The results of research are often first presented to peer groups or in abstract form at meetings or scientific conferences. However, these presentations are often based on partial results and are modified during the peer-review and publication process. In addition to the sporadic attendance of surgeons at these annual meetings, few of these ideas and concepts are, therefore, widely disseminated and, ultimately, never published. Recent studies have reported that less than one-half of abstracts reach successful publication and, although many factors contribute to this failure, it nevertheless hinders advances in clinical practice. This study quantified the rates of publication from three major annual North American plastic surgery meetings. The authors draw conclusions regarding the importance of conversion to final publication from a clinical and academic perspective.
Advancements in clinical decision-making are influenced by presentations made at scientific conferences or publications in journals with extensive readership. However, many ideas shared at annual conferences fail to be published, and most surgeons attend these meetings only sporadically.
To quantify the conversion rates of meeting presentations to publications in North American plastic surgery.
MEDLINE (OvidSP) and PubMed databases were cross-referenced with abstracts accepted for podium presentation at the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and American Association of Plastic Surgeons annual meetings from 2003 to 2007. Parameters reviewed included publication rate, time to publication, subspecialty, trial type, publication journal and journal impact factor.
Over the five-year study period, 45.00% of the 888 presentations were published in peer-reviewed journals. The mean time to publication was 22 months (range 1.00 to 85.90 months). In total, 57.00% of the 400 publications appeared in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery; 47.20% of publications were case series study design. The majority of publications were of the reconstruction subspecialty (31.00%). Abstracts from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons had the highest conversion rate (57.70%). Publications based on abstracts presented at the American Association of Plastic Surgeons had the highest mean journal impact factor (2.33). The Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons had the highest total number of publications (n=161).
From the three North American annual general meetings reviewed, there was a modest conversion rate of mainly reconstructive case series published predominantly in a single journal, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. Several years often pass from the genesis of a research hypothesis to final publication, and because the majority of presentations fail to be published, presentations should be observed with a critical eye given the more stringent peer review process and time required for final publication. In an effort to improve conversion rates, departments and faculty members must foster a culture that prioritizes publication.