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Welcome to Medical Communication News

Medical Communication News provides an executive summary of noteworthy articles pertaining to the medical communication industry. Distributed twice a month, this e-newsletter provides AMWA members with recent news, research, and trends in the field of medical communication. Read past issues in the online archive.
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Industry News
Writing a Discussion Section: How to Integrate Substantive and Statistical Expertise
Substantial Contribution and Accountability: Best Authorship Practices for Medical Writers in Biomedical Publications
How Social Media Helps Scientists Get the Message Across
Does Information From ClinicalTrials.gov Increase Transparency and Reduce Bias?
Missing the Point: Are Journals Using the Ideal Number of Decimal Places?
Medical Case Reports Published in PubMed-Indexed Indian Journals in 2015: Adherence to 2013 CARE Guidelines
Characteristics of E-Mail Solicitations From Predatory Nursing Journals and Publishers

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New in the AMWA Blog: A Local Chapter’s Ongoing Book Club
Free On-Demand Webinar for May

Industry News

Writing a Discussion Section: How to Integrate Substantive and Statistical Expertise
BMC Medical Research Methodology (04/17/18) Höfler, M; Venz, J; Trautmann, S; et al.

The discussion section of a medical journal article allows the authors to present findings in a broader context, including speculation on their theoretical and practical applications. However, substantive and statistical results are often addressed separately in this part of the manuscript—an approach that German researchers argue can skew conclusions. According to researchers from Technische Universität Dresden, the best possible deductions are derived when both types of expertise are considered together. With that in mind, they offer seven specific recommendations to guide authors in writing the discussion section as well as four general rules to follow. The discussion should begin, they advise, with the conclusion that is supported unambiguously by the research design and results; the writers should then note any conclusions the researchers would like to draw. From there, authors should specify all assumptions to interpret the documented result in the desired, or causal, way; in general, however, any other causal language is to be avoided. Additionally, the Dresden team recommends that medical writers give serious thought to how departures from the assumptions may have impacted the results, look at all main types of bias and the inferential consequences they have, and develop a study design that demands less and weaker assumptions for a conclusion. When following those seven specific recommendations, however, authors should be careful not to confuse the absence of evidence with evidence for absence (i.e., no association). Moreover, they should differentiate between discussing pre-specified hypotheses and new hypotheses generated through post-hoc analyses. Lastly, it is important to avoid claims that are not statistically supported as well as to avoid giving too much weight to small findings, meaning that statistical significance is not always interchangeable with practical significance. Adhering to these proposed guidelines "could help shifting scientific debates to where they belong," the authors write. "Rather than arguing on misunderstandings caused by ambiguity in a conclusion's assumptions one should argue on the assumptions themselves."
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Substantial Contribution and Accountability: Best Authorship Practices for Medical Writers in Biomedical Publications
Current Medical Research and Opinion (04/18) Stocks, A; Simcoe, D; Toroser, D; et al.

Based on a review of formalized industry recommendations, as well as the policies of various biomedical journals, there is significant variability in how the work of professional medical writers is acknowledged in the literature. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), for example, speaks to the importance of "substantial contribution" and "accountability" as qualifiers for authorship. Individuals who cannot satisfy these criteria along with two additional requirements should, according to ICMJE, be listed instead as contributors. For additional clarity, the reviewers have expanded on current guidance with new recommendations for intellectual contributions to research design or data interpretation. Responsibilities such as developing the study protocol, defining outcomes, and interpreting new statistical output, they argue, should entitle the medical writer to authorship. If the writer is ineligible as an author, inclusion in the acknowledgements section is fair. Whether author or non-author contributor, the reviewers say each participant's role should be thoroughly explained in the publication, so that the reader can easily understand who deserves credit for the work as well as who is accountable for it.
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How Social Media Helps Scientists Get the Message Across
ScienceDaily (04/12/18)

Social media, especially Twitter, can provide an accessible and efficient platform for researchers to communicate their discoveries, a new study shows. "The good papers that get pushed on social media are what end up on people's minds and eventually as PDFs in their reference manager," notes Clayton Lamb, a University of Alberta PhD student and lead researcher on the study. The researchers looked at science communication, measuring the association of altmetrics—which considers factors such as social media attention for scientific discoveries—with eventual citation of more than 8,000 papers published between 2005 and 2015. While most of scientists' communication on social media is directed to other scientists, Lamb says the information is reaching the greater community as well.
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Does Information From ClinicalTrials.gov Increase Transparency and Reduce Bias?
Systematic Reviews (04/16/18) Adam, GP; Springs, S; Trikalinos, T; et al.

Representatives from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Stanford University Clinical Excellence Research Center, and the evidence-based practice centers of several other universities teamed up to examine information bias in systematic reviews. To address this risk, scientists often use trial registries—especially those that include prospective study protocols and/or results summaries—to identify unpublished findings or ongoing investigations. In this case, the authors explored whether information on ClinicalTrials.gov would influence the conclusions of several ongoing systematic reviews. Five such projects, encompassing a collective 495 studies, provided the foundation for the investigation. A total of 173 ClinicalTrials.gov records linked to those reviews were discovered, although only 14 percent included results. Investigators looked at how well certain variables—such as intervention, study design, outcomes, numerical results, and risk of bias—matched up with information in the published journal paper. In general, the new data entered into the website's records had no impact on the results or the conclusions of the systematic reviews. However, improved prospective registration of studies and consistent reporting of results on ClinicalTrials.gov would help optimize use of this documentation for the purpose of identifying unpublished information and flagging potential biases, according to the researchers. Enhanced indexing in MEDLINE and other databases, they add, would allow for better cross-matching of records and publications, further adding to the utility of these searches for systematic reviews.
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Missing the Point: Are Journals Using the Ideal Number of Decimal Places?
F1000 Research (04/11/18) Vol. 7, P. 450 Barnett, A

Following recommendations for the use of decimal places for numbers would make papers easier to read and improve comprehension, a new study argues. Adrian Barnett of Queensland University of Technology in Queensland, Australia, notes that poorly presented numbers can affect readability, either with too many decimal places or not enough. "Statistical software packages show results to many decimal places, but this level of accuracy may be spurious," writes Barnett, "and authors may overcrowd a paper with numbers if they copy the results from software without considering what level of accuracy is appropriate." On the other hand, it is also important not to oversimplify numbers by rounding up or down. TJ Cole developed guidelines for presenting numerical data—including means, standard deviations, and p-values—as part of the wider EQUATOR guidelines; but journals and style guides have guidelines as well. To better understand how percents are being presented in journals, Barnett extracted percentages from 23 health and medicine journals published in 2017. With more than 43,000 percents from nearly 9,500 abstracts, Barnett found that just 55 percent of the percents were written following the guidelines. The most common issue when the number of decimal places differed from the guidelines was too many decimals (33 percent) versus too few (12 percent). According to Barnett, the overuse of decimal places may be associated with the belief that more numbers indicates increased accuracy, and many researchers may not be aware of the various guidelines for listing percents and other statistics.
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Medical Case Reports Published in PubMed-Indexed Indian Journals in 2015: Adherence to 2013 CARE Guidelines
Indian Journal of Medical Ethics (04/23/18) Ravi, R; Mulkalwar, A; Thatte, UM; et al.

A recent study highlights the need for greater awareness by authors, peer reviewers, and editors in following case reporting guidelines among Indian medical journals. The CARE (CAse REport) guidelines were developed by an independent group of experts in 2013 to standardize reporting of case reports. The new analysis included case reports published in 2015 in PubMed-indexed Indian journals that were currently active and had an impact factor. Among the three dozen journals that met the selection criteria, there were 1,178 case reports published. Using the chi-squared test and crude odds ratios, researchers from Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital, Mumbai, found that the greatest compliance was only considered average, at about 71 percent, while no case report had excellent adherence, 19 percent had good, and 10 percent were found to have poor adherence. The best adherence to categories on the 13-item CARE checklist was for clinical findings, at 97.9 percent, with keywords (88.5 percent) and introduction (71.5 percent) rounding out the top three. Checklist items with the lowest adherence were patient perspective (0 percent), informed consent (2.8 percent), and timeline (4.6 percent). Just one of the 36 journal websites studied listed the CARE guidelines, the researchers note.
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Characteristics of E-Mail Solicitations From Predatory Nursing Journals and Publishers
Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing (04/02/18) Vol. 49, No. 4, P. 171 Lewinski, A; Oermann, M

Educating nurses about predatory publishing is recommended, according to a study out of Durham, N.C., so that they can distinguish between legitimate and shady offers for journal publication. Because predatory publishers often approach prospective authors via email, the researchers scrutinized invitations received this way by students and faculty of the Duke University School of Nursing. Over a stretch of 10 weeks, more than 200 such emails were captured and analyzed. The investigators report that the communications used awkward phrases, solicited for general topics, and left a small window between the date the email was sent and the submissions deadline. Although the senders' language was also flattering, very little about the messages clearly characterized them as coming from an unscrupulous source. Nurse-authors need to be able to detect and then confirm the status of solicitations that are likely predatory, the authors of the study conclude.
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AMWA News

New in the AMWA Blog: A Local Chapter’s Ongoing Book Club

A special thanks to blog guest poster Mary Knatterud for writing about the genesis and maintenance of the North Central Chapter's Book Club. Find out why this rich literary tradition has been a staple of the North Central Chapter for 12 years running and how your chapter might benefit from such gatherings.
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Free On-Demand Webinar for May

This month's complimentary webinar for AMWA members is Social Media Strategies for Medical Communicators. This webinar demonstrates how to use social media platforms for a traditional approach to social media awareness and for new trends that can set your expertise apart from others. It will also cover the importance of looking beyond these platforms to novel social media tools currently available for marketing.
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May 2, 2018