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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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Headlines

Industry News
Trends in Proportion of Women as Authors of Medical Journal Articles, 2008-2018
To Meet the "Plan S" Open-Access Mandate, Journals Mull Setting Papers Free at Publication
Rethinking Impact Factors: Better Ways to Judge a Journal
Claims of Causality in Health News
The Deep Learning–Based Recommender System 'Pubmender' for Choosing a Biomedical Publication Venue
Academics Raise Concerns About Predatory Journals on PubMed
Postpublication Metrics of Randomized Clinical Trials With and Without Null Findings

AMWA News
Free On-Demand Webinar for June
Blog Post: How to Become a Medical Writer

Industry News

Trends in Proportion of Women as Authors of Medical Journal Articles, 2008-2018
JAMA Internal Medicine (05/28/19) Hart, KL; Perlis, RH

A study from the Center for Quantitative Health—part of Boston's Massachusetts General Hospital—tracked patterns of female authorship in medical journal articles over the past decade. The research covered 274,764 papers published between January 1, 2008, and August 1, 2018, in 15 high-impact specialty publications and four respected general medical journals. Investigators were able to determine gender for more than three-quarters of the contributors, with the data showing that representation by women as first and last authors grew by 3.6 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively, over the study period. The biggest gains for both were observed in cross-specialty journals and in titles dedicated to obstetrics/gynecology. Articles with a woman instead of a man listed as the last author were 13 percent more likely to designate another woman as first author. There also was a significant correlation between higher impact factor assigned to a publication and female author representation. Despite the improvements, the research team notes that disparity between the genders persists. Women, for example, took an average of more than 10 years to achieve last author position—an achievement that most male authors reached in about five years. This and other inequities, they conclude, reflect a need for continued efforts to support the advancement of women in academic medicine.
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To Meet the "Plan S" Open-Access Mandate, Journals Mull Setting Papers Free at Publication
Science (05/15/19) Brainard, J

Plan S, which is backed by 15 European funders and four foundations, represents the latest push to shift scientific publishing away from the long-dominant subscription model. In a departure from that formula, the organizations want the authors they support to publish their work with no paywall or waiting periods. In a bid to keep subscription revenue flowing while still satisfying the Plan S parameters, some publishers say authors should be allowed to post prepublication manuscripts in public archives the moment their papers are published. The documents would omit certain components found in the published version—such as designed layout, hyperlinks to cited articles, and supplementary content. Under this so-called green open-access model, the journal could continue to collect subscription fees for the full version. A HighWire poll of 27 nonprofit publishers finds that the industry is warming up to the option, preferring it over other approaches such as "gold" open access—which generates the money to support free access by permitting publications to impose author fees. No less than 30 publishers have already signed on to Plan S, by one estimate; however, the United States does not appear inclined to join the initiative. Many who do endorse it believe it is the least threatening compliance model since only about 3.3 percent of all scholarly papers worldwide were penned by authors subject to its criteria. Those who do not worry that the approach could do irreparable damage to subscription revenue.
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Rethinking Impact Factors: Better Ways to Judge a Journal
Nature (05/28/19) Wouters, P; Sugimoto, CR; Larivière, V; et al.

Publishers, scientific societies, bibliometric specialists, and other stakeholders have banded together in pursuit of an alternative to impact factor as a gauge of journal value. After nearly two years of work, the coalition has formulated a plan to broaden the scope of indicators so that they cover all functions of academic publications. Doing so is crucial, the six co-authors and their 18 co-signatories note, considering the fast pace of journal evolution from a digital perspective. Journal Impact Factor, like most other common indicators, considers only certain aspects of a publication's function and therefore may be inadequate. It also is subject to abuse and fraud, according to the group. It is important, therefore, for any new indicators to be justified, contextualized, informed, and responsible. They also should be understandable, transparent, fair, adaptive, and reproducible. In addition to the creation of new journal indicators and development of a set of principles to govern their use, the plan calls for a governing body to be formed for the explicit purpose of upholding them. Some of the tasks it might perform include creating educational materials, extending guidance on open-access publishing and data-sharing, and providing a platform to demonstrate questionable uses of indicators as well offer healthy examples. The authors and signatories of the plan, who hope to launch the governing body next year, welcome interested stakeholders to participate in the initiative.
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Claims of Causality in Health News
BMC Medicine (05/16/19) Vol. 17, No. 91 Adams, RC; Challenger, A; Bratton, L; et al.

A recent study highlights the need for better precision in health news claims, including headlines, in media reports. In an effort to improve the alignment between causal claims and evidence, a research team from Cardiff University in the United Kingdom tested two interventions on more than 300 biomedical and health-related press releases. Nine collaborating press offices sent their press releases to the researchers prior to distribution. Following randomization, the team then made an intervention recommendation for each press release. The options were to perform a causal claim alignment to line the headline and key claims up with the evidence; to add a causality statement or caveat, an explicit statement about whether the evidence could support a causal conclusion; to do both; or to do neither. The press office could then accept or reject the suggestions and publish their releases as usual. The researchers searched for the resulting coverage in print, online, and broadcast media, finding more than 2,200 results. Overall, there was improved alignment between news headlines and stories with the underlying evidence when the press releases were more alert to the alignment. Furthermore, one-fifth of the reports specifically noted whether causality can be inferred after being prompted to do so by the text of the press release. Despite limitations to the study, including that it is correlational observation, the researchers say the findings indicate that "small changes in press release headline and claim wording, followed by explicit caveats or statements in the text, are a realistic means to improve coherence between the linguistic forcefulness of news claims and the evidence underlying those claims."
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The Deep Learning–Based Recommender System 'Pubmender' for Choosing a Biomedical Publication Venue
Journal of Medical Internet Research (05/24/19) Vol. 21, No. 5 Feng, X; Zhang, H; Ren, Y; et al.

Collaborators in the United States and China teamed up to develop a system that biomedical researchers could use to help select the most appropriate journal for their work. Although recommender systems are in place for everyday products to entertainment, few options have been available for authors looking to narrow down their choice from a crowded field of publications and conferences. The U.S.-Chinese partnership helped meet that need by creating Pubmender, which specifically suggests journals indexed in PubMed—the most expansive database of biomedical literature. The free resource compiles a list of recommendations based on a paper's abstract. To create the deep learning-based system, the team used pretrained word2vec to build the startup space. They then constructed a deep convolutional neural network to generate a high-level representation of abstracts: more than 880,000 from 1,130 journals in PubMedCentral. Lastly, developers implemented a fully connected softmax model to recommend the most suitable titles for a paper. Validation studies of the new tool found it to be 406 percent and 329 percent more accurate for the top 10 recommendations than the Journal Suggester and Journal Finder models used by Springer and Elsevier, respectively.
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Academics Raise Concerns About Predatory Journals on PubMed
The Scientist (05/09/19) Kwon, D

The discovery of potentially predatory journals on PubMed has some members of the scientific community concerned. There is less of a risk that patients or scholars will read articles from predatory journals that are only available on their own websites. "The problem is that when they are displayed in the most popular biomedical database that we have, there are many [people] who think if a journal is on PubMed, then it is fine—which is not true, unfortunately," says Andrea Manca, a professor of physiology at the University of Sassari in Italy. A 2017 study conducted by Manca and colleagues looked at more than 200 predatory neuroscience, neurology, and rehabilitation journals and found several listed on PubMed. Manca believes the journals likely enter PubMed through PubMed Central (PMC), a free digital repository of articles from journals and publishers with agreements with the National Library of Medicine (NLM), manuscripts from authors following funders' open-access policies, and historical content. Jerry Sheehan, deputy director of the NLM, explains that accepted manuscripts deposited by National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded authors "go into PMC and get a citation in PubMed regardless of where they're published, because they're all under a legal or policy requirement from the NIH to be made available on PMC." The NLM is aware of Manca and others' concerns, according to Sheehan. However, he also notes that "those are articles that result in research that was funded by the NIH, so there's some ability to recognize that there was a very selective peer review process that occurred in the funding of the research that was reported." In 2017, NIH posted recommendations to help authors determine reputable journals in which to publish. In the end, says Peace Williamson—a medical librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington who has studied the issue—both authors and readers should practice "good critical appraisal methods" when submitting or reading articles, because even leading journals occasionally have retractions.
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Postpublication Metrics of Randomized Clinical Trials With and Without Null Findings
Journal of the American Medical Association (05/14/19) Vol. 321, No. 18, P. 1825 Murray, SB; Heathers, JA; Schauer, RM; et al.

New research found no link between the postpublication metrics of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) published in JAMA Network journals and whether they supported or rejected the null hypothesis. The U.S.-Australian team identified 433 RCTs that were published in 10 JAMA Network journals between 2013 and 2015. For each trial, they assessed postpublication metrics including citations, Altmetric scores, and views to date. Of those RCTs, more than half (56.6 percent) rejected the null hypothesis, while 36.5 percent supported it and 6.9 percent reported mixed results. Studies that rejected the null hypothesis had a median of 56 citations, and the median for studies that supported it was 45.5 citations. The median Altmetric scores were 78 and 73 for studies that rejected the null hypothesis and supported it, respectively, while total views numbered 13,536 and 13,694, respectively. "The extent to which a finding changes established knowledge may be more important than whether it supports experimental, null, or mixed findings," the researchers wrote. "Thus, a clearer understanding of what is not effective in medicine appears to be of equal public, clinical, and research interest as what is effective."
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AMWA News

Free On-Demand Webinar for June

This month's complimentary recorded webinar for AMWA members is Microsoft Word Master Class: Tempted by Templates. This webinar covers the benefits of templates and introduces the range of ready-made templates available in Microsoft Word. It describes how to create custom templates and how to define their style and formatting, as well as how to create and run macros to simplify some of the more complex tasks.

Access this webinar in AMWA Online Learning before the end of the month.
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Blog Post: How to Become a Medical Writer

If you're interested in medical communication, you may not know where to begin. What background should you come from? What skills do you need? The latest AMWA blog post, "How to Become a Medical Writer," can help you get started. Learn about what it takes to transition into the field, skills and qualifications, an industry outlook, and more.
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News summaries © copyright 2019 SmithBucklin


June 5, 2019