Sara Black, Lead Medical Writer, at Succinct Communications discusses the traditions of publication in academic journals and what constitutes a good publication plan.
When I first started as a desk editor at a journal, more years ago than I care to admit to, the publishing process was simple. Researchers wrote up their findings, submitted them to a journal, and they counted the number of articles they had authored as proof of their activity and expertise in their field.
In time, academia become more critical of using the number of articles as a measure of influence, and began to look at where those articles were published - leading to the birth of the journal impact factor. As a result, authors were faced with a choice of submitting their articles to journals with high impact factors (which are overwhelmed with articles and therefore have very high rejection rates) or to journals with lower impact where the chances of acceptance and rapid publication are higher. However, whichever route the article takes, there is no guarantee that anyone will actually read it, much less use it to change practice.
So what can be done to ensure that ground-breaking research translates into life-changing clinical practice? A good publications plan should include a shopping list of activities to be undertaken at publication and after an article has been published, including:
- Working with the journal's press department to raise awareness of the publication, and its relevance, among the medical and non-medical press
- Using tools such as Kudos to make lay summaries available to a wider audience
- Working with trial investigators and recognised authorities in the field to spread the word in review articles, editorials and opinion pieces
- Developing advertorials or sponsored journal supplements summarising the data and placing them in the context of current treatment pathways
- Producing standalone sponsored publications, such as Succinct's own-brand 'journal for hire', Medicine Matters, which offers a vehicle for rapid dissemination of data summaries, with expert opinion/commentary to targeted audiences
- Using social media (e.g. LinkedIn and Twitter) to alert followers to the new research and to track how other people are talking about it
Not all of these activities may be appropriate or applicable in all situations. Nonetheless, they each have something different to offer and a programme that can incorporate a range of vehicles will inevitably be more successful than one that relies on journal publication and any press activities that the journal undertakes. However, it may appear quite daunting to keep track of all of these acitivities and to justify their budgets to others. Fortunately, there are a range of tools available to measure the reach of each activity, such as Altmetric, which monitors and tracks any reference to a published article in other journals or policy documents, mainstream media, social emdia, blogs, Wikipedia, multimedia and other platforms. Many journals are already embracing the information that such tools can provide and web pages for individual articles often display such data, for example in the format of the Altmetric "donut". This information can be used to assess whether or not people are noticing an article and to compare levels of attention across articles (for example to identify whether particlular types of articles or journal sources are most effective and to compare levels of enagagement with articles on competitor products). Although the kind of data that Almetric and such tools provide cannot indicate whether the attention received is positive or negative, the information can be used to fine tune further communication efforts and, if necessary, to address any misconceptions.
We are already nearing the end of the second decade of the 21st century, and changes in publication practice cannot be ignored. Clinicians simply to not have the time to read every full-text article on new research in their field and they are increasingly relying on summaries and highlights to identify the most relevant information. Successful dissemination of new data now relies on investigators and industry making most effective use of the tools available to them and embracing a range of print, online and face-to-face communications to ensure that their research gets noticed and has an impact on practice.
To learn more about how Succinct can help you to make the most of your publications, please get in touch with Rob Barker, CEO at Succinct Medical Communications (an OPEN Health company) Rob.Barker@succinctcomms.com,+44 (0)20 7861 2825.
Altmetrics data is provided by Altmetric.com, a research metrics company who track and collect the online conversations around millions of scholarly outputs. Altmetric continually monitors a variety of non-traditional sources to provide real-time updates on new mentions and shares of individual research outputs., which are collated and presented to users via the Altmetric details pages and badge visualisations. Each research output that Alttmetric finds attention for is given a score, weighted count of the online attention it has received. Further information about how the Altmetric Attention Score is calculated can be found here.