The Top 5 Tips for Good Publication Practices

19 December 2016
The Top 5 Tips for Good Publication Practices

Learnings from the Asia Pacific ISMPP country champion meetings

Wiley and the International Society of Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) hosted in November 2016 a series of successful full-day educational workshops across Asia Pacific – Tokyo, Shanghai, and Singapore.

Participants from the pharmaceutical industry, medical communication agencies, journals, hospitals and academia; all joined with the same interest to learn more about good publication practices and to share their local challenges and experiences.

If you were unable to join us, it is not too late! You can still learn all about the top 5 tips which we shared.

1. Refer to international guidelines

There is no doubt that there are significant cultural differences across Asia Pacific. However, when it comes to publishing, whether based in Japan, China or Singapore, we actually all seem to face very similar challenges, such as Authorship hierarchy etc. Some of these issues are very specific to our region due to our values of respect, beliefs and customs.

Luckily, some international guidelines such as the GPP3 (Good Publication Practice 3) provide clear theoretical recommendations on a large number of publishing topics. Refer to these guidelines as a good starting point to identify the best way to proceed. Since, many of us work for multinational companies or aim to be published in reputable international journals, we should stand by these guidelines with an aim to follow them. The way we communicate about these guidelines with our authors, clients or other parties has to be handled with care, as per local customs.

2. Limited input from some authors, an issue specific to the region

Busy schedules, language barriers, fear to go against the opinion of someone more senior… are the most cited reasons behind the limited input provided by some authors. While it is ideal to receive a simple “I agree” email from an author, it should ring some alarm bells, especially if you are at the 1st review stage of the manuscript. This issue seems to be very specific to the region.

Keep in mind that authors are held responsible for their published content. It is therefore very important to ensure that they fully understand, contribute, and agree with it. The recommended approach from the workshop is: – When possible, discuss over the phone the research topic with each author prior to the initiation of the 1st outline. This way, everyone’s point of view can be captured early and time needed for review will be limited – Clearly state and highlight in the contract the requirements to qualify for authorship – If possible, use technology to track whether the document has actually been opened and properly reviewed. This will remove any doubts and will allow you to act appropriately.

3. Seniority doesn’t mean priority

Respect of hierarchy is very important in Asia Pacific. To demonstrate respect, it seems to be common practice to rank authors according to their level of seniority and not their level of contribution to the manuscript.

The GPP3 guideline recommends listing authors according to their level of involvement. This is the professional way to show appreciation to the authors who contributed the most.

This is a challenge often faced in Asia Pacific. Our recommendation is to use the GPP3 guidelines to counter any objections.

4. Authors should not be paid, except if…

This is another hot topic that came up across the 3 workshops, causing a lot of confusion, questions and debate. The non-payment of authors is very clearly stated in the guidelines however when the author is involved in other activities related to the research/study (e.g. data analysis), then compensation for this extra time is generally expected.

The workshop discussions led to the recommendation that any extra activities should be clearly stated in a discreet contract to be signed at the start of the project. The author can be paid for the extra support that he provides but in no case for his authorship.

5. Scientific platforms are there to support you

Often, having to use a scientific platform imposed by your pharma colleagues from the Head Office is daunting. However, there is a good reason for this investment. Scientific platforms deliver a foundation by providing validated and well-grounded content; alignment across different regions/departments on the lexicon; and provide some efficiency in terms of project prioritisation and implementation. In short, it helps you to develop a strong and consistent scientific story in line with the audience’s needs.

It should be a very valuable platform to refer to, for the development of new publications, or other projects which involve the use of scientific data.

If the platform used in your organisation doesn’t meet your local needs, you should raise the concerns and provide some advice on how these can be solved. Not using the platform is generally not a long term solution and overtime the quality of your work might suffer from it.

If your needs were not considered at the initial stage of development, or if these have evolved, make sure that they can be considered for the future. Online platforms are not set in stone, they are built to evolve!

If you found this article interesting and would like to learn more about good publication practices, feel free to join ISMPP. ISMPP is the only non-profit organisation founded by medical publication professionals for medical publication professionals. ISMPP is present in the US, Europe (includes UK) and Asia Pacific. For more information about how to become a member and its activities within your region, please visit