Quick tips: How to get your study published

  • Who: Bob Löwenberg, MD, PhD
  • Profession: Physician MD
  • Specialty: Hematology
  • Current Practices at: Editor-in-Chief of Blood
  • Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands

– Looking to get your study published in a top medical journal? Bob Löwenberg, MD, PhD, editor-in-chief of Blood, says to start thinking about what appeals to readers.

“What do readers want? They want important information with impact in a clinical or biological sense,” Dr. Löwenberg of Erasmus University Rotterdam (the Netherlands) said at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology. “Usually they want to get novel information – new and cutting-edge insights, if possible. And readers want to receive access to information that is right. This is about quality.”

Dr. Löwenberg offered several tips for getting published:

  • Make sure your paper has a “clear message” that comes across in both its title and a concisely written abstract. “When your colleagues are going to scan the journal, they should say ‘Hey, this is an interesting title’ or ‘This is an interesting abstract,’ ” Dr. Löwenberg said.
  • Avoid jargon and slang. And don’t fill your paper with abbreviations because that will make it unreadable.
  • Don’t just cut and paste the abstract from your meeting submission. Update the information and rewrite it before submitting it. “The abstract is so important because it is the part of your manuscript that’s copied by reference systems,” Dr. Löwenberg said. “It’s more broadly published than your manuscript. Write it in such a way that it tells your entire story in a minimal number of words, without changing the overall message of your paper, and in clear language.”
  • Focus on providing important background in the introduction, which usually summarizes existing research.
  • “Distill the essentials” in the discussion section. “Don’t repeat the results. Discuss the importance of your findings in relation to the state-of-the-art information that you have presented in the introduction,” he said.
  • Beware of plagiarism, which includes “self-plagiarism” – duplicating your own previous research without acknowledgment.
  • Understand new rules regarding data-sharing requirements developed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. In order to be considered for publication by the committee’s member journals, clinical trials that begin enrolling participants as of Jan. 1, 2019, must include a data-sharing plan in the trial’s registration.
  • Don’t be surprised if your paper is turned down. “We all have experience with rejected papers,” he said. “This is part of the game.”

If you are rejected, you may wish to send a rebuttal – a form of appeal – to the journal. Consider this option if the journal “clearly misunderstood or misrepresented the paper,” he said. “Be polite, try to be unemotional and clear, and never [write] it the same day as when you are still angry about this decision.” Once you send a rebuttal, wait for at least a week for a response. If one doesn’t come, he said, feel free to submit the paper elsewhere.

Dr. Löwenberg reported having no relevant financial disclosures.