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Want to write freelance summaries and abstracts of research?

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One in five medical journal articles include honorary and ghost authors, just in case you're eager to break into the field of medical ghostwriting. Recent research shows that honorary and ghost authorship in high impact biomedical journals exists, according to a cross sectional survey. Just over one in five (21%) of articles published in six leading medical journals in 2008 have evidence of honorary and ghost authorship, finds a study published on October 25, 2011 in the BMJ-British Medical Journal.

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These results demonstrate that inappropriate authorship remains a problem in high impact biomedical publications, say the authors, according to an October 25, 2011 news release, "1 in 5 medical journal articles include honorary and ghost authors."

Inappropriate (honorary and ghost) authorship and the resulting lack of transparency and accountability have been important concerns for the academic community for decades

Honorary authors are individuals who are named as authors but have not contributed substantially to be able to take responsibility for the work. Ghost authors are individuals who have made substantial contributions to the work but are not named as authors. Another option is using software to index medical, scientific, technical, or business books. You can check out sites such as, "American Society for Indexing" and "Indexer Job Information | National Careers Service." Remember, though that you'll deal with the overflow of skilled people in the publishing industry, as numerous people have certificates in copyediting. There also are a lot of students wanting to earn money by freelance proofreading. First, build up your publishing contacts in that specialty niche area you enjoy reading. Find out who can offer work or recommend you to publishers. There's also some books that are helpful, such as: Copyediting for Dummies, Chicago Manual of Style, and AP Stylebook, Or, for ideas on what to research, see the "Editorial Style Guide - Berkeley Identity - University of California."

In the 1980s, the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) developed guidelines for responsible and accountable authorship. These criteria are updated regularly and have been adopted by more than 600 biomedical journals. However, studies have found the prevalence of honorary authors to be as high as 39%, and ghost authors as high as 11% across a range of journals. Or see the "International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE)" or the article, "Uniform requirements for manuscripts submitted to biomedical journals: Writing and editing for biomedical publication."

So a team of US researchers compared the prevalence of articles with honorary and ghost authors published in six leading general medical journals in 2008 with that reported by authors of articles published in 1996

A total of 630 authors responded to the survey. The overall prevalence of articles with honorary authorship, ghost authorship, or both was 21%, a decline from 29% in 1996. They found no change in the prevalence of honorary authors relative to 1996, but found a significant decline in the prevalence of ghost authorship.

The highest prevalence of both types of inappropriate authorship occurred in original research articles, as opposed to editorials and review articles. These results demonstrate that inappropriate authorship remains a problem in high-impact biomedical publications, say the authors.

They conclude that "increased efforts by scientific journals, individual authors, and academic institutions are essential to promote responsibility, accountability, and transparency in authorship, and to maintain integrity in scientific publication." These results suggest that standards need tightening up, say Patricia Baskin and Robert Gross from the journal Neurology, in an accompanying editorial, says the news release.

They point out that "as research becomes more collaborative and complex, the challenges to transparency in authorship and disclosure become greater," and they call for further work "to assess whether greater definition of roles and conflicts of interest substantially change the prevalence of inappropriate authorship."

Would you like to write abstracts for medical, scientific, technical, business, or legal journals?

Like to play scientist? Pick your field of expertise to read new research and studies and write the abstracts of these studies for the various journals. You also could write press releases about the studies focusing on the news angle. One part-time branch of science writing is the virtual assistant who specializes in writing abstracts of the latest scientific studies.

Some writers earn extra money writing abstracts of scientific, medical, technical, or other specialized studies by reading the study and summarizing what the method, result, and conclusion of the study were. You may wish to check out the April 9, 203 news release, "New guidelines for writing abstracts will help authors summarize their research." Usually, the author of a technical paper has to write the abstract, but sometimes the abstract is written by someone specializing in writing summaries and abstracts of research. You'd have the chance to read the latest research and consult the scientists who did the study and wrote the paper sent to a medical, technical, or scientific journal.

Not all scientists write their own abstracts/summaries of research studies because for some, English is not their first language or the paper and abstract need editing. There are freelance biological editors, for example. See the sites, "Freelance Editor Science Jobs, Employment | Indeed.com" and "Deciding to Become a Freelance Science Editor."

If you enjoy ghostwriting on technical subjects or writing summaries/abstracts of research studies, you might be interested to know that a new extension to the PRISMA guideline on reporting systemic reviews and meta-analyses (types of studies that analyze information from many studies) will help authors to give a more robust summary (abstract) of their study and is detailed by an international group of researchers in this week's PLOS Medicine.

These guidelines for abstracts of systemic reviews and meta-analyses are important, as the abstract is the most frequently read part of most papers and these types of studies are particularly important for influencing evidence-based research

New guidelines are necessary as despite published guidance on writing the abstract in previous guidelines (the PRISMA Statement); evaluations show that reporting of systematic reviews in journal and conference abstracts is poor.

An international group of researchers (the PRISMA for Abstracts Group) developed the new consensus-based reporting guidelines to give authors a checklist and framework for summarizing their systematic review into the essentials for an abstract that will meet the needs of many readers.

Writing abstracts

The authors say, according to the news release, "Abstracts should not replace full articles in informing decision making, but for time-pressed readers and those with limited access to full text reports, the abstract must stand alone in presenting a clear and truthful account of the research. PRISMA for Abstracts checklist will guide authors in presenting an abstract that facilitates a quick assessment of review validity, an explicit summary of results, facilitates pre-publication or conference selection peer review, and enables efficient perusal of electronic search results."

This research was supported (in part) by the Intramural Research Program of the NIH, National Center for Biotechnology Information (National Library of Medicine). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

TL is employed by The Cochrane Collaboration. TL is an editor (unpaid) for the Cochrane Airways Group. The authors have declared that no other competing interests exist.

What authors want from open access publishing

John Wiley & Sons, Inc. announced the results of an author survey on open access, with over ten thousand respondents from across Wiley's journal portfolio on October 26, 2012, according to the news release, "What authors want from open access publishing." The research explored the factors that authors assess when deciding where to publish, and whether to publish open access.

Among the top factors considered by authors were the relevance and scope of the journal, the journal's impact factor and the international reach of the journal. The survey results are available online via slideshare at the Wiley Science site, Slideshare.net.

More than 30% of respondents had published at least one open access paper, and 79% stated that open access was more prevalent in their discipline than three years ago. In the survey, an open access article was defined as "free for all to read, download and share online and the author, their institution or funding body pays a fee to ensure that the article is made open access." Do you want to write, ghostwrite, or summarize for the science, medical, and technical journals? There's the field of open-access publishing to explore.

Among authors yet to publish open access, the list of reasons given included a lack of high profile open access journals (48%), lack of funding (44%) and concerns about quality (34%). Authors said they would publish in an open access journal if it had a high impact factor, if it were well regarded and if it had a rigorous peer review process

"Our goal was to better understand the opinions and behavior of our authors towards open access publishing. It's clear from the survey results that authors are increasingly embracing this publishing model, and we have seen evidence of that too in the growth of our Wiley Open Access publishing program," said Rachel Burley, according to the October 26, 2014 news release, "What authors want from open access publishing." Burley is the Vice President and Director, Open Access, Wiley. "The survey results also highlight the need for open access journals to continue to build a strong foundation of rigorous peer review, wide international reach and a sharp focus on quality to respond to the needs that authors expressed in this research."

The survey, conducted in May 2012, was sent to 104,000 authors who published research in Wiley journals in health, life, physical, and social sciences, and the humanities, during 2011. The total number of authors who participated in the survey was 10,673, representing a 10.3% response rate.

The responding authors represented a range of international opinions on open access

Whereas 30% of authors were located in the United States and 10% were based in the UK, other represented nations included Germany (4%), China (4%), and India (3%). One in three authors (32%) had already published in an open access journal. The highest proportion of open access authors came from a medical background (28%), closely followed by biological sciences (24%), and 71% were based in an academic setting. In contrast, authors who had not published open access papers predominantly came from social science disciplines. Also, you may wish to check out the site of the American Chemical Society.

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