• Najeeb Ashraf

Scientific publications in digital age

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

The face of evolving publications



Researchers depend on journals for their scientific publications. Everyone wants to publish their data in high impact factor journals like Nature, Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine and get visibility for their work. Most high impact journals have high rejection rates. With every rejection, a considerable time and effort is lost in reformatting the research paper as per the new journal guidelines- this entire cycle continues till the paper gets published, or in many cases, remains unpublished due to the fear of rejection. Furthermore, not everything that is published is read even when it is published in all the high impact factor journals. So, the bottom line is, if you wish to attract audience towards your writing or research paper, you need to create the required “buzz” in the market.

Good news today is that the “web” has changed publishing. Journals are no longer the only place for science anymore. More than 80% of the US physicians use smartphone or tablet in their practice. A study done by Bosslet et al. demonstrated that about 46% of oncologists use online search engine at least four times a day for professional purposes. Almost all medical students use social media for professional networking and development. Over half of the researchers worldwide google search to read their desired article. Most researchers visit social media platforms for varied reasons right from just curiosity (most passive) to track metrics, discover jobs, peers, recommended papers, contact peers, post content, share links, actively discuss research, comment on research and follow discussions (most active). A survey conducted by Noorden in 2014 demonstrated that ResearchGate, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter & Academia.edu were the top 5 sites visited by scientists and engineers.

While traditional publications are important to get a complete view point of any study, and you really cannot decipher the efficacy or safety of a drug in mere 140 odd characters of social media, it is imperative to see how social media can influence the readability of a research paper. At the 3rd MedComms Networking virtual event, Caroline Halford, Digital Publishing Manager at Springer Healthcare, presented key findings from a short survey of publishing professionals working in and around MedComms and the pharmaceutical industry, looking at perceptions and experiences of digital features to accompany medical publications. Speaking on readership trends in medical publishing, Caroline mentioned that irrespective of the impact factor of the journal, articles were more likely to be read when authors discussed about them in social media platforms. Gone are the days when we used journal impact factor or citation counts to access the reach of published articles. The new altmetric lingo is “page views” or “download counts”. Caroline showed that Adis articles with digital features have higher downloads than those published in the same time period without digital features. In summary, digital features have the ability to broaden the reach of articles and increase their overall impact.

Does it mean that conventional publications would soon be obsolete? Well, we currently do not have answer to this, but yes, the truth is, the times are changing and so are the publishing practices. We are living in a digital era where visually appealing and interactive technology captures one's interest and attention much more quickly than anything else.

It is time journals adapt to the changing technological advances and innovate the publishing world. Steps have been taken but there is lot of ground to cover. Videos and animations can be very useful and valuable digital features to summarize data in a concise manner, especially for the busy health care professionals. Digital features help readers understand the content quickly and easily, making them want to read the full article. Sharing key data via press releases and different social media platforms can help disseminate the published article to a larger audience than relying only on conventional publications.

#medicalwriting #lifescience #digitalpublications

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