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The 7th International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication: Implications for authors

Aditya Vadrevu | Sep 15, 2013 | 35,040 views

The International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication is perhaps the biggest, most important conference that addresses issues at the heart of scientific, technical and medical publication. Hosted by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Congress is held only once every four years and represents the gathering of the best minds and thought leaders.

And, of course, Editage was there! Donald Samulack, President of U.S. Operations, and Aditya Vadrevu, Senior Manager of Services and Quality, attended a range of discussions on issues relevant to you, the author. The topics included authorship, citation, peer review, ethics, and open access. Here are some key highlights from the conference that are most relevant to the researcher community.

Peer Review

While several studies presented an analysis of peer review from the viewpoint of quality and efficiency in the journal workflow, perhaps the most interesting from an author’s perspective was a model of statistical review being used by journals like the Annals of Internal Medicine. Here, authors get to address and respond to specific statistical review comments from a specialized statistician who is asked to review manuscripts pre-selected by the journal editor and peer reviewer. Most authors are reported to have found significant improvements in their paper after this type of statistical review.  Moreover, authors find that incorporating and responding to the statistical review comments involves considerable effort but is justified by the degree of improvement in the paper.

Authorship

With rapid changes in technology and journal workflow supporting online publication, are authors becoming more accepting of journals that publish online-only issues?  A study among two prominent journals in the US and Norway showed that some authors are indeed open to online-only publication, but a significant percentage would like the decision of whether the article is published in print or online to be made by an editor with the right of refusal or jointly by the editor and author.

Citations

Coercive citation—a practice where the journal editor pressurizes the author to include citations from the editor’s journal—was a topic of active discussion during the conference. Researchers from the Netherlands investigated the impact of coercive citation on the impact factor of a group of business journals. The study showed that the proportion of self-citations to these journals was indeed boosted by the practice of coercive citation. Might this kind of a study then be extended to other areas or journals? Or to a point where we begin to define ways of checking and correcting coercive citation?

Ethics

As expected, the sessions on ethics invited the most enthusiastic participation and comments. Two themes stood out in these sessions: duplicate publication and plagiarism. Research on duplicate publication shows 

that while the Medical Subject Headings of the National Library of Medicine indicate “duplicate publication” as a separate type of publication, journals are not prompt in correcting the papers identified.  A call was made for the publishing community to be more vigilant about duplicate publication. A separate set of studies examined the growing role of software tools in the journal process for detecting plagiarism. While these tools are being adopted actively as part of the journal’s workflow, leading publishers like PLoS still find the need for human judgment in the decision.

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