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Anesthesia Progress  2014;61(1):36-40.
PMCID: PMC3975614
2.  Clinical pancreatic disorder I: Acute pancreatitis 
The Annual American Pancreas Club is an important event for communicating around clinical pancreatic disorders, just as the European, Japanese, Indian, and the International Pancreatic association. Even though the meeting is only 1½ day there were 169 different abstracts and a “How do I do it session.” Among all these abstracts on the pancreas there are some real pearls, but they are almost always well hidden, never highlighted – all abstracts are similarly presented – and will too soon be forgotten. The present filing of the abstracts is one way (not the way) to get the pancreatic abstracts a little more read and a little more remembered – and perhaps a little more cited. It should also be understood that most of the abstracts are short summaries of hundreds of working hours (evenings, nights, weekends, holidays, you name them …) in the laboratory or in the clinic, often combined with blood, sweat and tears. The authors should be shown at least some respect, and their abstracts should not only be thought of as “just another little abstract” – and the best respect they can be shown are that they will be remembered to be another brick in our scientific wall.
Now the pancreatic abstracts of American Pancreas Club 2011 are gathered and filed with the aim to give them a larger audience than they have had in their original abstract book. However, it is obvious that most of clinical fellows do not have time to read all the abstracts. For them I have made a “clinical highlight section” of 10 percent of all the pancreatic abstracts. If someone else should have done some collection of abstract, there should probably have been other selections, but as this is not the case, the editor's choices are the highlighted ones.
The article as series I of clinical highlight section is present, and more series will be present in the following issues. If readers will remember some of the abstracts better after reading this “abstract of abstracts”, it was worth the efforts – and without efforts there will be little progress.
PMCID: PMC3336879  PMID: 22555122
Acute pancreatitis; accurate classification; clinical highlight; American pancreas club; international pancreatic association
3.  More insight into the fate of biomedical meeting abstracts: a systematic review 
It has been estimated that about 45% of abstracts that are accepted for presentation at biomedical meetings will subsequently be published in full. The acceptance of abstracts at meetings and their fate after initial rejection are less well understood. We set out to estimate the proportion of abstracts submitted to meetings that are eventually published as full reports, and to explore factors that are associated with meeting acceptance and successful publication.
Studies analysing acceptance of abstracts at biomedical meetings or their subsequent full publication were searched in MEDLINE, OLDMEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, CINAHL, BIOSIS, Science Citation Index Expanded, and by hand searching of bibliographies and proceedings. We estimated rates of abstract acceptance and of subsequent full publication, and identified abstract and meeting characteristics associated with acceptance and publication, using logistic regression analysis, survival-type analysis, and meta-analysis.
Analysed meetings were held between 1957 and 1999. Of 14945 abstracts that were submitted to 43 meetings, 46% were accepted. The rate of full publication was studied with 19123 abstracts that were presented at 234 meetings. Using survival-type analysis, we estimated that 27% were published after two, 41% after four, and 44% after six years. Of 2412 abstracts that were rejected at 24 meetings, 27% were published despite rejection. Factors associated with both abstract acceptance and subsequent publication were basic science and positive study outcome. Large meetings and those held outside the US were more likely to accept abstracts. Abstracts were more likely to be published subsequently if presented either orally, at small meetings, or at a US meeting. Abstract acceptance itself was strongly associated with full publication.
About one third of abstracts submitted to biomedical meetings were published as full reports. Acceptance at meetings and publication were associated with specific characteristics of abstracts and meetings.
PMCID: PMC184388  PMID: 12854973
4.  Quality of reporting of trial abstracts needs to be improved: using the CONSORT for abstracts to assess the four leading Chinese medical journals of traditional Chinese medicine 
Trials  2010;11:75.
Due to language limitations, the abstract of journal article may be the only way for people of non-Chinese speaking countries to know about trials in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). However, little is known about the reporting quality of these trial abstracts. Our study is to assess the reporting quality of abstracts of randomized controlled trials (RCT) published in four leading Chinese medical journals of TCM, and to identify any differences in reporting between the Chinese and English version of the same abstract publication.
Two reviewers hand-searched the Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, the China Journal of Chinese Materia Medica and the Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion for all abstracts of RCTs published between 2006 and 2007. Two reviewers independently assessed the reporting quality of the Chinese and English version of all eligible abstracts based on a modified version of the CONSORT for reporting randomised trials in journal and conference abstracts (CONSORT for abstracts).
We identified a total of 345 RCTs of TCM with both a Chinese and English abstract. More than half of Chinese abstracts reported details of the trial participants (68%; 234/345), control group intervention (52%; 179/345), the number of participants randomized (73%; 253/345) and benefits when interpreting the trial results (55%; 190/345). Reporting of methodological quality or key features of trial design and trial results were poor; only 2% (7/345) included details of the trial design, 3% (11/345) defined the primary outcome, 5% (17/345) described the methods of random sequence generation, and only 4% (13/345) reported the number of participants analyzed. No abstracts provided details on allocation concealment and trial registration. The percentage agreement in reporting (between the Chinese and English version of the same abstract) ranged from 84% to 100% across individual checklist item.
The reporting quality of abstracts of RCTs published in these four TCM journals needs to be improved. Since none of the four journals adopted CONSORT for Abstracts, we hope that the introduction and adoption of CONSORT for Abstracts by TCM journals will lead to an improvement in reporting quality.
PMCID: PMC2911423  PMID: 20615225
5.  Assessment of the Quality of Reporting in Abstracts of Randomized Controlled Trials Published in Five Leading Chinese Medical Journals 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e11926.
Clear, transparent and sufficiently detailed abstracts of randomized trials (RCTs), published in journal articles are important because readers will often base their initial assessment of a trial on such information. However, little is known about the quality of reporting in abstracts of RCTs published in medical journals in China.
We identified RCTs abstracts from 5 five leading Chinese medical journals published between 1998 and 2007 and indexed in MEDLINE. We assessed the quality of reporting of these abstracts based on the Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials (CONSORT) abstract checklist. We also sought to identify whether any differences exist in reporting between the Chinese and English language version of the same abstract.
We identified 332 RCT abstracts eligible for examination. Overall, the abstracts we examined reported 0–8 items as designated in the CONSORT checklist. On average, three items were reported per abstract. Details of the interventions (288/332; 87%), the number of participants randomized (216/332; 65%) and study objectives (109/332; 33%) were the top three items reported. Only two RCT abstracts reported details of trial registration, no abstracts reported the method of allocation concealment and only one mentioned specifically who was blinded. In terms of the proportion of RCT abstracts fulfilling a criterion, the absolute difference (percentage points) between the Chinese and English abstracts was 10% (ranging from 0 to 25%) on average, per item.
The quality of reporting in abstracts of RCTs published in Chinese medical journals needs to be improved. We hope that the introduction and endorsement of the CONSORT for Abstracts guidelines by journals reporting RCTs will lead to improvements in the quality of reporting.
PMCID: PMC2914031  PMID: 20689853
6.  Structured abstracts in MEDLINE, 1989-1991. 
OBJECTIVE: To characterize the structured abstracts in biomedical journals indexed in MEDLINE over a three-year period as an initial step in exploring their utility in enhancing bibliographic retrieval. DESIGN: The study examined the occurrence of structured abstracts in MEDLINE from March 1989 to December 1991, characteristics of MEDLINE records for articles with structured abstracts, editorial policies of six selected MEDLINE journals on structured abstracts, and a sample of twenty-five structured abstracts from the six journals. RESULTS: The study revealed that the number of structured abstracts in MEDLINE and the number of MEDLINE journals publishing structured abstracts increased substantially between 1989 and 1991. On average, articles with structured abstracts had more access points (Medical Subject Heading [MeSH] terms and text words) than MEDLINE articles as a whole. The average length of the structured abstract was greater than the average length of all abstracts in MEDLINE. CONCLUSIONS: The presence of structured abstracts may be associated with other article characteristics that lead to the assignment of a higher average number of MeSH headings or may itself contribute to the assignment of more headings. The variations in the structured-abstract formats prescribed by different journals may complicate the exploitation of these abstracts in bibliographic retrieval systems. More research is needed on a number of questions related to the quality and utility of structured abstracts.
PMCID: PMC226026  PMID: 7599584
7.  Quality of nonstructured and structured abstracts of original research articles in the British Medical Journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association. 
OBJECTIVE: To assess and compare the quality of nonstructured and structured abstracts of original research articles in three medical journals. DESIGN: Blind, criterion-based observational study. SAMPLE: Random sample of 300 abstracts (25 abstracts per journal each year) of articles published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the Canadian Medical Association Journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1988 and 1989 (nonstructured abstracts) and in 1991 and 1992 (structured abstracts). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The quality of abstracts was measured against 33 objective criteria, which were divided into eight categories (purpose, research design, setting, subjects, intervention, measurement of variables, results and conclusions). The quality score was determined by dividing the number of criteria present by the number applicable; the score varied from 0 to 1. RESULTS: The overall mean quality scores for nonstructured and structured abstracts were 0.57 and 0.74 respectively (p < 0.001). The frequency in meeting the specific criteria was generally higher for the structured abstracts than for the nonstructured ones. The mean quality score was higher for nonstructured abstracts in JAMA than for those in BMJ (0.60 v. 0.54, p < 0.05). The scores for structured abstracts did not differ significantly between the three journals. CONCLUSIONS: The findings support recommendations that promote the use of structured abstracts. Further studies should be performed to assess the effect of time on the quality of abstracts and the extent to which abstracts reflect the content of the articles.
PMCID: PMC1336964  PMID: 8174031
8.  Scientific meeting abstracts: significance, access, and trends. 
Abstracts of scientific papers and posters that are presented at annual scientific meetings of professional societies are part of the broader category of conference literature. They are an important avenue for the dissemination of current data. While timely and succinct, these abstracts present problems such as an abbreviated peer review and incomplete bibliographic access. METHODS: Seventy societies of health sciences professionals were surveyed about the publication of abstracts from their annual meetings. Nineteen frequently cited journals also were contacted about their policies on the citation of meeting abstracts. Ten databases were searched for the presence of meetings abstracts. RESULTS: Ninety percent of the seventy societies publish their abstracts, with nearly half appearing in the society's journal. Seventy-seven percent of the societies supply meeting attendees with a copy of each abstract, and 43% make their abstracts available in an electronic format. Most of the journals surveyed allow meeting abstracts to be cited. Bibliographic access to these abstracts does not appear to be widespread. CONCLUSIONS: Meeting abstracts play an important role in the dissemination of scientific knowledge. Bibliographic access to meeting abstracts is very limited. The trend toward making meeting abstracts available via the Internet has the potential to give a broader audience access to the information they contain.
PMCID: PMC226328  PMID: 9549015
9.  Improving the quality of abstract reporting for economic analyses in oncology 
Current Oncology  2012;19(6):e428-e435.
The increasing cost of cancer drugs underscores the importance of economic analyses. Although guidelines for abstract reporting of randomized controlled studies and phase i trials are available, similar recommendations for conference abstracts of economic analyses are lacking. Our objectives were to identify items considered to be essential in abstracts of economic analyses;to evaluate the quality of abstracts submitted to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (asco), the American Society of Hematology (ash), and the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research (ispor) meetings; andto propose guidelines for future abstract reporting at conferences.
Health economic experts were surveyed and asked to rate each of 24 possible abstract elements on a 5-point Likert scale. A scoring system for abstract quality was devised based on elements with an average expert rating of 3.5 or greater. Abstracts for economic analyses from asco, ash, and ispor meetings were reviewed and assigned a quality score.
Of 99 experts, 50 (51%) responded to the survey (average age: 53 years; 78% men; 54% from the United States, 28% from Europe, 18% from Canada). In total, 216 abstracts were reviewed: asco, 53%; ash, 14%; and ispor, 33%. The median quality score was 75, but notable deficiencies were observed. Cost perspective was reported in only 61% of abstracts, and time horizon was described in only 47%. Abstracts from recent years demonstrated better quality scores. We also observed disparities in quality scores for various cancer sites (p = 0.005).
The quality of conference abstracts for economic analyses in oncology has room for improvement. Abstracts may be enhanced using the guidelines derived from our survey of experts.
PMCID: PMC3503674  PMID: 23300367
Economic analyses; abstracts; quality; oncology
10.  Reporting funding source or conflict of interest in abstracts of randomized controlled trials, no evidence of a large impact on general practitioners’ confidence in conclusions, a three-arm randomized controlled trial 
BMC Medicine  2014;12:69.
Systematic reporting of funding sources is recommended in the CONSORT Statement for abstracts. However, no specific recommendation is related to the reporting of conflicts of interest (CoI). The objective was to compare physicians’ confidence in the conclusions of abstracts of randomized controlled trials of pharmaceutical treatment indexed in PubMed.
We planned a three-arm parallel-group randomized trial. French general practitioners (GPs) were invited to participate and were blinded to the study’s aim. We used a representative sample of 75 abstracts of pharmaceutical industry-funded randomized controlled trials published in 2010 and indexed in PubMed. Each abstract was standardized and reported in three formats: 1) no mention of the funding source or CoI; 2) reporting the funding source only; and 3) reporting the funding source and CoI. GPs were randomized according to a computerized randomization on a secure Internet system at a 1:1:1 ratio to assess one abstract among the three formats. The primary outcome was GPs’ confidence in the abstract conclusions (0, not at all, to 10, completely confident). The study was planned to detect a large difference with an effect size of 0.5.
Between October 2012 and June 2013, among 605 GPs contacted, 354 were randomized, 118 for each type of abstract. The mean difference (95% confidence interval) in GPs’ confidence in abstract findings was 0.2 (-0.6; 1.0) (P = 0.84) for abstracts reporting the funding source only versus no funding source or CoI; -0.4 (-1.3; 0.4) (P = 0.39) for abstracts reporting the funding source and CoI versus no funding source and CoI; and -0.6 (-1.5; 0.2) (P = 0.15) for abstracts reporting the funding source and CoI versus the funding source only.
We found no evidence of a large impact of trial report abstracts mentioning funding sources or CoI on GPs’ confidence in the conclusions of the abstracts.
Trial Registration identifier: NCT01679873
PMCID: PMC4022327  PMID: 24779384
Funding; Conflict of interest; General Practitioner; Abstract; Reporting
11.  Don’t forget the posters! Quality and content variables associated with accepted abstracts at a national trauma meeting 
As a primary venue for presenting research results, abstracts selected for presentation at national meetings should be of the highest scientific merit and research quality. It is uncertain to what degree this is achieved as the methodological quality of abstracts submitted to national surgical meetings has not been previously described. The objective of this study was to evaluate abstracts presented at a leading trauma meeting for methodological quality.
All abstracts accepted for the 2009 American Association for the Surgery of Trauma meeting were reviewed and scored for methodological quality based on 10 criteria (scores, 0–10; 10 being the highest). Criteria were based on nationally published methodology guidelines. Two independent reviewers who were blinded to institution, region, and author reviewed each abstract.
A total of 187 abstracts were accepted for presentation (67 oral and 120 posters). The most frequent clinical topics were shock/transfusion (23%), abdomen (12%), and nervous system (11%). Shock/transfusion abstracts were more common in the oral presentations (31% vs. 19%; p =0.06). Abstracts from the northeast and south regions were the most common in both oral (26% and 29%) and posters (25% and 24%). Basic science accounted for 12% of accepted studies, while 51% were clinical and 28% were health services/outcomes. Only 8% of abstracts presented randomized data and only 11% reported null findings. Overall abstract scores ranged from 3 to 10 (median, 7; mean, 7.4). Abstracts selected for poster presentation had an overall higher score than those selected for oral presentation (7.4 ±1.7 vs. 6.8 ±1.7; p =0.02).
Although oral presentations traditionally receive the most attention and interest, the methodological quality of abstracts accepted for poster presentation equals (and sometimes exceeds) that of oral abstracts. Attendees of these national meetings should reconsider their time spent in viewing and visiting these poster sessions as with the oral presentations. In light of our findings, we highly encourage that all members and guests attend the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma Poster Rounds at each year’s scientific assembly.
PMCID: PMC4198948  PMID: 22673278
Trauma; abstract; meeting; quality; methodology
12.  Using to Supplement Information in Ophthalmology Conference Abstracts about Trial Outcomes: A Comparison Study 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0130619.
Including results from unpublished randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in a systematic review may ameliorate the effect of publication bias in systematic review results. Unpublished RCTs are sometimes described in abstracts presented at conferences, included in trials registers, or both. Trial results may not be available in a trials register and abstracts describing RCT results often lack study design information. Complementary information from a trials register record may be sufficient to allow reliable inclusion of an unpublished RCT only available as an abstract in a systematic review.
We identified 496 abstracts describing RCTs presented at the 2007 to 2009 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) meetings; 154 RCTs were registered in Two persons extracted verbatim primary and non-primary outcomes reported in the abstract and record. We compared each abstract outcome with all outcomes and coded matches as complete, partial, or no match.
We identified 800 outcomes in 152 abstracts (95 primary [51 abstracts] and 705 [141 abstracts] non-primary outcomes). No outcomes were reported in 2 abstracts. Of 95 primary outcomes, 17 (18%) agreed completely, 53 (56%) partially, and 25 (26%) had no match with a primary or non-primary outcome. Among 705 non-primary outcomes, 56 (8%) agreed completely, 205 (29%) agreed partially, and 444 (63%) had no match with a primary or non-primary outcome. Among the 258 outcomes partially agreeing, we found additional information on the time when the outcome was measured more often in than in the abstract (141/258 (55%) versus 55/258 (21%)). We found no association between the presence of non-matching “new” outcomes and year of registration, time to registry update, industry sponsorship, or multi-center status.
Conference abstracts may be a valuable source of information about results for outcomes of unpublished RCTs that have been registered in Complementary additional descriptive information may be present for outcomes reported in both sources. However, ARVO abstract authors also present outcomes not reported in and these may represent analyses not originally planned.
PMCID: PMC4479484  PMID: 26107924
13.  Abstract and Concrete Sentences, Embodiment, and Languages 
One of the main challenges of embodied theories is accounting for meanings of abstract words. The most common explanation is that abstract words, like concrete ones, are grounded in perception and action systems. According to other explanations, abstract words, differently from concrete ones, would activate situations and introspection; alternatively, they would be represented through metaphoric mapping. However, evidence provided so far pertains to specific domains. To be able to account for abstract words in their variety we argue it is necessary to take into account not only the fact that language is grounded in the sensorimotor system, but also that language represents a linguistic–social experience. To study abstractness as a continuum we combined a concrete (C) verb with both a concrete and an abstract (A) noun; and an abstract verb with the same nouns previously used (grasp vs. describe a flower vs. a concept). To disambiguate between the semantic meaning and the grammatical class of the words, we focused on two syntactically different languages: German and Italian. Compatible combinations (CC, AA) were processed faster than mixed ones (CA, AC). This is in line with the idea that abstract and concrete words are processed preferentially in parallel systems – abstract in the language system and concrete more in the motor system, thus costs of processing within one system are the lowest. This parallel processing takes place most probably within different anatomically predefined routes. With mixed combinations, when the concrete word preceded the abstract one (CA), participants were faster, regardless of the grammatical class and the spoken language. This is probably due to the peculiar mode of acquisition of abstract words, as they are acquired more linguistically than perceptually. Results confirm embodied theories which assign a crucial role to both perception–action and linguistic experience for abstract words.
PMCID: PMC3173827  PMID: 21954387
abstract concepts; embodiment; social–linguistic experience; cross-language comparison; parallel processing
14.  Reactivity and Selectivity of Charged Phenyl Radicals Toward Amino Acids in a Fourier-Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance (FT-ICR) Mass Spectrometer 
The reactivity of ten charged phenyl radicals toward several amino acids was examined in the gas phase in a dual-cell Fourier-transform ion cyclotron resonance (FT-ICR) mass spectrometer. All radicals abstract a hydrogen atom from the amino acids, as expected. The most electrophilic radicals (with a greater calculated vertical electron affinity (EA) at the radical site) also react with these amino acids via NH2 abstraction (a nonradical nucleophilic addition-elimination reaction). Both the radical (hydrogen atom abstraction) and nonradical (NH2 abstraction) reaction efficiencies were found to increase with the electrophilicity (EA) of the radical. However, NH2 abstraction is more strongly influenced by EA. In contrast to an earlier report, the ionization energies of the amino acids do not appear to play a general reactivity controlling role. Studies using several partially deuterium-labeled amino acids revealed that abstraction of a hydrogen atom from the α-carbon is only preferred for glycine; for the other amino acids, a hydrogen atom is preferentially abstracted from the side chain. The electrophilicity of the radicals does not appear to have a major influence on the site from which the hydrogen atom is abstracted. Hence, the regioselectivity of hydrogen atom abstraction appears to be independent of the structure of the radical but dependent on the structure of the amino acid. Surprisingly, abstraction of two hydrogen atoms was observed for the 3-nitro-5-dehydrophenyl pyridinium radical, indicating that substituents on the radical not only influence the EA of the radical but also can be involved in the reaction. In disagreement with an earlier report, proline was found to display several unprecedented reaction pathways that likely do not proceed via a radical mechanism but rather by a nucleophilic addition-elimination mechanism. Both NH2 and 15NH2 groups were abstracted from lysine labeled with 15N on the side-chain, indicating that NH2 abstraction occurs both from the amino terminus as well as from the side-chain. Quantum chemical calculations were employed to obtain insights into some of the reaction mechanisms.
PMCID: PMC3131205  PMID: 21612203
15.  Misrepresentation of Randomized Controlled Trials in Press Releases and News Coverage: A Cohort Study 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(9):e1001308.
A study conducted by Amélie Yavchitz and colleagues examines the factors associated with “spin” (specific reporting strategies, intentional or unintentional, that emphasize the beneficial effect of treatments) in press releases of clinical trials.
Previous studies indicate that in published reports, trial results can be distorted by the use of “spin” (specific reporting strategies, intentional or unintentional, emphasizing the beneficial effect of the experimental treatment). We aimed to (1) evaluate the presence of “spin” in press releases and associated media coverage; and (2) evaluate whether findings of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) based on press releases and media coverage are misinterpreted.
Methods and Findings
We systematically searched for all press releases indexed in the EurekAlert! database between December 2009 and March 2010. Of the 498 press releases retrieved and screened, we included press releases for all two-arm, parallel-group RCTs (n = 70). We obtained a copy of the scientific article to which the press release related and we systematically searched for related news items using Lexis Nexis.
“Spin,” defined as specific reporting strategies (intentional or unintentional) emphasizing the beneficial effect of the experimental treatment, was identified in 28 (40%) scientific article abstract conclusions and in 33 (47%) press releases. From bivariate and multivariable analysis assessing the journal type, funding source, sample size, type of treatment (drug or other), results of the primary outcomes (all nonstatistically significant versus other), author of the press release, and the presence of “spin” in the abstract conclusion, the only factor associated, with “spin” in the press release was “spin” in the article abstract conclusions (relative risk [RR] 5.6, [95% CI 2.8–11.1], p<0.001). Findings of RCTs based on press releases were overestimated for 19 (27%) reports. News items were identified for 41 RCTs; 21 (51%) were reported with “spin,” mainly the same type of “spin” as those identified in the press release and article abstract conclusion. Findings of RCTs based on the news item was overestimated for ten (24%) reports.
“Spin” was identified in about half of press releases and media coverage. In multivariable analysis, the main factor associated with “spin” in press releases was the presence of “spin” in the article abstract conclusion.
Editors' Summary
The mass media play an important role in disseminating the results of medical research. Every day, news items in newspapers and magazines and on the television, radio, and internet provide the general public with information about the latest clinical studies. Such news items are written by journalists and are often based on information in “press releases.” These short communications, which are posted on online databases such as EurekAlert! and sent directly to journalists, are prepared by researchers or more often by the drug companies, funding bodies, or institutions supporting the clinical research and are designed to attract favorable media attention to newly published research results. Press releases provide journalists with the information they need to develop and publish a news story, including a link to the peer-reviewed journal (a scholarly periodical containing articles that have been judged by independent experts) in which the research results appear.
Why Was This Study Done?
In an ideal world, journal articles, press releases, and news stories would all accurately reflect the results of health research. Unfortunately, the findings of randomized controlled trials (RCTs—studies that compare the outcomes of patients randomly assigned to receive alternative interventions), which are the best way to evaluate new treatments, are sometimes distorted in peer-reviewed journals by the use of “spin”—reporting that emphasizes the beneficial effects of the experimental (new) treatment. For example, a journal article may interpret nonstatistically significant differences as showing the equivalence of two treatments although such results actually indicate a lack of evidence for the superiority of either treatment. “Spin” can distort the transposition of research into clinical practice and, when reproduced in the mass media, it can give patients unrealistic expectations about new treatments. It is important, therefore, to know where “spin” occurs and to understand the effects of that “spin”. In this study, the researchers evaluate the presence of “spin” in press releases and associated media coverage and analyze whether the interpretation of RCT results based on press releases and associated news items could lead to the misinterpretation of RCT results.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified 70 press releases indexed in EurekAlert! over a 4-month period that described two-arm, parallel-group RCTs. They used Lexis Nexis, a database of news reports from around the world, to identify associated news items for 41 of these press releases and then analyzed the press releases, news items, and abstracts of the scientific articles related to each press release for “spin”. Finally, they interpreted the results of the RCTs using each source of information independently. Nearly half the press releases and article abstract conclusions contained “spin” and, importantly, “spin” in the press releases was associated with “spin” in the article abstracts. The researchers overestimated the benefits of the experimental treatment from the press release as compared to the full-text peer-reviewed article for 27% of reports. Factors that were associated with this overestimation of treatment benefits included publication in a specialized journal and having “spin” in the press release. Of the news items related to press releases, half contained “spin”, usually of the same type as identified in the press release and article abstract. Finally, the researchers overestimated the benefit of the experimental treatment from the news item as compared to the full-text peer-reviewed article in 24% of cases.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that “spin” in press releases and news reports is related to the presence of “spin” in the abstract of peer-reviewed reports of RCTs and suggest that the interpretation of RCT results based solely on press releases or media coverage could distort the interpretation of research findings in a way that favors experimental treatments. This interpretation shift is probably related to the presence of “spin” in peer-reviewed article abstracts, press releases, and news items and may be partly responsible for a mismatch between the perceived and real beneficial effects of new treatments among the general public. Overall, these findings highlight the important role that journal reviewers and editors play in disseminating research findings. These individuals, the researchers conclude, have a responsibility to ensure that the conclusions reported in the abstracts of peer-reviewed articles are appropriate and do not over-interpret the results of clinical research.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The PLOS Hub for Clinical Trials, which collects PLOS journals relating to clinical trials, includes some other articles on “spin” in clinical trial reports
EurekAlert is an online free database for science press releases
The UK National Health Service Choices website includes Beyond the Headlines, a resource that provides an unbiased and evidence-based analysis of health stories that make the news for both the public and health professionals
The US-based organization HealthNewsReview, a project supported by the Foundation for Informed Medical Decision Making, also provides expert reviews of news stories
PMCID: PMC3439420  PMID: 22984354
16. registration can supplement information in abstracts for systematic reviews: a comparison study 
The inclusion of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reported in conference abstracts in systematic reviews is controversial, partly because study design information and risk of bias is often not fully reported in the abstract. The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) requires trial registration of abstracts submitted for their annual conference as of 2007. Our goal was to assess the feasibility of obtaining study design information critical to systematic reviews, but not typically included in conference abstracts, from the trial registration record.
We reviewed all conference abstracts presented at the ARVO meetings from 2007 through 2009, and identified 496 RCTs; 154 had a single matching registration record in Two individuals independently extracted information from the abstract and the record, including study design, sample size, inclusion criteria, masking, interventions, outcomes, funder, and investigator name and contact information. Discrepancies were resolved by consensus. We assessed the frequencies of reporting variables appearing in the abstract and the trial register and assessed agreement of information reported in both sources.
We found a substantial amount of study design information in the record that was unavailable in the corresponding conference abstract, including eligibility criteria associated with gender (83%; 128/154); masking or blinding of study participants (53%, 82/154), persons administering treatment (30%, 46/154), and persons measuring the outcomes (40%, 61/154)); and number of study centers (58%; 90/154). Only 34% (52/154) of abstracts explicitly described a primary outcome, but a primary outcome was included in the “Primary Outcome” field in the record for 82% (126/154) of studies. One or more study interventions were reported in each abstract, but agreed exactly with those reported in only slightly more than half the time (88/154, 56%). We found no contact information for study investigators in the abstract, but this information was available in less than one quarter of records (17%; 26/154).
RCT design information not reported in conference abstracts is often available in the corresponding registration record. Sometimes there is conflicting information reported in the two sources and further contact with the trial investigators may still be required.
PMCID: PMC3689057  PMID: 23773868
17.  Quality of abstracts of original research articles in CMAJ in 1989. 
PURPOSE: To evaluate the quality of abstracts of original research articles. DESIGN: Blind, criterion-based survey. SAMPLE: Systematic sample of 33 abstracts of original research articles published in CMAJ in 1989. MEASUREMENT: The quality of abstracts was measured against a checklist of evaluation criteria, which were divided into eight categories. A score for each abstract was obtained by dividing the number of criteria present by the number applicable. The overall mean score was also determined. RESULTS: The overall mean score of abstract quality was 0.63 (standard deviation 0.13) out of 1. Of the abstracts reporting study design 56% did not include specific technical descriptors. About 52% did not explicitly describe the study variables. In describing subject selection 79% failed to use specific technical terms. Of the abstracts reporting results 66% did not provide appropriate supporting data. Of those that gave conclusions 86% did not address study limitations and 93% made no recommendations for future study. CONCLUSION: Most of the abstracts provided some information pertaining to each evaluation criterion but did not provide detail sufficient to enhance the reader's understanding of the article. On the basis of the study sample the abstracts need improvement in description of research design, reporting of subject selection and results, and statements of limitations and recommendations. The small sample from one journal and the absence of comparison between the contents of the abstracts and the contents of the articles were limitations. Future studies should address these issues and compare the quality of traditional and structured abstracts.
PMCID: PMC1452817  PMID: 1993292
18.  Adoption of structured abstracts by general medical journals and format for a structured abstract* 
Background: The use of a structured abstract has been recommended in reporting medical literature to quickly convey necessary information to editors and readers. The use of structured abstracts increased during the mid-1990s; however, recent practice has yet to be analyzed.
Objectives: This article explored actual reporting patterns of abstracts recently published in selected medical journals and examined what these journals required of abstracts (structured or otherwise and, if structured, which format).
Methods: The top thirty journals according to impact factors noted in the “Medicine, General and Internal” category of the ISI Journal Citation Reports (2000) were sampled. Articles of original contributions published by each journal in January 2001 were examined. Cluster analysis was performed to classify the patterns of structured abstracts objectively. Journals' instructions to authors for writing an article abstract were also examined.
Results: Among 304 original articles that included abstracts, 188 (61.8%) had structured and 116 (38.2%) had unstructured abstracts. One hundred twenty-five (66.5%) of the abstracts used the introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRAD) format, and 63 (33.5%) used the 8-heading format proposed by Haynes et al. Twenty-one journals requested structured abstracts in their instructions to authors; 8 journals requested the 8-heading format; and 1 journal requested it only for intervention studies.
Conclusions: Even in recent years, not all abstracts of original articles are structured. The eight-heading format was neither commonly used in actual reporting patterns nor noted in journal instructions to authors.
PMCID: PMC1082941  PMID: 15858627
19.  Reporting and Concordance of Methodologic Criteria Between Abstracts and Articles in Diagnostic Test Studies 
To evaluate the quality and concordance of methodologic criteria in abstracts versus articles regarding the diagnosis of trichomoniasis.
Survey of published literature.
Studies indexed in medline(1976–1998).
Studies that used culture as the gold or reference standard.
Data from abstract and articles were independently abstracted using 4 methodologic criteria: (1) prospective evaluation of consecutive patients; (2) test results did not influence the decision to do gold standard; (3) independent and blind comparison with gold standard; and (4) broad spectrum of patients used. The total number of criteria met for each report was calculated to create a quality score (0–4).
None of the 33 abstracts or full articles reported all 4 criteria. Three criteria were reported in none of the abstracts and in 18% of articles (95% confidence interval [95% CI] 8.6% to 34%). Two criteria were reported in 18% of abstracts (95% CI, 8.6% to 34%) and 42% of articles (95% CI, 27% to 59%). One criterion was reported in 42% of abstracts (95% CI, 27% to 59%) and 27% of articles (95% CI, 15% to 44%). No criteria were reported in 13 (39%) of 33 abstracts (95% CI, 25% to 56%) and 4 (12%) of 33 articles (95% CI, 4.8% to 27%). The agreement of the criteria between the abstract and the article was poor (κ−0.09; 95% CI, −0.18 to 0) to moderate (κ 0.53; 95% CI, 0.22 to 0.83).
Information on methods basic to study validity is often absent from both abstract and paper. The concordance of such criteria between the abstract and article needs to improve.
PMCID: PMC1495348  PMID: 10718899
evidence-based medicine; periodicals; publishing; quality control; sensitivity and specificity; diagnosis
20.  A grounded theory of abstraction in artificial intelligence. 
In artificial intelligence, abstraction is commonly used to account for the use of various levels of details in a given representation language or the ability to change from one level to another while preserving useful properties. Abstraction has been mainly studied in problem solving, theorem proving, knowledge representation (in particular for spatial and temporal reasoning) and machine learning. In such contexts, abstraction is defined as a mapping between formalisms that reduces the computational complexity of the task at stake. By analysing the notion of abstraction from an information quantity point of view, we pinpoint the differences and the complementary role of reformulation and abstraction in any representation change. We contribute to extending the existing semantic theories of abstraction to be grounded on perception, where the notion of information quantity is easier to characterize formally. In the author's view, abstraction is best represented using abstraction operators, as they provide semantics for classifying different abstractions and support the automation of representation changes. The usefulness of a grounded theory of abstraction in the cartography domain is illustrated. Finally, the importance of explicitly representing abstraction for designing more autonomous and adaptive systems is discussed.
PMCID: PMC1693211  PMID: 12903672
21.  Effect of editors’ implementation of CONSORT guidelines on the reporting of abstracts in high impact medical journals: interrupted time series analysis  
Objective To investigate the effect of the CONSORT for Abstracts guidelines, and different editorial policies used by five leading general medical journals to implement the guidelines, on the reporting quality of abstracts of randomised trials.
Design Interrupted time series analysis.
Sample We randomly selected up to 60 primary reports of randomised trials per journal per year from five high impact, general medical journals in 2006-09, if indexed in PubMed with an electronic abstract. We excluded reports that did not include an electronic abstract, and any secondary trial publications or economic analyses. We classified journals in three categories: those not mentioning the guidelines in their instructions to authors (JAMA and New England Journal of Medicine), those referring to the guidelines in their instructions to authors but with no specific policy to implement them (BMJ), and those referring to the guidelines in their instructions to authors with an active policy to implement them (Annals of Internal Medicine and Lancet). Two authors extracted data independently using the CONSORT for Abstracts checklist.
Main outcome Mean number of CONSORT items reported in selected abstracts, among nine items reported in fewer than 50% of the abstracts published across the five journals in 2006.
Results We assessed 955 reports of abstracts of randomised trials. Journals with an active policy to enforce the guidelines showed an immediate increase in the level of mean number of items reported (increase of 1.50 items; P=0.0037). At 23 months after publication of the guidelines, the mean number of items reported per abstract for the primary outcome was 5.41 of nine items, a 53% increase compared with the expected level estimated on the basis of pre-intervention trends. The change in level or trend did not increase in journals with no policy to enforce the guidelines (BMJ, JAMA, and New England Journal of Medicine).
Conclusion Active implementation of the CONSORT for Abstracts guidelines by journals can lead to improvements in the reporting of abstracts of randomised trials.
PMCID: PMC3382226  PMID: 22730543
22.  Are abstract action words embodied? An fMRI investigation at the interface between language and motor cognition 
The cognitive and neural representation of abstract words is still an open question for theories of embodied cognition. Generally, it is proposed that abstract words are grounded in the activation of sensorimotor or at least experiential properties, exactly as concrete words. Further behavioral theories propose multiple representations evoked by abstract and concrete words. We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study to investigate the neural correlates of concrete and abstract multi-word expressions in an action context. Participants were required to read simple sentences which combined each concrete noun with an adequate concrete verb and an adequate abstract verb, as well as an adequate abstract noun with either kind of verbs previously used. Thus, our experimental design included a continuum from pure concreteness to mere abstractness. As expected, comprehension of both concrete and abstract language content activated the core areas of the sensorimotor neural network namely the left lateral (precentral gyrus) and medial (supplementary motor area) premotor cortex. While the purely concrete multi-word expressions elicited activations within the left inferior frontal gyrus (pars triangularis) and two foci within the left inferior parietal cortex, the purely abstract multi-word expressions were represented in the anterior part of left middle temporal gyrus that is part of the language processing system. Although the sensorimotor neural network is engaged in both concrete and abstract language contents, the present findings show that concrete multi-word processing relies more on the sensorimotor system, and abstract multi-word processing relies more on the linguistic system.
PMCID: PMC3620530  PMID: 23576972
language comprehension; abstract; concrete; fMRI; sensorimotor cortex
23.  Supramodal neural processing of abstract information conveyed by speech and gesture 
Abstractness and modality of interpersonal communication have a considerable impact on comprehension. They are relevant for determining thoughts and constituting internal models of the environment. Whereas concrete object-related information can be represented in mind irrespective of language, abstract concepts require a representation in speech. Consequently, modality-independent processing of abstract information can be expected. Here we investigated the neural correlates of abstractness (abstract vs. concrete) and modality (speech vs. gestures), to identify an abstractness-specific supramodal neural network. During fMRI data acquisition 20 participants were presented with videos of an actor either speaking sentences with an abstract-social [AS] or concrete-object-related content [CS], or performing meaningful abstract-social emblematic [AG] or concrete-object-related tool-use gestures [CG]. Gestures were accompanied by a foreign language to increase the comparability between conditions and to frame the communication context of the gesture videos. Participants performed a content judgment task referring to the person vs. object-relatedness of the utterances. The behavioral data suggest a comparable comprehension of contents communicated by speech or gesture. Furthermore, we found common neural processing for abstract information independent of modality (AS > CS ∩ AG > CG) in a left hemispheric network including the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG), temporal pole, and medial frontal cortex. Modality specific activations were found in bilateral occipital, parietal, and temporal as well as right inferior frontal brain regions for gesture (G > S) and in left anterior temporal regions and the left angular gyrus for the processing of speech semantics (S > G). These data support the idea that abstract concepts are represented in a supramodal manner. Consequently, gestures referring to abstract concepts are processed in a predominantly left hemispheric language related neural network.
PMCID: PMC3772311  PMID: 24062652
gesture; speech; fMRI; abstract semantics; emblematic gestures; tool-use gestures
24.  Are decision trees a feasible knowledge representation to guide extraction of critical information from randomized controlled trial reports? 
This paper proposes the use of decision trees as the basis for automatically extracting information from published randomized controlled trial (RCT) reports. An exploratory analysis of RCT abstracts is undertaken to investigate the feasibility of using decision trees as a semantic structure. Quality-of-paper measures are also examined.
A subset of 455 abstracts (randomly selected from a set of 7620 retrieved from Medline from 1998 – 2006) are examined for the quality of RCT reporting, the identifiability of RCTs from abstracts, and the completeness and complexity of RCT abstracts with respect to key decision tree elements. Abstracts were manually assigned to 6 sub-groups distinguishing whether they were primary RCTs versus other design types. For primary RCT studies, we analyzed and annotated the reporting of intervention comparison, population assignment and outcome values. To measure completeness, the frequencies by which complete intervention, population and outcome information are reported in abstracts were measured. A qualitative examination of the reporting language was conducted.
Decision tree elements are manually identifiable in the majority of primary RCT abstracts. 73.8% of a random subset was primary studies with a single population assigned to two or more interventions. 68% of these primary RCT abstracts were structured. 63% contained pharmaceutical interventions. 84% reported the total number of study subjects. In a subset of 21 abstracts examined, 71% reported numerical outcome values.
The manual identifiability of decision tree elements in the abstract suggests that decision trees could be a suitable construct to guide machine summarisation of RCTs. The presence of decision tree elements could also act as an indicator for RCT report quality in terms of completeness and uniformity.
PMCID: PMC2584633  PMID: 18957129
25.  From presentation to publication: the natural history of orthopaedic abstracts in the United Kingdom 
Postgraduate Medical Journal  2006;82(963):70-72.
Up to 63% of the chapters in major orthopaedic textbooks use the results from abstracts that have been presented at international orthopaedic meetings.
Orthopaedic abstracts were reviewed that were presented at the 1997 and 1998 meetings of the British Orthopaedic Association and other specialist orthopaedic meetings. The number of abstracts that had gone on to a full text publication was assessed and changes in study design or outcome were determined.
Of the 415 abstracts 137 (33.0%) went on to full text publication. Abstracts presented at the British Orthopaedic Association were significantly more likely to go on to full text publication than abstracts from the other meetings studied. The mean time to publication was 15.6 months. Sample sizes in unpublished studies were smaller (mean 129.8 subjects compared with a mean of 191.4 subjects for published studies). Of full text papers, 19.0% differed regarding study design from the abstract presented at the initial meeting and 10.9% had published different results. Randomised controlled trials had the highest rate of later full text publication (53.6%) followed by observational studies (32.8%), basic science studies (31.4%), and case reports (6.7%).
In comparison with a study from North America, similar numbers of abstracts presented at meetings finally became published as full text articles, the abstracts had fewer authors, more often included randomised controlled trials and follow up data, and had fewer changes to the results. It is questionable whether the inclusion of such results from abstracts presented at international meetings by major orthopaedic textbooks should be undertaken before full text publication.
PMCID: PMC2563722  PMID: 16397085
orthopaedics; publication

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