Conference abstract caution

Almost half of all IBD related scientific papers presented at major conferences in the USA fail to achieve full manuscript publication, a study reveals.

The analysis of 872 abstracts presented at the 2010 American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) Advances in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (AIBD) and Digestive Disease Week (DDW) found that only 49% were published as complete manuscripts within five years of the conference.

The likelihood of abstracts being published in a journal differed between conferences, the research team led by Professor Joseph D. Feuerstein from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical center and the Havard medical school discovered.

For instance, 58% of the abstracts presented at AIBD were published compared to 42% of abstracts from ACG and 23% from DDW (p< 0.0001).

Factors that predicted eventual publication included the number of authors (mean 7.5 for published vs 6.4 for unpublished p = 0.0001), clinical research compared to basic and translational (p = 0.026), and studies assessing drug safety with no adverse effects reported (p = 0.006).

According to the authors the peer review process may be one reason why abstracts from conferences might fail to achieve full manuscript publication.

“ [the conference] peer review process is typically performed by a single physician or small group of physicians assessing the abstract. The abstracts can only provide limited information given strict word/character limits” they wrote in Digestive Diseases and Sciences.

 “Ideally, the peer review process for abstracts accepted to conferences should be strengthened,” they added.

The authors advise that based on their findings conference attendees should be cautious when evaluating research presented at conferences and should not prematurely incorporate data presented at conference into practice.

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