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 A very small fraction (about 4 in 10,000) of peer-reviewed manuscripts are retracted – papers that are withdrawn from their original publication.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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.”
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