Medical journals' impact on practice studied

Conference attendees also consider issues of research funding.

By Victoria Stagg Elliott — Posted Oct. 10, 2005

Print  |   Email  |   Respond  |   Reprints  |   Like Facebook  |   Share Twitter  |   Tweet Linkedin

Medical editors are looking for better ways to determine the far-reaching effects their journals have on physicians and other readers of scientific studies.

This discussion, reflected in several presentations at last month's International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication, stems from questions about whether "impact factor" is the best measure of a journal's scientific influence and ability to disseminate new technology. The impact factor is a computation that compares the number of times articles from a journal are cited with the number of articles that journal published overall.

"How else can we evaluate the impact of research?" asked Dr. Fiona Godlee, editor of the British Medical Journal and an organizer of the conference, which gathers leading medical editors every four years. "Is it possible to measure the impact on the clinician and health care itself?"

One study presented by editors of the Medical Journal of Australia analyzed the impact factors of seven general medical journals. It concluded that in the past decade, some editors increased this figure by recruiting important papers. Some, however, did so by reducing the total number of articles published.

"All considered the impact factor is a mixed blessing -- attractive to researchers but not the best measure of clinical impact," wrote the authors.

Researchers also attempted to quantify the effect of industry funding on clinical trials. Researchers found that its influence on study quality was either benign or negative. Industry backing, however, was linked to an increased likelihood of positive results. One paper by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that pharmaceutically funded studies of bipolar disorder tend to have lower drop-out rates and were more likely to support increased use of the drug manufactured by the company funding the study.

Several studies also found that meta-analyses with financial ties to a drug company were more likely to favor the medication in question.

"Systematic reviews of drugs should not be sponsored by industry," wrote the authors of one study from the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen. "And if they are, they should not be trusted."

Back to top

External links

Fifth International Congress on Peer Review and Biomedical Publication (link)

"Influence of Funding Source on Outcome, Validity, and Reliability of Pharmaceutical Research," American Medical Association's Council on Scientific Affairs report, June 2004 (link)

Back to top



Read story

Confronting bias against obese patients

Medical educators are starting to raise awareness about how weight-related stigma can impair patient-physician communication and the treatment of obesity. Read story

Read story


American Medical News is ceasing publication after 55 years of serving physicians by keeping them informed of their rapidly changing profession. Read story

Read story

Policing medical practice employees after work

Doctors can try to regulate staff actions outside the office, but they must watch what they try to stamp out and how they do it. Read story

Read story

Diabetes prevention: Set on a course for lifestyle change

The YMCA's evidence-based program is helping prediabetic patients eat right, get active and lose weight. Read story

Read story

Medicaid's muddled preventive care picture

The health system reform law promises no-cost coverage of a lengthy list of screenings and other prevention services, but some beneficiaries still might miss out. Read story

Read story

How to get tax breaks for your medical practice

Federal, state and local governments offer doctors incentives because practices are recognized as economic engines. But physicians must know how and where to find them. Read story

Read story

Advance pay ACOs: A down payment on Medicare's future

Accountable care organizations that pay doctors up-front bring practice improvements, but it's unclear yet if program actuaries will see a return on investment. Read story

Read story

Physician liability: Your team, your legal risk

When health care team members drop the ball, it's often doctors who end up in court. How can physicians improve such care and avoid risks? Read story

  • Stay informed
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn