Rethinking Journal Submissions

by | Jul 11, 2019


The publication of drug trial results can raise awareness of a drug and, therefore, serve as an important first step toward its commercial success. But choosing the right scientific journal to submit those results to is neither simple nor easy.

One important consideration for authors deciding on where to submit their trial results is whether the journal is read by the people “you are interested in,” according to Igor Kissin M.D., Ph.D, a professor in the Department of Anesthesiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Among such interested readers may be the physicians and key opinion leaders in the medical community, as well as the patients who will be directly impacted by the availability of a drug.

The importance of attracting the interest of the right people was underscored by the accelerated approval of a drug for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). On Sept. 19, 2016, the Food and Drug Administration approved the proposed DMD drug, despite FDA scientists’ doubts about its efficacy, according to a report in the British Medical Journal.

Approval came after impassioned pleas from pediatric patients and their parents, according to a story on the Stat website. The FDA decision “delighted a frazzled, but vociferous community of parents, whose determined lobbying efforts were reminiscent of the movement three decades ago to force regulators to greenlight AIDS treatments,” the author of the Stat article wrote.

Approval of the fast-tracked DMD drug highlights the effect that can come from raising drug awareness through the publication of clinical results. As such, publication of the results in a journal read by patients interested in that field may not only alert them to the existence of a drug but fuel grassroots efforts to get the drug approved for marketing by regulators.

Yet journal readership is not factored into the ranking of a scientific journal. Neither is the specialty area of journals or the class of drugs about which clinical results are commonly published.

Journal rankings are instead still dominated by the journal’s impact factor — a calculation based on the frequency with which articles in a journal are cited over a selected period of time, reflecting the likelihood that published articles will be cited by authors of future peer-reviewed articles.

However, the impact factor should not be the only — or even the most important — consideration when choosing a journal.

Moving Beyond the Impact Factor

Authors seeking out high-impact journals might favor publications like the New England Journal of Medicine, which ranks in the top five of journals in terms of impact according to InCites Journal Citation Reports, a customized, citation-based research analytics tool. But traditional journal rankings that rely on the impact factor simply may not provide enough information to decide which journal to submit to.

In his 2013 article in the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy, Dr. Kissin noted that a drug’s potential for success over the long haul may be reflected by the Top Journal Selectivity Index (TJSI), which is a calculation based on drug mentions in the top 20 journals. Dr. Kissin noted in the article that the utility of the TJSI as an indicator of long-term success for a commercialized drug was “explained by the high-caliber experts involved in the assessment of manuscripts evaluating new drugs in the top specialty journals.” These journals are chosen for the TJSI, Dr. Kissin wrote, not just on the basis of the journal’s impact factor but also on the specialty area related to the drug’s specific pharmacological class.

But even the TJSI does not include the most important factor to be considered when you’re looking to submit drug trial results, according to Dr. Kissin.

“The most important thing is to send drug trial results to the best journal that has a high probability of accepting your study,” he said. “If you think that the probability that your paper will be accepted in the New England Journal of Medicine will be one percent, you should not send them your manuscript.”

Submitting manuscripts to unsuitable journals is one of the most common mistakes authors make, according to the American Journal Experts (AJE), a consulting service.

Authors might consider several factors in addition to the journal ranking, according to the AJE, including the aims and scope of the journal and whether the journal has published research results similar to those of the prospective author.

While many factors can impact the commercial success of a pharmaceutical, choosing the right journal in which to publish clinical trial results is critically important. To get the most traction for their research, authors should look beyond traditional journal rankings, based on the impact factor, when submitting trial results.



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