Scientific Publications: Technology Solutions

This is the third article in a three-part series from ICON’s webinar, “Evolving Best Practices for Working with Authors—Authorship and Beyond.” 

Look Beyond Email

Ushering a manuscript from concept through to submission to a scientific/medical journal or to a medical congress can be an unruly and protracted process akin to the proverbial challenge of herding cats. Internal and external authors need to be able to collaborate and access source information; project managers must be able to track and control multiple, ever-changing drafts; and all contributors must be held to deadlines. And, all the while, the content must be secure (protected from hacking), and every step of the process must be documented and traceable.

While theoretically it may be possible to do some this within an e-mail application, the process really demands the use of specialized document management software.

Ensure Your Approach Addresses Key Industry Standards

The International Society for Medical Publication Professionals (ISMPP) has published Good Publication Practices (GPP) expending upon the guidance provided by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), which stipulates, “Companies should have policies and procedures in place to document the complete process of publication and presentation development and ensure maintenance of shareable data that could be requested after publication.”[1] ISMPP clarifies that the documents that should be retained include[2]:

  • All study-related data that support the publication (in shareable format)
  • Author agreements to participate in the publication development process
  • Details on the intellectual input and other contributions, including comments on drafts
  • Versions of the draft to document how comments were incorporated
  • A list of contributors other than authors who were allowed to review or comment
  • The decision on who would submit the abstract or manuscript
  • Authors’ approvals on the final version
  • Disclosures from all authors a  listing of who contributed what
  • Journal or congress peer-reviewer comments and the authors’ responses

Additionally, compliance with ICJME, GPP, and the US Office of the Inspector General requires that author comments be time-stamped.

An electronic archiving system can serve as the repository for all of these project documents, making retrieval and tracking a simple matter. It can also provide an audit trail, with time stamps applied to each action/comment entered by authors and reviewers.

Help Your Authors Adhere to Key Timelines

During an ICON webinar on publishing best practices, we asked participants to name their biggest challenge in working with authors (from among a set of choices). The overwhelming majority (90 percent) answered, “Getting authors to be adhere to timelines.” The right automated system can help with this in a number of ways by providing:

  • Streamlined communications among participants
  • Visual timelines and automated workflows
  • Automatic email reminders with a direct link to the required task
  • Step-by-step instructions for each task
  • Progress dashboards and robust reports

Of course, for a system to be helpful, it must not only have the right functionality, but it must be easy to use. Especially in situations in which you will have external participants, the system must be intuitive; if it is difficult to use, users will attempt to work outside of the system, defeating the purpose.

For more information on how to technology can support the manuscript development process, visit

[1] International Committee of Medical Journal Editors, “Guiding principles for the development of policies on sharing clinical trials data,” (January 2014) Accessed at on 8 May 2015.

[2] Battisti WP, Wager E, Baltzer L, Bridges D, Cairns A, Carswell CI, et al. Good Publication Practice for Communicating Company-Sponsored Medical Research: GPP3. Ann Intern Med. 2015;163:461–464. doi: 10.7326/M15-0288


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