Tuesday, March 30, 2010

B - Journal myths

Editorial. Exploding the myths surrounding how and why we select our research papers. Nature 2010;463:850.

Nature provides some insights into its paper selection process, and debunks three myths about the process: (1) editors seek to boost the impact factor by selecting papers likely to have a high citation rate; (2) one negative referee will determine the fate of a submitted paper; (3) there is reliance on a small number of privileged reviewers.

Monday, March 29, 2010

B - ICMJE requirements on competing interests: do they solve the problems?

Hutchinson L, DeVita VT. Conflict of interest disclosures. Nature Reviews Clinical Oncology 7:1

While the ICMJE uniform requirements for disclosure of competing interests are welcome, all journals still rely on authors to disclose all information that may be perceived as relevant. If an individual does not wish to disclose information, there is no universal form that will avoid this problem. Journals can experience harsh criticism if an author is discovered not to have disclosed competing interest, but how do journals police this? Disclosure forms also do not prevent scientific fraud. The best deterrent to fraud is the scientific process itself.

B - Challenging conventions on sample size

Bacchetti P. Current sample size conventions: Flaws, harms, and alternatives. BMC Medicine 2010;8:17.

The widespread belief that medical research studies need a statistical power of at least 80% to be scientifically sound is a seriously flawed requirement. Standard calculations are unreliable, and move focus away from studies' more important results: estimates and confidence intervals. Current conventions may harm the research process in many way, including promoting misinterpretation, giving reviewers inappropriate powers, and inhibiting innovation. Medical research would benefit from alternative approaches. Peer reviewers should consider whether or not to raise issues of "inadequate" sample size, and reports of completed studies should not discuss power.

Friday, March 19, 2010

B - Retractions: COPE guidance

Wager E, Barbour V, Yentis S, et al. Retractions: guidance from the Committee on Publication Ethics. Journal of Critical Care 2009;24:620–622. Also available at http://publicationethics.org/guidelines

Journal editors should consider retracting a publication if the findings are unreliable (due to misconduct or honest error), inappropriately duplicated, plagiarised, or based from unethical research. In cases of inconclusive evidence, non-co-operation of institutions, inability to conduct a fair investigation, or a delayed judgement, journal editors should consider issuing an expression of concern. Retractions are not usually necessary in cases of authorship changes or if small portions of the publication need correction. These guidelines also discuss the form, instigation, and timing of the retraction, and possible legal ramifications.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

B- Ghost(writer)busters

Lacasse JR, Leo J. Ghostwriting at elite academic medical centers in the United States. PLoS Med 2010 Feb 2;7(2):e1000230

Ghostwriting can no more be defined as the “dirty little secret” of the medical literature. Over the past several years medical writers, journals and editors’ associations (i.e. ICMJE and WAME) have highlighted the problem, developing a specific policy on ghostwriting and requiring contributorship statements for authors.
But what has been done by medical centers and associations? In this article, Larcasse and Leo evaluated the policies of the top-50 academic medical centers in the United States, finding that only 20% explicitly prohibit ghostwriting. The Authors propose an unambiguous policy that clearly regulates medical ghostwriting. Administrators of academic medical centers should insist on this point, and should define medical ghostwriting as dishonest, unacceptable, and comparable to misconduct.
By prohibiting ghostwriting, academic medical centers can cooperate with editors and publishers in improving research integrity.

B - Researchers' perception of citations

Aksnes DW, Rip A. Researchers' perception of citations. Research Policy 2009;38(6):895-905

While the use of publication and citation indicators increases, their application is controversial. Researchers perceive citations as part of the reward system of science but on the other hand they criticize them for not reflecting actual scientific contribution. Viewpoints present in the Norwegian scientific community were investigated by means of a questionnaire survey. Respondents' answers and comments related to their perceptions of citations and role of citations offered an informal sociology of citations. Even scientists who have produced higly cited papers doubt about the fairness of citations as performance measures. More information on the so-called "citation myths" should be given to the scientific community.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

B - Peering into review

Editorial. Peering into review. Nature Medicine 2010; 16:239

The peer review process is a cornerstone of the scientific publication process. Fourteen stem cell editors recently signed an open letter expressing concerns over the confidential peer review process and suggesting the publication of reviewers' comments. A common fear among authors is that rival scientists could make unreasonable demands to intentionally delay or reject the publication of truly original findings. The peer review process might be improved and properly managed, but it is not clear whether publishing reviewers' comments would be the solution. In confidential peer review conflicts of interest should be recognized and additional expertise could be asked to evaluate disputed aspects of a manuscript.

Monday, March 08, 2010

B - Bias in the research literature

Young SN. Bias in the research literature and conflict of interest: an issue for publishers, editors, reviewers and authors, and it is not just about the money. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience 2009;34(6):412-417.

Much has been written about drug company payments to researchers, but conflicts of interest (COIs) are also an issue for publishers, editors, reviewers, and authors. COIs are not limited to financial aspects, but cover other aspects of human behaviour, and therefore pervade every aspect of publishing. There is no entirely satisfactory way of dealing with COIs, but researchers should be aware of the issues.

B - Data archiving

Whitlock MC, McPeek MA, Rausher MD, et al. Data archiving. The American Naturalist 2010;175:145-146.

Most data in ecology and evolution are lost to science very quickly after they are collected or summarised. Once a study has been published, the data are often stored unreliably. Yet these data are invaluable to science, for meta‐analysis, new uses, and quality control. The example of GenBank shows the value of the availability of data. To promote the preservation and fuller use of data, The American Naturalist, Evolution, the Journal of Evolutionary Biology, Molecular Ecology, Heredity, and other key journals in evolution and ecology will soon introduce a new data‐archiving policy.

B - Effect of oncology trial registration on published findings

Rasmussen N, Lee K, Bero L. Association of trial registration with the results and conclusions of published trials of new oncology drugs. Trials 2009,10:116.

Registration of clinical trials was intended to reduce bias toward statistically significant results in published studies. But registration alone may not be enough to reduce selective publication, selective outcome reporting, and biased design. Registration was widely adopted in oncology, but most registered oncology trials remain unpublished. This study compares prevalence of favorable findings in published reports of registered and unregistered trials of new oncology drugs. Trial registration alone does not seem to reduce bias towards results that favour new drugs. These findings support the inclusion of protocols and full results reporting in trial registers.

B - Journal editorial policies on animal welfare

Osborne NJ, Payne D, Newman ML. Journal editorial policies, animal welfare, and the 3Rs. Amerian Journal of Bioethics 2009;9(12):55-59.

A randomized sample of editorial policies of English language peer-reviewed journals that publish original research involving the use of animals. Do policies promote animal welfare and dissemination of information on the 3Rs (reduction, refinement, replacement) within the scientific community? Many journals do not have a policy on the use of animals, and those that do are often limited to requiring that standard regulatory requirements are adhered to. Information is provided for editors and publishers to help them review their editorial policies.

B - Publishing flow cytometry data

Alvarez DF, Helm K, DeGregori J, et al. Publishing flow cytometry data. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 2010;298:L127-L130.

Flow cytometric analysis is an important method for better understanding cellular activity. The complexity of the data arising from this technique demands a standard way of publishing. A way of consistently summarising flow cytometric experimental information as supplemental data is proposed, emphasising experimental and sample information, data acquisition, analysis, and presentation.

B - On the prevalence and scientific impact of duplicate publications in different scientific fields (1980-2007)

Larivière V, Gingras Y. On the prevalence and scientific impact of duplicate publications in different scientific fields (1980-2007). Journal of Documentation 2010;66:179-90

Duplicate publications have received a lot of attention in medical literature but much less in the information science community. A bibliometric technique was developed by authors to detect duplicate papers across all fields of research, between 1980 and 2007, based on all the following metadata in common: exact same title, same first author, same number of cited references. The prevalence of duplicates is low, i.e. one out of 2,000 papers, and it is higher in the natural and medical sciences than in the social sciences and humanities. The scientific impact of duplicate papers is below average as they are generally published in journals with impact factors below the average of their field.

B - Lost in translation: the challenges of global communication in medical education publishing

Cantillon P, McLeod P, Razack S et al. Lost in translation: the challenges of global communication in medical education publishing. Medical Education 2009;43:615-20

It is important that authors and editors consider how their use of languages is interpreted by colleagues who work in different settings. Communicating meaning between different cultures and contexts is an important issue for international medical education journals and responsibility should be shared between authors, peer reviewers and editors. A group of education researchers from Europe and North America examined the comprehensibility of terminology of all articles recently published in four major international journals on medical education. As result, many of the articles included terminology with a shared understanding of setting between authors and readers.

Friday, March 05, 2010

B - Do scientists really need a PhD?

Editorial. Do scientists really need a PhD? Nature 2010;464(1785)

In the USA and Europe students usually need to finish a multiyear programme of postgraduate training before they can fully participate in the front rank of research. The Chinese Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) has enrolled about 500 university students to join the Institute soon after their graduation participating in and contributing to hands-on research. This model may be worth serious consideration although it is not sure that BGI can prepare its student-workers to meet the wide range of skills needed by industry and academia. It this approach works, BGI could find itself a model not only for creative approaches but also for education and training.