Medical writers assist authors with writing, editing, and searching the literature when preparing scientific manuscripts. For authors who are under a time crunch to publish their data, medical writing support can be a benefit. Recent research also points to added value that medical writers bring to authors above and beyond these initial benefits.
A recent study published in BMJ Open examined the relationship between medical writing support and the quality of reporting in randomized controlled trials published in BioMed Central journals between 2000 and 2014.
Articles that received medical writing support included more information pertaining to the CONSORT data reporting guidelines, including the primary outcome, the sample size calculation, the randomization method, and the details of trial registration, compared to articles that did not report medical writing support.
Articles with acknowledged medical writing support were judged by peer-reviewers to have higher quality written English, compared to articles that did not report medical writing support. This effect is not likely due to author language skills because half of the articles examined in either group had authors whose primary language was English.
Notably, there was an increase in number of articles per year that acknowledged medical writing support between 2005 and 2014. This trend could be due to an increased awareness by sponsors and publishers to medical writing support and more explicit guidelines put forth by relevant professional societies (eg, GPP3, ICMJE, CSE, AMWA, EMWA) for acknowledging medical writing support.
From a recent report at the European meeting of the International Society of Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP), the same group reported a secondary analysis of article citation and journal impact factor associated with medical writing support. They found that articles that acknowledged medical writing support were published in journals that had a significantly higher impact factor they received more citations 1 year after publication than those articles without medical writing support.
It is possible that some of the aforementioned associations could be attributed to factors other than medical writing support that differed between the two groups of articles examined. For instance, the quality of the clinical study report on which the article was based or the presence of additional support for the study and manuscript (eg, a statistician) may have differed between the two groups.
I look forward to seeing more research from this group and others into the role and utility of medical writing support in the scientific community.