Vancouver, September 11, 2009 (At the Peer Review Congress)
Margaret Winker and Tom Lang
At the September 2009 Peer Review Congress in Vancouver, Canada, the World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) had an in-person meeting with most of its executive board and about 75 of its international members. Such meetings are rare because WAME conducts most of its business and provides most of its services over the Internet. This feature allows editors from any country to participate as equals in the organization. Many WAME members attend the Peer Review Congress, so with each Congress held since WAME was founded, WAME has held a member meeting (1997, 2001, 2005; reports are available at WAME History).
Margaret Winker (USA), WAME President at the time of the meeting, called the meeting to order at 18:30. She began by introducing seven of the nine officers and board members who could attend the Peer Review Congress: Michael Callaham (USA), Past President; John Overbeke (Netherlands), Vice President; Tom Lang (USA), Treasurer; and Lorraine Ferris (Canada), Rob Siebers (New Zealand), and Martin van der Weyden (Australia), Directors; as well as Magne Nylenna (Norway), Chair, Membership Committee; Ana Marusic (Croatia), Chair, Research Committee and Past President; and Peush Sahni (India), WAME Representative to ICMJE and WAME Past President. Farrokh Habibzadeh (Iran), Secretary, and Directors Adamson Muula (Malawi) and Christopher Zielinski (Zimbabwe) were unable to attend.
Winker then addressed WAME’s current state. As of the meeting, WAME had 1566 members affiliated with more than 975 journals from 92 countries. Current in-kind support for WAME includes hosting of the WAME Web site by BMJ Publishing Group and staff and technical support by JAMA. WAME accomplishments in the four years since the previous meeting include (1) becoming a U.S. nonprofit 501(c)3 charitable nonprofit organization, enabling it to receive charitable donations and grants as an organization; (2) the first election of Board members in 2009; (3) the creation of the Small Journals Task Force and the Research Committee; and (4) the launching of a new Web site in 2007 that currently receives about 14,000 page views and 6300 visits monthly with visitors coming from 129 countries. She described the new initiatives planned for WAME, including a volunteer database that was begun at the meeting; an editor mentoring program and regional workshops; a journal authorship policy survey and database prompted by a suggestion from the US Institute of Medicine1; and an online learning syllabus to enable editors to learn or update the skills necessary for biomedical editing from anywhere in the world via an online interactive training program. She emphasized that the most important need of WAME is for funding via grants and donations because WAME does not charge membership fees. WAME was founded on the principle that lack of funds should not impede the ability of all eligible biomedical journal editors to join the organization.
Magne Nylenna, Chair of the Membership Committee, described the process by which new members are accepted. The process involves confirming that the applicant is a decision-making editor of a peer-reviewed medical journal or documenting an applicant’s status as a scholar. The confirmation process is rigorous; overall, approximately 30% of applicants are turned down for not meeting the membership criteria. Between May 2007 and September 2009, WAME received 306 applications for membership. Of these, 203 were admitted as members on the editor track and 16 as members on the scholar track; 87 were rejected because they did not meet the membership criteria. The geographical distribution of the new members on the editor track was as follows: Europe, 34; North America, 58; South America, 8; Africa, 13; Asia, 68, Australia/Oceania 13; and unspecified, 9.
Tom Lang gave the Treasurer’s report. WAME has had no revenue since the previous meeting. Expenses related to legal fees for incorporating as a 501(c)3. After paying those fees, WAME has a small balance with which to initiate its grant writing efforts.
The next portion of the meeting was devoted to case discussions, led by the Ethics Committee. Lorraine Ferris, Chair of the Ethics Committee, assisted by fellow committee members Michael Callaham and Elizabeth Wager, led a group discussion of two ethics cases.
Case 1 concerned how journals should enforce the requirement that clinical trials must be registered if the results are to be published. Several perspectives were given, including the thought that, with fewer resources, smaller journals cannot be expected to enforce new policies immediately; on the other hand, it is important for small journals to educate and inform authors about clinical trial registration. Editors can accept an unregistered trial on condition of its being registered; not publishing an unregistered trial contradicts the purpose of the registry if it means that ultimately trials cannot be published if they are not registered.
Case 2 dealt with the discovery of and reaction to an instance of self-plagiarism. In that case, an editor established that an author had self-plagiarized several paragraphs. However, when asked to explain, the author said that his assistant was responsible. In fact, the assistant’s name was listed in the “properties” field of the MS Word document. Although editors thought that overlap of a few paragraphs with an author’s previous work would not constitute a major issue to pursue with the author (although it should be avoided), the assistant’s role was another issue. Editors wanted more information about whether the assistant was responsible for the concept and primary draft of the manuscript. In other words, was the assistant a ghost author, or did the assistant merely open the first document file but not actually write the manuscript? The author said that the assistant wrote the first draft, so therefore the assistant should have been at least acknowledged or possibly have been listed as an author, depending on the breadth of the role. However, the assistant’s name on the “properties” field of MS Word was not equivalent to authorship; a document originally created by an individual will always retain that person as the creator.
Farrokh Habibzadeh, WAME Secretary, could not attend in person but presented his survey of medical journal editors and the definition and needs of small journals in the form of a video and slide lecture [view video]. His survey found that the two defining characteristics found most frequently among small journals are infrequent publication and delayed publication. The group discussion that followed suggested that delays were not caused by a lack of articles but rather by problems with publishers and delays in the peer review process. The challenges of finding high-quality peer reviewers were discussed; one editor shared that he would send articles to as many as eight reviewers, hoping to eventually receive two or three.
1In “Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice,” by the Institute of Medicine, available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/bookshelf/br.fcgi?book=nap12598&part=a2001902bddd00177&rendertype=box&id=a2001902bbbb00080 , the authors suggest that “WAME could collect and make public which journals have adopted the authorship, ghostwriting, and conflict of interest policies consistent with its policies and those of ICMJE.” Institute of Medicine, 2009. Conflict of Interest in Medical Research, Education, and Practice. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press