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.
The most widely referenced and followed guideline for authorship of scientific publications is that issued by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE). In it, the ICMJE recommends that authorship be determined by:
Substantial contributions to the conception or design of the work; or the acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data for the work; AND
Drafting the work or revising it critically for important intellectual content; AND
Final approval of the version to be published; AND
Agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.
The ICMJE states that
All those designated as authors should meet all four criteria for authorship, and all who meet the four criteria should be identified as authors. Those who do not meet all four criteria should be acknowledged.
A recent study looked at challenging authorship scenarios and asked clinical investigators, medical journal editors, publication professionals, and medical writers to decide who should be granted authorship status in these situations and how confident they were in their decision.