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 A very small fraction (about 4 in 10,000) of peer-reviewed manuscripts are retracted – papers that are withdrawn from their original publication.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

Is that open access publishing fee worth it?

Shelves in a library showing journals where researchers publish a scientific paper.

Open access publishing offers readers free access to articles published online, in contrast to a model where articles are available through an individual or institutional subscription to the journal. Most often, authors (or their institutions) pay an open access publishing fee when the manuscript is accepted. The fees can range from $75 to over $3,000 per article, depending on the journal.
Continue reading Is that open access publishing fee worth it?

Why hire a medical writer?

Professional medical communicators (writers, editors, or developers) are skilled at clearly communicating science. Since they are intimately familiar with style guides, reporting requirements, and proper English usage, professional writers can efficiently process your scientific data into a coherent document.

This still life depicts a white ceramic coffee cup in the background, which was placed next to a stack of books. The uppermost book in this stack was opened to the last page read, bookmarking the reader’s place in this text. In the foreground was a computer keyboard atop which a pair of reading glasses had been placed.
Image taken by Amanda Mills, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To someone outside the field of medical communications, the value of a medical writer is not always obvious. You might ask yourself “Why should I work with a medical writer when I can write up my data?”

A good medical writer will add these qualities to your project:

  1. Efficiency – The writer specializes in creating documents that are logically organized, readable, and scientifically thorough. A professional medical writer can complete the job in a shorter amount of time than someone who does not write for a living.
  2. Eye for detail – The writer will take care of endless details that most authors are unaware of but publishers and regulatory bodies take seriously.
  3. Adherence to guidelines and requirements – The writer will seamlessly implement any formatting or content requirements in your document, which will go a long way to facilitate the publication or approval process.

 

Want data to back up these claims?

A survey of journal editors showed that “poorly written, excessive jargon” topped the list of problems seen in manuscripts, with most editors reporting that it happens “frequently.” This was followed closely by “inadequate or inappropriate presentation” as the second most common problem.
From Byrne DW. Publishing Your Medical Research Papers. 1998.

A recent study showed that authors and editors are not adhering to reporting guidelines in manuscripts that present data from animal studies. “As many as 55% (95% CI 46.7%–62.3%) of studies, however, included analyses based on what we consider to be inappropriate statistical tests.”
From Baker D, et al. “Two Years Later: Journals Are Not Yet Enforcing the ARRIVE Guidelines on Reporting Standards for Pre-Clinical Animal Studies.PLoS Bio, 2014)

“When professional medical writers help authors prepare manuscripts, these manuscripts are less likely to be retracted for misconduct, are more compliant with best-practice reporting guidelines, and are accepted more quickly for publication.
From Wolley KL, et al. “Poor compliance with reporting research results.” Curr Med Res Opin, 2012.

 

Top 10 attributes of a good Medical Writer, courtesy of SIRO Clinpharm