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Editor,—The presentation of abstracts at scientific meetings provides an opportunity to rapidly convey the results of novel research. It also allows the researcher a chance to receive informal peer review. This may help to clarify aspects of the work, particularly in the identification and correction of potential weaknesses prior to submission for full publication. Although abstracts submitted to conferences are peer reviewed, this process may not be as rigorous as that of an indexed journal considering publication of the full manuscript.1
Presentation of an abstract at a prestigious meeting may suggest that full publication is probable. Certainly, acceptance as opposed to rejection increases the likelihood of subsequent publication, but this is not absolute.2 Other medical specialities have studied their societies' publication rates and this value varies from 21% to 66%.3 4
There have been no studies evaluating the outcome of abstracts presented at gastroenterology meetings. Therefore, we audited the publication rate of abstracts presented at a single British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) meeting.
All abstracts presented at the BSG meeting of March 1994 (n=255) were assessed. Two independent database searches were performed (MEDLINE and EMBASE) using cross referencing of first author, senior author, and key words from the abstract title. The abstract and possible resultant manuscript were then examined in tandem to ensure they represented the same study. Where no paper appeared to have been published, the authors were contacted to ascertain the outcome of their abstract.
Factors which may influence publication, including study type, design, category, sample size, journal of publication, impact factor, and lag time to publication were analysed. Data pertaining to submission/publication at the meeting of the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA) in the same year were also collected. Statistical analyses were performed using contingency tables and χ2statistics for nominal data and the Mann-Whitney U for continuous data.
There were 178 abstracts (69.8%) published from this meeting. Median lag time to full publication (fig 1) was 19 months (range 0–66). Of the abstracts published, 61 (23.9%) were in high impact factor journals (arbitrarily designated ⩾4). The mean impact factor was 2.5 (median 2.9).
There were 96 abstracts from this particular BSG that were concordantly submitted to the AGA. Of these, 73 were accepted for presentation. Ultimately, 58 were fully published. Presentation at the AGA in the same year was the only factor that significantly increased the likelihood of publication (p=0.001; odds ratio 3.1 (95% confidence interval 1.5–6.4)). Acceptance at the AGA was a strong predictor of subsequent publication and may represent the hypothesis that concordance of two independent referee systems often reflects the papers of greatest scientific merit.5 Alternatively, this may suggest that AGA reviewers are more stringent. This is not possible to assess with the data available.
This is the first study to assess publication rates of the BSG or indeed any specialty in the UK. We chose to study the abstracts of the 1994 BSG meeting because previous reports have suggested that the majority of abstracts are published in indexed journals within four years of presentation.3 4 6 The outcome of one individual meeting may not be considered as representative of other meetings and could limit the validity of our audit. However, previous similar studies from other societies have suggested that their publication rates vary by as little as 5% from year to year. Thus assessing one meeting may be adequate.6 In conclusion, acceptance of abstracts by the BSG meeting suggests more than a 2 in 3 chance of subsequent full publication. This compares favourably with similar studies of other societies.
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