Survey of Authors' Views on Barriers to Preparation of Biomedical Research Manuscripts

June Oshiro,1 Suzanne L. Caubet,2 Kelly Viola,3 Jill M. Huber4

Objective A considerable body of biomedical research is presented as conference abstracts but never published as full manuscripts. We surveyed researchers at an academic medical institution, with the goals of (1) characterizing their self-identified barriers to manuscript preparation and (2) determining whether these barriers changed with increasing publication experience.

Design Select physicians and basic researchers (those attending noncompulsory workshops on publishing research) were surveyed with an emailed questionnaire from April 2009 through November 2015. All were employees of a single tertiary medical institution in the upper Midwestern United States. We asked them to report the number of published papers (coauthored) in the past 5 years and to indicate what was most difficult about preparing a manuscript for publication. Lack of time was presumed a major barrier; we thus asked them to list factors other than time. Two investigators performed a content analysis of deidentified free-text responses. The mean (SD) agreement between coders was 98% (2%), and the mean (SD) Scott π coefficient for interrater reliability was 0.81 (0.26). Participants’ responses were stratified by publishing experience level (low [0-4 papers published in the past 5 years], medium [5-10 papers], and high [>10 papers]).

Results Of the 294 workshop participants, 201 (68.4%) responded to the survey. Of these, 77 (38.3%) had low experience, 53 (26.4%) had medium experience, and 71 (35.3%) had high experience in publishing. A total of 114 respondents (56.7%) listed multiple barriers to manuscript preparation (370 barrier items reported). Ten respondents (5.0%) did not indicate any barrier. The most frequently mentioned barriers, stratified by experience level, were not significantly different across groups (Table). Although the most common concerns overall (eg, organization and wording) appeared to be unaffected by author experience level, inexperienced researchers cited difficulty with defining the scope of the paper more often than highly experienced researchers, and with increasing experience, researchers had greater concerns about responding to reviewers and ensuring high-quality data presentation.

Conclusions The most commonly perceived barriers to manuscript preparation were not ameliorated by an increasing level of experience in publishing. Inexperienced researchers may benefit from mentoring to overcome difficulties with manuscript development. Most researchers, regardless of experience level, may be more productive if they had the assistance of a professional writer (not a ghostwriter) or editor who can help them draft the preliminary manuscript and follow the project through submission to ensure compliance with the journal-specific format and publication-quality figures and tables.

1Section of Scientific Publications, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA,; 2Talent and Succession Management, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA; 3Section of Scientific Publications, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, FL, USA; 4Division of Primary Care Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

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