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 A very small fraction (about 4 in 10,000) of peer-reviewed manuscripts are retracted – papers that are withdrawn from their original publication.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

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

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 scientific publication resources

In the last few months, a variety of new and updated resources on scientific publication were released. Some of the resources are geared more toward authors and researchers, while others will be most useful for medical writers and publication planners. Here they are, in no particular order:
Continue reading New scientific publication resources

How academia can increase the value of research articles

With all the money invested in obtaining research funding, universities should invest more in the end product of that research, namely the publications. That is the argument made by the authors of a recent paper on improving the medical research literature.

The authors identified 3 targets that could help universities improve the publications from their researchers: introducing publications officers into the academic environment, training researchers how to be authors, and training researchers how to be peer reviewers.
Continue reading How academia can increase the value of research articles

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?

Are ICMJE authorship guidelines leaving people out?

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.

Results of the survey study showed several cases where there were higher levels of disagreement between the groups surveyed than other cases. Continue reading Are ICMJE authorship guidelines leaving people out?

Tips to prepare a scientific manuscript that gets published

Recently, I gave a webinar on publishing a scientific manuscript for the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). [An archived version of the webinar is located AMWA On Demand Webinars.] In the webinar, I reviewed topics including selecting a compatible journal, online resources for literature searches, and writing strategy.

Following the webinar, there was a Q&A session in which I was asked some great questions by the audience. Here is a condensed version of the questions and my answers from the webinar on publishing a scientific manuscript:
 
Continue reading Tips to prepare a scientific manuscript that gets published

Peer review: who, why, and how

Cartoon depicting peer review as a series of physical beatings.

Whether you are a veteran researcher or just beginning your academic career, you are probably familiar with the concept of peer review. In an ideal world, peer reviewers would politely request changes and suggest changes that would significantly improve your publications. In reality, peer review can be rude and unproductive. Here are some suggestions to improve both sides of the peer review conversation.
Continue reading Peer review: who, why, and how