KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Friday, September 17, 2010

Medical Publishing and Full Disclosure of Editing Assistance

In medical publishing, one of the hot issues now is transparency, or full disclosure, regarding any possible conflicts of interest. It's my stance that as part of transparency, researchers should always disclose to peer-reviewed medical journals that they have contracted with self-employed medical editors to polish their manuscripts before submissions.

Journals are requiring authors to disclose any potential conflicts of interest, such as whether they received funds, equipment, or other assistance to conduct the research that they are reporting or whether they act as spokespersons for or have a financial stake in the manufacturers of any equipment or medication used in their research. This is because the results of a study on the effects of a particular drug, for example, could be viewed as biased (or, worst-case scenario, perhaps even manipulated) if the drug's manufacturer funded the study or assisted the authors in writing the study report. But if such assistance isn't disclosed, readers won't know that the study results might have been manipulated by researchers who are grateful to the manufacturer for the assistance.

Accordingly, many organizations related to science publishing recommend and many medical journals now require full disclosure regarding assistance of any kind that authors receive, include writing and editing assistance. For example, see this part of the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals, from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, especially this statement:

Authors should identify individuals who provide writing or other assistance and disclose the funding source for this assistance.

I and many other medical editors interpret "other assistance" to mean editing assistance. Therefore, when I edit journal manuscripts for authors—and I work with a lot of authors all over the world who need my assistance because they're non-native speakers of English—I let them know that I require that they include this statement in the acknowledgments section of their manuscript:

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf, ELS, of East Setauket, New York, provided professional English-language editing of this article.

Then the author's target journal can decide whether, according to its disclosure policies, that statement will appear in the published version of the article. And the journal can then also ask the authors how they paid for my services—out of their own pockets, from funds provided by their medical institution, from federal grants, etc. I won't work with any authors who won't agree to my requirement.

As one former editor of a prominent British medical journal wrote a few months ago on an e-mail list for journal editors, not acknowledging editorial assistance "misleads readers into thinking that the authors are skilled writers."



Juliette said...

Great post, thanks! I agree with what you're saying, especially since I work solely with non-native English speakers. The end product usually looks quite different than what we start with... =P

Perhaps it's because I haven't really been looking at the acknowledgments section of published articles, but do you find statements like this frequently being published?

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Hi, Juliette. Thanks for stopping by.

I can't provide statistics on acknowledgments overall, but I can say that the frequency of printed acknowledgments of my contributions is increasing. I am also seeing more acknowledgments of other editors' contributions now than I did even 5 years ago.

I think that it's just a matter of educating authors and getting journals used to seeing such acknowledgments in submitted manuscripts.

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