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ISMPP poll: Concerns about manuscript review by non-English speaking authors – what would you do?

The latest ‘What would you do?’ poll from the International Society of Medical Publications Professionals (ISMPP) focuses on how one might deal with concerns arising from a manuscript review by non-industry, non-English speaking authors. Like previous polls, the aim is to spark debate and communication about potential approaches for handling tricky situations that may be faced by medical publications professionals. In the MAP newsletter, Eric Y. Wong (Janssen) discussed the results of the latest poll, providing his own views on each suggested approach to the problem.

The poll asked: You are providing medical writing support on a manuscript for which all non-industry authors are from a non-English-speaking country. The manuscript is written in English, but it is clear from the kick-off call that very few of the non-industry authors have a good understanding of English. The industry authors recommend that all communication goes through them so that they can interact with the non-industry authors in their local language and obtain their review feedback and approval. Although an appropriate level of comments is received throughout the manuscript’s development from industry authors, they indicate (usually within 24 hours of the start of each review) that all non-industry authors are happy with the content. You are now ready to initiate the author approval step but have concerns that the non-industry authors do not meet all the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) criteria for authorship.

What would you do?

The results of the poll, which was answered by 69 respondents, were:

  • Suggest that a third party (e.g., translation service or local branch of the medical writing agency) become involved to document reviews up to now and proceed to final approval: 33.3% of responses
  • Proceed with final author approval step: 1.5%
  • Work with industry authors to obtain documentation of author reviews before proceeding to final approval: 49.3%
  • Suggest that the final draft be translated into the local language for the final approval step: 15.9%

Wong explains that any authorship concerns should be raised and reconciled prior to proceeding with final author approvals. Translation of the final draft may be helpful if time and budget allows. Involvement of a third party at this late stage may potentially complicate matters further and result in wasted time and resources, whereas working with industry authors to obtain documentation from non-industry authors may be more time- and cost-efficient, particularly if relationships already exist between authors.

Wong highlights that if a company often deals with non-English speaking authors, translation support should be factored in as part of the publication development plan. Wong suggests scheduling meetings to review content so that authors are actively engaged in the process, which may not be the case when communicating via email or reviewing on a publication management platform. Also, and as recommended in the Good Publication practice (GPP3) guidelines, aligning early on what is expected of authors and the processes involved in the review process can help avoid these situations.


Summary by Alice Wareham PhD, CMPP from Aspire Scientific


With thanks to our sponsor, Aspire Scientific Ltd.

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