groups » Training and Career Development » Nov 2015: Ask the Expert with Trish Groves, Editor-in-Chief of BMJ Open
As part of Global Health Trials' Writing and Publication Skills month, we are absolutely delighted to welcome Dr Trish Groves, Editor in Chief of BMJ Open, to answer all your questions about publications and writing. Dr Groves has extensive expertise in this area and a specific interest in developing research capacity in LMICs. Please add your questions below, and Dr Groves will reply to them as soon as she can.
About Dr Trish Groves:
Trish Groves trained in medicine and psychiatry before going to The BMJ in 1989, where she is deputy editor and head of research. She is also editor-in-chief of BMJ Open. Her current focus is to explore how BMJ might help to build capabilities for health research in low and middle income countries.
While at The BMJ Trish has been an honorary research fellow at the School for Public Policy, UCL; served on the council of the Committee on Publication Ethics, co-authored the HarperCollins Consumer’s Guide to Mental Health (1996), taught around the world, and talked quite a lot on radio and TV about health research. She is now on the steering groups of the AllTrials campaign and the EQUATOR Network on transparent health research.
As a young Postgraduate Research Assistant, I am very happy to be part of this group, and also big thanks goes to Dr. Trish Groves for her dedication, and her ability to share knowledge.
Thank you all faculty members
Good day to all of you and a big welcome to Dr.Trish Groves. It is amazing for me to read on his exploits in the area of research especially mental health which is like a new area in Cameroon where l work and practice.
Most at times editors after reviewing an article from research work that was carried out,the authors of that journal would say at the end that they are sorry,they cannot publish your article on their journal.If we assume that there was no conflict of interest in the investigators who carried out the work and there was no bias in the selection of the subjects for the study.Assuming too that there was respect and safety for the subjects during the time that the study went on.What are some of the possible reasons that a journal will refuse an article from being published on their journal from a study that received ethical approval and all the other factors in research were duly respected?
My second worry is that most of the health workers in Cameroon who would like to carry on research has as an obstacle finance to be able to carry on their projects and as well as lack a mentor out there in an advance Country like you who could hold their hands to begin the field of research right from choosing a topic,getting to the protocol,ethical clearances and writing an article for publishing ,for this is the best way to teach a beginner as the saying goes,when l hear l forget,when l see l remember and when l do l know.How can they be mentored by you? Thanks in advance for your response.
Glad to have the Editor of BMJ in the house. I have few questions
1. What opportunities have BMJ created to encourage , support , collaborate and mentor researchers in LMIC?
2. In support of Jorome's second question, researchers in Africa are well talented and experienced, but are limited by lack of equipment and funds to carry out cutting edge research. In most institutions , a candidate doing say a PhD could spend years trying to source out his reagent since in this part of the world, most studies are self driven and self-financed. How will BMJ close these gaps?
Thank you very much for this online discussion on preparation of manuscript.
I'm Desalegn Ararso(MPH,B.Sc),Assistant researcher at the technology transfer and research translation of the Ethiopian Public Health Institute,Addis Ababa,Ethiopia.
I have an interest to prepare a systematic review protocol under the mentor-ship on the evidence based health policy.So,I want the support of Dr Trish Groves in this regard.
I am very happy for this opportunity.
I have similar worries as Augustine and Jerome.
Hope to benefit from Dr. Trish Grove's experience
Thanks in advance
Dr Groves will respond shortly. Please note that we will be providing information about a mentoring scheme within the next week or so from AuthorAid - please do stick to specific questions about publications and writing skills in the discussion with Dr Groves here.
The Editorial Team
I'm pleased to be here, and very interested to read your comments and questions.
I'll do my best to answer your questions, as quickly as possible. But please bear with me if there's sometimes a delay. And I'll be away travelling over the next week.
Special thanks to Phans, Jerome, Augustine, Desalegn, and Tatah for starting us off.
Here are my answers:
1. Q: Why do journals reject research, even when a study was well conducted and had ethics approval?
A: Most of the big journals eg The BMJ, The Lancet, NEJM, and many specialist journals, are highly selective. They need to be, as they receive many more submissions than they can publish. The acceptance rates at such journals is usually very low - between 5-8%.
Imagine you're the editor, and you have in front of you 10 papers reporting good studies that have all had positive reports from the independent peer reviewers. You need to pick just one or two. You will choose those paper that you believe - in the light of the editorial team's experience, knowledge of the evidence base, and knowledge of readers' needs - will be the most interesting, relevant, new, and important to the majority of the journal's readers all round the world.
In the past week, you and your fellow editors will also have rejected many other papers because they weren't close enough to the journal's scope, didn't add quite enough to knowledge because they were too preliminary or not original enough, didn't report the methods and results clearly enough, tried to hype the findings and overstate their importance, or had scientific or ethical problems that weren't fixable.
It sounds unkind to say it, but big journals are largely rejection machines and most of our "customers" are disappointed. Given this, we try to say "no" quickly, so that we don't waste your time.
If your paper did get as far as independent, external peer review, then we will also send you the reviewers' comments. Do discuss with your coauthors any such feedback from the journal and reviewers. Use it to try and make your paper clearer, and then send it to the next journal on your list.
2. Q: what is BMJ doing to encourage and support researchers in LMICs?
A: We have more than 60 journals, several of which particularly welcome research from LMICs and have relatively high acceptance rates eg BMJ Open http://bmjopen.bmj.com/ BMJ Innovations http://innovations.bmj.com/ and - now welcoming submissions - our new journal BMJ Global Health http://promotions.bmj.com/globalhealth/ (submit via https://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/bmjgh). These are all open access journals, and all do ask for an article publishing fee if your article is accepted after peer review. We hope research funders will cover these fees but, if not, all these journals do offer discounts and waivers according to HINARI band.
We are also launching, early in 2016, a big eLearning programme for researchers. It's called BMJ Research to Publication http://rtop.bmj.com/ The main route to this will be through a subscription via your university or medical school, and we are making sure that this is available at very low cost in low income countries.
We've also made two modules from the programme free, via The Global Health Network's eLearning pages.
BMJ Research to Publication takes you through every step: from developing a good research question, through planning and conducting a scientifically and ethically strong study, to writing clear papers and successfully achieving publication. We have teamed up with the University of San Francisco, California (UCSF), and the programme combines their research expertise with BMJ's knowledge about getting published.
The programme aims to help all researchers everywhere, whether they're aiming for publication in The New England Journal of Medicine or a good local journal.
3. Q: I would like to prepare a systematic review protocol, and need some mentoring.
A: it's great to hear you're planning to do a systematic review: when well conducted and reported, these are very important and are often picked up in clinical practice guidelines and national policies.
One of the two free modules - available now on The Global Health Network - from the BMJ Research to Publication eLearning programme is all about writing up study protocols and getting them published.
I hope you'll try this module (it's a presentation that lasts about an hour, with 2-3 hours' further reading and tests), and I hope you'll find it useful. One key resource that it refers to is the PRISMA-P reporting guideline, which is an evidence-based tool to help authors plan their systematic reviews and write up their protocols. Along with many other research reporting guidelines, PRISMA-P is freely available at the EQUATOR Network website: http://www.equator-network.org/reporting-guidelines/prisma-protocols/
That's all for now.
PS apologies for the typos - even editors make mistakes! Next time I'll type into a Word document and spellcheck before posting...
Thanks Trish for your response and time and hello colleagues.
I observed that the story of the current Ebola outbreak is being told by outsiders not African researchers which is obvious since they have the resources and expertise to conduct such studies. 90% authors that have written about Ebola are not Africans I do wonder if a paper written solely by African researchers who are not well known by the western scientific community will be considered for publication in those "IV" journal. I wish one day we Africans are in the position to tell our own stories rather than others telling it for us .
Once again, thanks for your help and time.
I would love to know if any one has some easy hints, instructions for using evernote on a mac computer.
A quick way to enter references would be appreciated
Also where is the best place to search for land based pollution policies?
I am happy to join this team.
It is my great pleasure to be among you, and I do hope that I will learn a lot.
Thank you for your welcoming messages.
Peter: you make an important point. Although many papers on Ebola in NEJM, The Lancet, and other journals have included African coauthors, I agree with you that it would be very good to see studies initiated and published solely by African researchers and clinicians.
One key reason for the lack of African-authored papers must have been that those doctors, other healthcare workers, and scientists were too busy at the front line. Tragically, some died: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/ebola-virus-five-co-authors-of-latest-study-on-outbreak-died-before-research-was-published-9701346.html
Another key reason was the lack of local research infrastructure and expertise. It's very good, therefore, to see organisations such as EDCTP and TDR putting money and energy into building research capacity:
Judith - thanks for your questions. As a medical editor, I'm not able to offer any expert advice on where to find good evidence on enviornmental science. But I would start by searching Google Scholar. I just tried, using the term "land based pollution research" and yielded >140k results
I also found this review of such research:
Nor am I an expert on Evernote or other apps/software for referencing, but I've found that the websites of university libraries often provide handy tips, guides, and comparisons of reference managers. Here's some advice from the Oxford University libraries:
And I hope this link might help to answer your query about Evernote:
Is there any policy or incentive available for BMJ articles access to developing countries students or government organizations as they can't afford to pay for every article ?
Hello Trish ,I'm Mr.Joby George.Research nurse from India also member of GHT .
Nice to be on board with GHT,My question to you that Is it important to include the key results of the findings in the abstract? and is it mandatory to go by the IMRAD structure while writing manuscripts because I've seen many studies without IMRAD structure
Hello Trish, my questions are simple.
1) How can a starting researcher publish? what should the characteristics of the journal be when trying to publish (because most of the big journals wont publish research from new researchers), so how and on where do i start when do i try to scale to a bigger journal?
2) How do i get a to do a joint research on a LMIC, because most research done are by diseases that bigger countries would like to work or that generate profit form something such as HIV, and researches done on other countries that one would like to do in an LMIC sometimes its rejected because they say theres research done but theres difference between an LMIC from the caribbean region and from africa, but some people forget about that, so what can be done in those cases?
Thanks in advance.
Thanks for today's questions.
I'm in India and am about to go to a Diwali party, so I apologise for not having time now to answer all of the questions. I'll catch up as soon as I can.
Here are some of my answers:
Q: Is there any policy or incentive available for BMJ articles access to developing countries students or government organizations as they can't afford to pay for every article?
A: All research papers in The BMJ are published with Open Access (OA), and this means everyone, everywhere, can read and reuse them without payment or permission. The same applies to all of BMJ’s fully OA journals, which include BMJ Open and, coming soon, BMJ Global Health. BMJ publishes more than 60 journals (http://journals.bmj.com/) and they all have at least some OA research papers.
In addition, many publishers, including BMJ, make all of their content free to academic and healthcare institutions in lower income countries through the Research4Life programme (http://www.research4life.org/). This includes the HINARI programme that gives free access to health research (http://www.who.int/hinari/en/).
I realise that these programmes aren’t the answer for everyone, not least because countries fall off the HINARI list as they become richer and/or become a viable market for international publishers. For example, India has many poor people and many health workers who can’t afford journal subscriptions, yet the country’s overall wealth keeps it out of HINARI. Sometimes publishers decide to go beyond HINARI and, indeed, all content in The BMJ is currently free to readers in India and across South Asia.
Q: Is it important to include the key results of the findings in the abstract? and is it mandatory to go by the IMRAD structure while writing manuscripts because I've seen many studies without IMRAD structure.
A: Yes, it is important to give the key results in the abstract. These should be the main outcomes/results that were planned for at the start of the study, in order to meet the goals of the study. Here are three reasons to give these results: 1) The abstract is the world’s window into your study. It may the only part of your paper that people will read and, in many journals, it may be the only part they can access without paying 2) At big journals with too many submission, editors sometimes screen papers by reading only the abstract. If they’d don’t see there a good research question (objective/hypothesis), a sound method to answer the question, and the answer (main results) they may simply reject the submission without reading the full paper 3) Journals with web submission systems don’t usually send out the whole paper when seeking peer reviewers: they email only the abstract, or a link to it online. So the abstract needs to be clear, accurate, and as informative as possible.
The IMRAD structure (Introduction, Methods, Results And Discussion) is still the clearest format for explaining the “Why, How, What, and Who cares?” elements of your study, and it reflects scientific method (Hypothesis, Testing/Methods, Findings, Interpretation). This is why the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (http://www.icmje.org/) and most biomedical journals strongly recommend the IMRAD format - it’s a good, structured way to tell the story of your study.
Thanks, and see you again soon.
Thanks for joining us as an expert in the area of research.
Two questions I need assistance with;
1. How old should a research paper be before its considered outdated for publishing? Most of us do thesis write ups then time elapses before we realize we could have actually published our findings.
2. I share the same sentiments voiced out by Peter James, when are we going to see research from Africa spearheaded by young and vibrant African researchers? And what is the research community out there doing about this issue to date?
Thanks Tshiamo, Trish will get back to you soon regarding the first question.
In relation to the second question - perhaps the answers need to come from the researchers in Africa! I would turn this around and ask YOU, as a researcher in Africa, what you think the barriers are to this? Perhaps this could be a separate discussion though. There are many substantial and free programmes which can support researchers - they don't fill in ALL the gaps, but they provide plenty of free support and resources. For example The Global Health Network has thousands of articles, resources, tools, eLearning courses etc available freely, and the EQUATOR, AuthorAid and BMJ's new eLearning courses provide substantial support for publishing. If you think there are specific gaps and barriers, specify what they are, and perhaps the Global Health community can work together to fill them.
Could we keep the questions for Trish related specifically to issues regarding publications? Thank you!
The Editorial Team