Are you being heard?

An Increasingly Crowded World of Scientific Dissemination

Is it better for your scientific paper to appear in JAMA or the New England Journal of Medicine? Should you present your research at a specialty meeting like the Annual Meeting of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer or choose a more general conference like the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)? How you answer those questions affects the impact of your scientific dissemination – your ability to present information to key thought leaders and receive attention from the scientific community.

To increase your impact, producing landmark scientific findings isn’t enough. Not even Watson and Crick’s announcement of the double-helix structure of DNA makes the list of the 100 most-cited scientific papers. In fact, many papers struggle to be cited at all. Between 2000 and 2010, Thomson Reuters’ Essential Science Indicators database show that citations for immunology papers declined steadily from an average of 38.21 to 0.74. Citations for molecular biology papers fell from 49.10 to 0.90.

The reason for the declining number of citations is partially related to the number of scientific papers published. During roughly the same time frame (2000-2008) the number of scientific articles published grew 34 percent, according to researchers at the Max Planck Society and ETH Zurich. The number of credible publishing options also has increased dramatically and includes conference proceedings.

Overcoming the dilution of scientific impact of any one paper, presentation or publication is, in part, a factor of where papers are published or presented. Obviously, the best place to publish or present your papers depends on your goals – to deliver information to decision-makers, maximize citations or minimize the lag time as a manuscript is reviewed, for example. Making the decision requires balancing a range of considerations, including the venue’s prestige and scientific impact, relevance to your target audience, probability of acceptance, and (for journals) editorial review and production time.

Rather than rely on the historical performance of a particular journal, it is now possible to measure a  broad continuum of current coverage of your topic– efficacy of a new drug, for example – and find the right place to publish.  Below, I describe the ways in which to weigh your publishing options that exist in a traditional environment, as well as the more modern tools and methodologies available that complement and inform your publishing strategies.

As a scientist, you may:

  • Target journals you read or meetings you attend. While this may lead you to prestigious venues with significant scientific presence, it may overlook relevant but lesser-known meetings and publications that may be more likely to accept your paper and publish it promptly, and cater to a more specific audience
  • Conduct Markov decision analyses. This mathematical process factors in the variables and tradeoffs inherent in the submission or presentation process, like review time, rejections and lost opportunities. It may, however, be cumbersome and must be conducted for each publication or conference you are considering. Results also will vary based on such assumptions as the probability that your paper will be accepted.
  • Subscribe to impact ranking reports. Scimago Journal & Country Rank, the University of Washington’s Eigenfactor Project, Clarivate Analytics (formerly the Intellectual Property & Science division of Thompson Reuters) and other organizations publish annual rankings to help scientists determine the influence of scholarly journals. The Book Citation Index does this for books and book chapters, too. These rankings, however, do not include conferences, and do not track changes in editorial focus or scientific meetings.

Medical Affairs 2.0: Analysis Engines Streamline Selection

Innovative analytics engines are transforming the search process, letting researchers, corporations and institutions mine large quantities of data to find the publications and conferences most likely to deliver their findings to the most receptive audiences. At least one medical publishing house, for example, has a tool to help authors match their papers to appropriate  journals, thus speeding the publication process.

The introduction of advanced analytics engines is broadening this approach beyond the offerings of specific publishers to include presentation and publication options throughout the world.

Medmeme’s database includes scientifically credible, peer-reviewed abstracts from more than 14,000 meetings worldwide and every available PubMed listing. Importantly, it also incorporates analytics tools so researchers and medical affairs specialists can drill down to find relevant information and analyze it in context. For example, this tool can help medical affairs specialists identify experts in narrowly-defined subcategories of diseases, such as stage IV bone metastasis in breast cancer.

As a medical affairs expert or publication planner, you can mine this database not only to identify possibly smaller, more appropriate places to publish, but trends in larger congresses and publications that may signal shifts in focus. With this information, you can better determine which outlets may be most receptive to your specific research and, of those, which may most effectively increase your scientific voice. This is how you can more accurately prioritize opportunities.

Taking a big data analytics approach to disseminating research data is smart. By taking a strategic approach to publication and presentations, you can reach the readers or conference attendees who matter most to you and thereby, increase the impact of your scientific voice.