An analysis of BMJ and Lancet Group journal articles found an excess of industry funded studies among those with the highest reprint rates. Do you think an article’s reprint potential can create a publication bias?

Ray Thibodeau
Executive Vice President for Content, Ed Net

Individuals that suggest bias by “editors” do not have much insight into how high-impact journals go about publishing. Firewalls are created for the very purpose of giving the editor full control of a journal’s mission. To suggest one could demand or influence publication of an article to an editor for the sake of a reprint sale is a big stretch. It has also been suggested that the reprint line brings incredible sums of revenue to the bottom line and quite frankly this is just not true.  As a percentage of revenue the reprint line typically represents a range of  5-12% of the journal’s total income.

Is there potential for bias?  Anything is possible! However,  is it likely? Absolutely not. There is too much to risk vs. the benefit of a reprint sale notwithstanding the reputation of the editor, the society and the journal.

Peter Ashman
Publishing Director, BMJ and BMJ Journals, BMJ Group

I believe that scholarly articles should be accepted purely on the basis of their scientific rigor and their relevance to the journal’s readership.  Publishers need to be clear with their editors that acceptance decisions must be based on this criteria and the recommendation of peer review reports. Reprints are an important revenue stream to publishers and are a vital communication tool for pharmaceutical companies to engage with healthcare professionals. Publication in a high-prestige journal such as the BMJ adds to the impact for the recipient—but if a journal develops a reputation for accepting articles based on their potential reprint potential, the value of that journal brand will be undermind and everyone loses. Editors and publishers beware!

Jack Angel
Executive Director, Coalition for Healthcare Communication Foundation

BMJ deserves credit for placing their own journals under scrutiny in an attempt to uncover one of the greatest sins any journal worth its salt labors to avoid, bias.  Having said that, it is difficult to understand how the authors arrived at the conclusions they drew from this study.

The answer may lie in a sentence from the introduction of the abstract of the article:

“Orders can be worth large sums of money and could potentially influence the chance of a paper being accepted…”  

This suggests that publishers measure potential reprint sales before accepting articles. That is absurd and demonstrates a basic lack of understanding of the principles of publishing. It leads me to conclude that the only bias uncovered here was that of the authors.

Frank J. Rodino, PA, MHS
President and Founder, Churchill Communications, LLC

Company-sponsored trials are required to be large and well-designed, and they are often performed in collaboration with academic research centers. Regardless of sponsorship, adequately powered and rigorously constructed studies are favored by high-impact, peer-reviewed journals.  So it is not surprising that these papers, many of which are company-sponsored, generate interest among clinicians and result in large reprint orders. But sponsors have an obligation to make study data available  while addressing inquiries from clinicians as they arise.  Reprints are just one method for meeting those obligations.

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