Getting published in a high-impact journal is no longer the only way to disseminate biomedical knowledge. Publications are ideal if your goal is to secure a tenure-track position or if you are planning to apply for research grants. But a key disadvantage of peer-reviewed journals is that they tend to have long submission, review, revision, and acceptance processes. While important findings are waiting for unpaid reviewers to find time to study a paper, other channels are publishing comparable results. Conference proceedings, posters, and the emerging practice of nanopublishing are changing the pace and volume of publications.
New research presented at conferences
Conference proceedings are an increasingly important mode of rapid dissemination of biomedical research findings. In fact, presenters may not even finish their presentation until shortly before the conference. Conferences often accept talks based on an abstract. There is no need for multiple rounds of revisions before publication. This practice of acceptance based on a promising abstract may seem counter to the idea of peer-reviewed science, but it is not.
Conferences and workshops are organized for medical professionals to share the results of work in progress or recently completed studies. Attendees learn about the latest results in their areas of interest and presenters can receive feedback about their work. Conferences also offer the chance for medical professionals to network with peers and share information informally. Question and answer sessions and networking opportunities provide opportunities for informal peer review or commentary on a presentation. This is beneficial for both the presenter, who can use the feedback to improve a future submission to a journal, and for the attendees who have access to information that may not appear in biomedical journals for months. Conferences and journals complement each other: conferences optimize for time to publication while journals optimize for impact.
Conference content will vary. Some conferences host large trade shows and present a wide variety of educational content. These are useful for attendees interested in learning about a new area of interest or for those trying to understand commercial support for emerging therapies and diagnostics. Other conferences specialize in narrow topics and help practitioners network and share new results. Ironically, large trade shows are best known but narrowly focused conferences may be a better source of leading-edge findings.
For those who cannot attend a conference, conference proceedings capture the most valuable information from presentations. Unfortunately, major, publicly available indexes do not always include conference proceedings. This can severely hamper access to valuable information. MA practitioners can benefit from seeking out search and text mining services that include medical conferences in their indexes.
Medical conferences are a valuable source of information, especially newly discovered insights. Access to conferences and conference proceedings is increasingly important for discovering up-to-date findings in biomedical fields.