggested that articles with titles containing results and that are shorter than 18 words in length are more frequently viewed, shared and cited.
Utilizing social media and enhanced journal content for scientific publications
This presentation by Fran Young (Shire Pharmaceuticals), Charlotte Singh and Tanya Brinsden (both from Lockwood Group) described current trends in scientific publications with respect to digital offerings by journals and the prominence of social media. Digital enhancements currently offered by journals include video, audio and graphical abstracts; demonstration videos; animations; author chats; virtual microscopes; database linking and 3D viewers. Although digital offerings certainly improve the interest, reach and accessibility of publications, Fran advised that pharmaceutical companies should consider whether such approaches comply with company SOPs and compliance rules as well as internal review/approval processes, whether they will be peer reviewed, and whether, due to any associated costs, such content could be viewed as promotional. Other potential pitfalls of digital enhancements include strict production guidelines and, in the case of videos, whether authors have the time to participate.
Turning to the topic of social media, Charlotte and Tanya discussed how healthcare professionals are bombarded by information from dozens of different social media channels. This means content is now more easily accessible, but there is an associated challenge that information of interest can be lost in the ‘noise’. However, understanding how healthcare professionals engage with social media and how the social media impact of a publication can be measured were considered by the speakers to be important. The influence and impact of a publication on social media can be measured by Altmetric, TweetDeck and other so-called ‘Web 2.0’ tools. The research that was presented showed how Twitter activity can increase citations and better predict citation rates than a 5-year journal impact factor, underscoring the importance of social media. Tanya indicated that some publication planners now specifically include social media ideas for their publications, a trend that is likely to continue.
Keeping your publication finances in order – streamlining the financial management process
In this final presentation of the TIPPA meeting, George Samman (Pfizer) and Yaming Wang (Prime Medica) provided a helpful overview and examples of best practice for the management of publication finances, from both pharmaceutical company and medical communications agency perspectives. George opened the talk by outlining some of the financial operational challenges that existed within Pfizer, including: the lack of ability to automatically connect publication plans with their respective budgets, to track budget milestones alongside actual projects, and to capture real-time budget updates when plans change; difficulties with the invoicing process; and a time-consuming financial forecasting process. A need existed to streamline the management of publication budgets across all therapy areas. Using the Financial Management Tool within Datavision, explained George, the team devised a solution that streamlined the publication budget management process with an associated 50% reduction in time spent managing finances.
Focusing on the agency perspective, Yaming began by giving an overview of key challenges in financial management, including tracking the publication plan, uncertainty in the publication process, budget adjustments, and maintaining accurate financial records. It was noted that these challenges are greater for complex publication plans, for example, those with a high volume, those involving lifecycle management, joint venture partnerships or integrated plans, and plans that may include costs for digital enhancements offered by journals. A streamlined financial management process to ensure delivery of a publication plan was presented and included the following steps:
- Establish a master services agreement to agree rates, pricing structures and volume discounts
- Develop an annual budget, scope of work and purchase order to reduce paperwork and avoid potential interruptions to projects
- Develop and maintain a financial tracker that aligns with the publication plan, and allows for monthly forecasting of resourcing needs and the ability to track monthly charges/invoices
- Regularly track actual deliverables versus projected, and highlight any changes in scope early to ensure a timely and transparent reconciliation process
- Ensure an efficient invoicing process by reviewing draft invoices monthly with clients and resolve all issues before invoice submission.
Concluding the session, Yaming noted that maintaining an awareness of the publication plan, being transparent, and communicating early and often were key factors to help ensure financial success.
Ryan co-runs Aspire Scientific, a dynamic, forward-thinking medical writing agency. Ryan has a passion for innovation, science and ethical communication.