Is it Retracted? Check Before You Cite.

Delete key on computer keyboard

It’s rare, but it happens. A very small fraction (about 4 in 10,000) of peer-reviewed manuscripts are retracted – papers that are withdrawn from their original publication. Some are retracted because of honest errors – an error in a modeling equation, a mistake in patient data entry – and some are not, for instance intentional manipulation of data.

When a manuscript is retracted, the publisher removes the paper from the website (presumably there are still print copies in existence, if the journal offers a print format). Until recently, there was no systematic way to find retracted papers or comb the data on retractions.

Now, there is: the Retraction Watch Database, which contains information on over 18,000 retracted manuscripts, including the reasons for retraction.

The folks at Retraction Watch teamed up with colleagues at Science to analyze the retraction data and they found some interesting trends:

  • Relatively few authors (about 500) are responsible for a disproportionate number of retractions.
  • The majority of retractions have involved scientific fraud or other kinds of misconduct.
  • The rate of retraction due to plagiarism looks to be stabilizing and possibly declining over the last 7 years.
  • Retraction due to fake peer-review has increased steadily, and is the reason for about 20% of all retractions (as of 2015 data).

Before you submit your next manuscript for peer-review, double check the Retraction Watch database to ensure you’re not unknowingly citing a retracted paper.

How Medical Communicators Can Counteract Gender Bias in STEM

Did you know that 52% of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and medicine) fields report experiencing gender bias, while only 2% of men in STEM do?

My colleague, Priyanka Jadhav, and I recently wrote an article on how medical communicators can combat the gender bias in STEM, currently featured in AMWA Journal.

Matic AI, Jadhav P. AMWA J. 2018;33:152-156.

Of particular relevance to medical communications and medical writing, there are far fewer female authors, peer-reviewers, and journal editors in STEM fields than there are men. As these metrics are usually gateways to notoriety, funding, and career success, it is important to be aware of the discrepancies and to try to level the playing field when possible.

What can medical communicators do?

  • Realize how and where gender bias exists in the relevant fields
  • Make a concerted effort to search for and include more content from female scientists and healthcare providers
  • Pass it on – educate and mentor colleagues on the issue
  • Read our article for more detailed information

Please get in touch if you would like to talk more about this topic or make any related changes to your workflow.

Updated Guidelines From ICMJE for Medical Publications

A scanning electron microscope picture of a nerve ending.

It’s December so that must mean another update from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) on their guidelines for peer-reviewed medical publications. (The ICMJE guidelines are one of the go-to resources that should always be consulted when preparing a publication.)

What’s new this year?

  • Journals are encouraged to de-emphasize the Impact Factor as a means of quantifying the journal’s quality. Instead, journals should “provide a range of …metrics relevant to their readers and authors.”
  • “Purposeful failure to disclose conflicts of interest” is now listed as a type of scientific misconduct. Certainly makes sense in light of the recent news stories about some glaring omissions in disclosure of prominent researchers.
  • Authors should use a preprint server that is clearly identified as one (not one posing as a peer-review system).
  • The date of clinical trial registration is defined as “the date the registration materials were first submitted to a registry.”
  • “Authors should use neutral, precise, and respectful language to describe study participants.” Related to one of my favorites ideas in medical writing – put the person first, not the disease.

Less Text, More Pictures – Visual Abstracts

In the fast-paced world in which we live, it seems that nobody has time to read a full research article any more. With so much reading done on mobile screens now, many researchers and journals are moving to visual abstracts to grab readers’ attention.

What’s a visual abstract? Continue reading Less Text, More Pictures – Visual Abstracts

Updated Publishing Guidelines – What’s New

ICMJE guidelines

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) recently updated their guidelines for publishing in the scientific literature. The ICMJE guidelines, or as they’re more formally known “Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publishing of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals,” were updated to include new information related to reputable journals and data sharing, among others.

Continue reading Updated Publishing Guidelines – What’s New

Guidelines for Conference Materials

A group of colleagues working in the medical publications field just posted a preprint (not peer-reviewed) manuscript on Good Practice for Conference Abstracts and Presentations (GP-CAP). The paper works off of the GPP3 guidelines and ICMJE recommendations for developing and publishing manuscripts and tries to tackle some situations that are unique to conference materials and presentations.

Continue reading Guidelines for Conference Materials

Beware the Dark Side (of scientific publishing)

There are many reputable publishers and journals for peer-reviewed manuscripts, many of which offer open access publishing options (what is open access?). There are also many questionable journals out there (so-called “predatory journals”), which often promote their open access publication. How do you tell the difference?
Continue reading Beware the Dark Side (of scientific publishing)

New Position Statement on the Role of Medical Writers

The American Medical Writers Association (AMWA), European Medical Writers Association (EMWA), and International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) today released a Joint Position Statement on the Role of Professional Medical Writers (pdf), which is the first unified position on the role of professional medical writers from three leading professional organizations.

The position statement outlines the responsibilities of professional medical writers as well as the responsibilities of the authors who collaborate with medical writers. In addition, there is a template for how to disclose medical writing support in publications.

Make sure your medical writer is practicing in accordance with the new position statement. 

Why publication guidelines were made

Sugar versus butter

Ah, times have changed. An article in JAMA Internal Medicine reveals the practices that led to the 1967 publication of a 2-part literature review on “Dietary Fats, Carbohydrates and Atherosclerotic Disease.”

In short, the review articles were written with heavy involvement from the Sugar Research Foundation, which has since become the Sugar Association with a mission to “promote the consumption of sugar through sound scientific principles while maintaining an understanding of the benefits that sugar contributes to the quality of wholesome foods and beverages.”

From a the perspective of a medical writer acquainted with publication guidelines, the current article lays out a troubling path to publication for the 2-part review. Continue reading Why publication guidelines were made

Quick (and easy) ideas to improve your writing

Helpful tips

Recently, an investigator came to me frustrated with the quality of scientific writing that was being produced by his laboratory members. At least a few times a year, I hear the same comment: “My team members are wonderful scientists but terrible writers.”

Most investigators think that they have to put up with the terrible writing, but I don’t think so. After a brief conversation, the investigator and I identified a few easy ways that he could help his team (and himself) improve the scientific writing produced by their laboratory.
Continue reading Quick (and easy) ideas to improve your writing