We searched both Pubmed and Google Scholar for locating full-text publications of the presented abstracts so as to include both indexed as well as nonindexed journals.
Previously, a publication rate of 31-43.6% has been noted from presentations made in international conferences in anesthesia.[4
] The publication rates noted in our study for both, the Indian ISACON (5%) and international ASA meeting (22%) are lower than the previous figures. For suitable comparison of the rate for ISACON, there is no previous data regarding publication rate from an Indian conference in anesthesia. However, publication rate from Indian conferences held in other medical specialities note higher publication rates than ISACON; 16.5% in ophthalmology.[15
] The publication rate of ASA meeting is only for the randomly selected sample of abstracts.
Low publication rates result from authors failing to write the full-text manuscript or its being rejected by a journal during peer review.[1
] Failure to write the manuscript could be related to several reasons including time constraints, the extra work required to achieve a full text publication,[16
] or a simple lack of motivation to achieve publication. Also, in a usual Indian scenario, while a presentation may be required to attend and obtain reimbursement of expenses for the conference,[15
] a publication is not required for the same. Several times the work is presented by students/residents who have changing interests or insufficient time, preventing production of complete manuscript.[17
The inclusion of a large number of case presentations in ISACON (22.3%) may also contribute to the lower publication rate. To publish case reports is currently difficult, with most international journals having uniformly stepped down the space dedicated to case reports. This is because case reports are now relegated to the lowest class of evidence-based research and also affect the journal’s impact factor adversely. Although there are certain journals devoted to publishing case reports such as the “Journal of Case Reports,” these are internet-based, open-access journals demanding a high publishing fees. Stringent conditions on presentation of case reports in ISACON need to be applied, and only a limited percentage of total presentations should be allocated to them. Case reports that can convey novel management techniques or descriptions need to be considered. Those with a beneficial outcome by applying previously described approaches in uncommon diseases should be specially desisted from.
Other suggestions to increase publication rate from ISACON include introduction of formal training in research methodology and bioethics, as well as scientific paper writing during graduate and post-graduate courses. Faculty members can be allocated structured time for research distinct from academic, clinical, and administrative responsibilities. Better infrastructure or support for research such as free access to journals and secretarial assistance should also be made available. Some of these are affirmative steps that can even be taken at departmental level without necessitating institutional policy decisions, making them feasible and sustainable. To augment the publication of research, ultimately, the will and efforts are to originate from all concerned including the authors.
From among the published articles, 26% from ISACON and 0.07% of ASA were published prior to the presentation. These could be presentations that were submitted for consideration for publication at the time of the conference, or those already published, the latter being highly undesirable.
A significantly lower percentage of abstracts from ISACON were complete with regard to aim, statistical tests, quantitative results, and conclusions as compared with ASA meeting . Besides this quantitatively higher percentage of ISACON abstracts being incomplete, there are certain qualitative differences. There were a high number of abstracts from ISACON that lacked quantitative results, i.e., 177 of the 270 original research as compared with ASA meeting (2/363 original research). This may be because these studies may not have been completed by the time of submission for presentation. The ASA website includes the precondition of providing quantitative results and conclusions and puts a word limit for each specified section, whereas the guidelines in the ISACON website are less rigorous. It is also worrisome that two abstracts from ISACON were accepted despite lack of aims or methods . These are components of research without which abstracts should not be admitted for presentation. These findings suggest the need for a more rigorous peer review of the abstracts submitted to ISACON for potential presentation. A standardized protocol for screening and selection of abstracts needs to be put in place, that may help reduce any subjective bias on part of the reviewers. Like certain other conferences, submission of a nonrefundable nominal fee may also help improve the quality of research being submitted to ISACON.
A similar percentage of full-text publications from both conferences had changes made in comparison to components of the original abstract. This signifies that presentation indeed leads to constructive discussion of the research. The commonest change between full-text publication and its abstract from conference proceedings was in the authorship, with an increase in authors ranging from 1 to 9 in ISACON and 1 to 8 in ASA meeting publications. Change in authorship between presentation and publication may be due to the inclusion of an additional author if there is further analysis of data involving another investigator, or removal of an author if their involvement in manuscript preparation is below standards set for authorship by peer-reviewed journals. The practice of ‘honorary’ or ‘gift’ authorship that is prevalent may also explain the change in number or order of authorship.[13
The limitations of our study include the possibility of some articles still pending for publication, missing articles published in journals not either in Google Scholar or PubMed, and typographical errors in the proceedings of ISACON or ASA meeting, which may have lead to the article being unavailable on search. Also, since the computerized search for full-text articles was carried out manually the chances of human error cannot be ruled out.
To conclude, the publication rate from ISACON (5%) is lower than that from ASA meeting (22%). Abstracts submitted to ISACON lack completeness with respect to central aspects of research such as mentioning of methods, statistical methods, quantitative results, and conclusions; necessitating more rigourous guidelines and review prior to their acceptance. Augmenting this quality check will also help to increase the publication rate eventually. Lastly, changes are common in published full-text manuscripts as compared with their presented abstracts, implying that the presentation of research at conferences such as ISACON helps in its improvement and augments publication.