Authorship is the most tangible evidence of responsibility and credit
for research and plays a central role in scholarly recognition and promotion.
Four articles find that authorship disputes at one institution are increasing;
most authors meet the authorship criteria of the International Committee of
Medical Journal Editors, although most don't know what the criteria are; the
number of senior authors has increased in the last 20 years; and both guest
authors (persons who don't meet authorship criteria) and ghost authors (persons
who have contributed significantly but aren't named) are frequent.
Biomedical studies are judged by peer review, but can peer review itself
be improved? Seven studies evaluate peer review and find that masking reviewers
to authors' identities to reduce possible bias was difficult. However when
masking was accomplished, it did not improve quality of peer review, nor did
reviewers unmasking their identity to other reviewers or to authors by signing
their reviews. No reviewer characteristics were able to identify which peer
reviewers provide the best-quality reviews.
Bias can threaten the accuracy of the biomedical literature. In this
group of 7 studies, multiple sources of potential bias are evaluated: studies
with statistically significant results are more likely to be published and
come to publication more quickly; US reviewers seem to prefer manuscripts
from the United States; and authors of reviews preferentially cite articles
from their discipline and country.
The quality of articles, the topic of these 7 studies, concerns readers,
reviewers, editors, and, indirectly, patients. Abstracts, the most widely
read part of a manuscript, were found to have multiple inconsistencies with
the text, but instructions to authors did not improve abstract quality. Structured
abstracts did not improve reporting in the text of the manuscript. Guidelines
for economic submissions did not improve quality of submitted or published
works, and randomized trials generally do not include a discussion of the
totality of the available evidence. On the other hand, reviewers valued receiving
related materials to help them with their reviews, and Cochrane reviews were
more rigorous and updated more often than paper-based journal reviews.
Do experts know what readers want? What editorial training do editors
receive? No, and usually not much, are the answers provided by 2 of the studies
on this topic.
Jacques Villon, Le Philosophe, French, 1930.
Peer Review in Prague
"In this issue of THE JOURNAL, we publish 33 articles, based on presentations
in Prague, Czech Republic, on subjects surrounding the publication of science
relevant to clinicians. . . . There had been [before 1986] remarkably few
serious investigations into its workings, though no shortage of opinion written
in the absence of fact."
For your patients: a primer on medical research.
This Week in JAMA. JAMA. 1998;280(3):207. doi:10.1001/jama.280.3.207