Key Takeaways From the CBI Publication Planning Conference

by Catherine Dunn

On December 6, 2016, medical publication professionals from both agency and pharmaceutical/biotechnology companies met in Philadelphia, PA to discuss a variety of topics including authorship, compliance, and digital enhancements to scientific communications. Navigating through our changing environment can be challenging, and the need to develop publications that are compliant with current standards is more important now than ever. The following topics were key takeaways from the CBI Publication Planning Conference.

Authorship – Education is Key!

When developing medical publications, authorship presents a big challenge for publication professionals. The following questions are often asked at the outset or during the development of a publication:

  • Which opinion leader/s played a key role in the development of the study?
  • Can we make a change in the author slate?
  • Are authors providing valuable feedback/critical review?

Publication planners and stakeholders play a vital role in selecting authors as outlined in International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), and the lead author can also provide guidance on coauthors. The author kickoff call is a great time for publication planners and agencies to educate authors on ICMJE authorship criteria and expectations during publication development. In addition, the author slate and order should be finalized before starting the work.

Adding new authors during development is generally not recommended and must be approved by the publication lead and all authors. Compliance teams may also be needed to be consulted to ensure proper documentation. If an author is not providing valuable feedback, calling out queries within the document can encourage discussion and comments between authors. Taking steps to minimize the number of authors from the beginning can also resolve many of these challenges because a more concise author slate may encourage each author to own the content.

Managing Relationships With Clinical Experts

The relationship between the opinion leader or clinical expert and the pharmaceutical/biotechnology company is essential for publication development. These experts provide objective, nonpromotional guidance on study design and publications. Each company may have a process for identifying clinical experts or may already have an extensive database of experts.

If you’re starting from scratch, you might begin by conducting a literature search through a site such as PubMed to review all authors in the therapeutic area, not just first authors. Second, a follow-up on individual authors is needed to gain further insight. This can be done by searching LinkedIn, visiting the academic/institution website, or doing a general web search. Publication professionals should also seek guidance from their medical service liaisons about engaging with regional experts.

Importance of Communication With Global Teams

Disseminating data to different regions around the globe is an essential part of every publication plan, and overcoming cultural barriers can be challenging. Optimizing communication between internal and global teams enhances collaboration and can lead to a broader publication plan that addresses global needs.

Educational challenges in terms of compliance may exist within regional teams, especially for companies with complex publication standard operating procedures and corporate integrity agreements (CIAs) through the US Department of Health & Human Services Office of Inspector General. Encouraging regional colleagues to attend regular publication team meetings is a great way to ensure open lines of communication. Another consideration is to provide regional colleagues with access to tracking software such as Datavision, PubsHub, or PubSTRAT. Many regional teams are unfamiliar with these tools, emphasizing the need for regular meetings and software training with the publication lead to increase efficiency and understanding.

Changing Landscape – Digital Enhancements to Publications

Digital media to enhance publications is an important part of publication development. Historically, impact factor has been the top consideration for journal selection. However, there is a growing movement toward publication extenders such as podcasts, video abstracts, slide sets, and social media posts. More than 90% of physicians use some form of social media for personal activities, and 65% use these sites for professional reasons.1

At congresses, there is much more to consider than just the platform, poster, and even the QR code. Enhanced digital content for congresses can include interviews, surveys, mechanism-of-action videos, filtered interactive infographics, 3D models, games, and links to websites. Although there are many opportunities to include digital content at congresses, the following factors should be considered:

  • Does the poster hall have sufficient Wi-Fi for internet or iPad use?
  • What are the budget implications?
  • What is the author’s comfort level with presenting digital content?
  • Are there internal policies and procedures that limit the use of digital content?

Clear, concise, and reader-centered content is the ultimate goal for all enhanced digital content. Content that is engaging and allows the audience to customize and share information can enhance the value of the publication.


Ventola CL. Social media and health care professionals: benefits, risks, and best practices. P.T. 2014;39(7):491-499,520.

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