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Spring 2015   

Sorry, Never Mind: Scientific Retractions on the Rise

By Kent Steinriede

When Ivan Oransky, MD, global editorial director of MedPage Today, co-founded Retraction Watch with Adam Marcus, MA, managing editor of Gastroenterology & Endoscopy News and Anesthesiology News, in 2010 as an after-hours project, he wondered if anyone would even look at a blog devoted to the arcane topic of retracting articles published in scientific journals. 


An Audience Discovered
What the journalist soon learned was that he and Marcus had tapped into a rich and deep vein of fraud, deceit, and theft that satisfies the competitive scientific community's yen for scandal. In 2014, the blog surpassed 15 million page views. Oransky says that Retraction Watch does more than just titillate. Reporting on retractions helps keep the publicly funded researchers, institutions and the journals that profit from publishing scientific results honest. Taxpayers are funding the fraudsters' research. "It's our business," Oransky said at the November 2014 meeting of AMWA-DVC in New Brunswick, NJ. 


Retractions Increasing
Retraction Watch has become the de-facto reference for the growing phenomenon of retractions. Between 2001 and 2010, the number of retractions per year increased ten-fold, to about 400, while the number of papers published each year grew by 44% during the same period, according to a report in Nature that Oransky cites. Before 1997, retractions were rare, only about dozen a year.

According to Oransky, journals retracting more papers is a reflection of several things happening at once:


  • Increased pressure for researchers to publish in order to advance their careers 
  • The ease of plagiarizing articles or fudge results
  • Improved software to detect plagiarism
  • A breakdown of the peer-review system 

  • A Need Discovered

    Although more papers are retracted these days, journals are not always eager to publicize the retractions. That's where Retraction Watch comes in. The blog relies on tips -some anonymous, some from self-appointed public watchdogs - for word of retracted papers or researchers with dubious publishing records. With only one staffer, the blog cannot investigate all the  tips that come its way. In 2014, Retraction Watch received a $400,000 MacArthur Foundation Grant to create database of retractions. At AWMA's 75th Annual Conference, Oransky will receive AMWA's 2015 John P. McGovern Award for contribution to medical communication. 

    Patterns of Fraud

    The well-indexed blog features a rogues' gallery of scientific frauds that include a Japanese researcher who has had 183 papers retracted; authors who set up fake email accounts so that they could review their own papers under another scientist's name; and authors who added the names of respected senior researchers as co-authors, without ever asking the senior researcher for permission.

    Common reasons for retracting a paper include making up data, publishing the same data in more than one article, and failing to get institutional review board (IRB) approval before conducting research. Lack of IRB approval is often a red flag. "It's like getting Al Capone on tax evasion," Oransky says. "There's almost certainly something else happening." 

    Kent Steinriede, MS, is a medical writer at PAREXEL International. 

    Design, Develop, and Execute a Successful Webinar: Mastering Available Technologies

    By Ruwaida Vakil

    During AMWA's 2014 Annual Conference in Memphis, Tenn., in October, I presented a session on webinars entitled, How to Design, Develop and Execute a Successful Webinar. For those who are unfamiliar with these, a webinar is a powerful way to engage a geographically diverse audience. They can be very powerful since they are cost effective and enduring and can be made available on demand. According to B2B Content Marketing, 62% of marketers deliver content through webinars. Webinars can be considered as a marketing tactic not only for promoting a product but to establish thought leadership in your industry. They can be used for training, corporate communications, marketing and e-learning.

    There are 6 key components to consider when designing, developing and executing a webinar:

    1. Format
    2. Presenter/speaker considerations
    3. Audience
    4. Promotions/advertising
    5. Follow-up
    6. Platform



    The most common formats are single speaker, interview style, moderated panel discussion, and interactive (where the audience participates). Webinar developers must also determine the fee structure (if any).

    Presenter/Speaker Considerations

    The speaker may be the single most important factor in developing a successful webinar. A speaker who enjoys interacting on stage/podiums may or may not make a successful webinar speaker. Speakers need to be comfortable using technology and should have a headset. Before going "live," having at least one rehearsal is generally recommended. Unless the webinar is interactive, pre-recording the webinar should be considered to avoid potential technical glitches on the actual presentation day. The pre-recorded webinar can be aired, and the speaker attends for a live Q&A session.


    Engaging the audience ensures higher retention and increases viewing times. These tools help engage the audience: Twitter and other social media, polls, and Q&A that are allowed throughout the webinar. After the webinar, the audience can continue to be engaged through post-tests and surveys.


    Successful webinars are carefully marketed, using social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, email). Other promotional endeavors can include a newsletter, blogs, websites, and YouTube videos. The most effective source for marketing a webinar is sending a personalized e-mail to a list of potential attendees, according to a 2013 report. The e-mail must include a link to the registration page.


    Follow-up with attendees after the webinar so that they consider that attending future webinars is imperative. Use blogs, social media discussions, and attendee emails to engage the audience. Record the webinar to provide a link in the follow-up email.


    Several platforms for delivering the webinar content are available, ranging from do-it-yourself to all-inclusive. The former is highly cost-effective, but has the longest learning curve. 

    Things to consider when choosing a platform include the following:

    • Number of events
    • Number of speakers
    • Interactivity
    • Technical learning curve/technical support available
    • "Dry run" capability
    • Mobile compatibility
    • Mac versus PC compatibility
    • Recording options

    Webinars can serve as an important tool for medical communicators, and provide a means of sharing knowledge and establishing yourself as an expert in a particular area.

    Ruwaida Vakil, MS, is a freelance medical writer, communications specialist, and owner of ProMed Write, LLC. Vakil is also the current secretary for AMWA-DVC.

    Social Media: It's Not Just an Option Anymore

    By Lori De Milto 


    Social media is an untapped resource that's "here to stay," says Larry Lynam, MA, principal, writer and facilitator at The Lynam Group. Lynam, along with Felicia Hudson, BA, and Brande Martin, MA, led an open session on using social media at AMWA's 2014 Annual Conference in Memphis, Tenn. in October. Hudson is a freelance writer and owner of Hudson Creative Copy. Martin is content manager/strategist at the College of American Pathologists.


    The "Big Six" Social Networks

    The social networks most used by individuals, businesses and marketers today, dubbed the "Big Six" by the panelists, are: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, YouTube, and Instagram. Since YouTube and Instagram are less applicable for business, they are not covered here.


    "You need to adapt your voice and tone to the social media platform. By being timely and sharing relevant information, you begin to establish yourself as an authority," says Hudson. Regardless of which social network you're on, using images increases engagement and response. 



    On Twitter, people are searching for new ideas and opportunities, information, services, products, and solutions. With more than 645 million users in 2014, "if Twitter were a country, it would be the 12th largest country in the world," says Lynam. Twitter users engage most with tweets that include images or links and are under 100 characters.


    Best Practices for Twitter 

    • Make tweets resonate
    • Keep tweets short and sweet
    • Use photos, images, and videos
    • Keep it real (current and relevant)
    • Tweet often (three to five times per day)
    • Follow your interests
    • Reply 

    Lynam shared his magic formula for Twitter: useful content + unique tone + (link, image or video) + timely delivery = Twitter success.



    LinkedIn is growing at the rate of one new member every 2 seconds. Its 2.1 million groups "are a great place to meet colleagues," says Lynam. Maximize LinkedIn by spending time on your profile, but be truthful. 

    Best Practices for LinkedIn 

    • Completely fill out your profile and use keywords so others can find you
    • Make connections
    • Be active by sending comments and introducing people
    • Ask for recommendations. 


    "Facebook is about connecting for information, ideas, and news," says Hudson. It is often one of the first social media platforms businesses use. As of June 2013, Facebook had 1.19 billion active users. Healthcare organizations that do social media well include Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, according to Martin. They start by defining their Facebook strategy, then determine the appropriate voice and tone and develop and implement the Facebook plan.


    Best Practices for Facebook 

    • Use calls to action
    • Use photos, images, and video
    • Share stories and information. 


    Launched in 2011 and growing 33% per year, Google+ is the second-largest social network after Facebook. "Some people say this will be one of the most popular platforms in the next few years," says Hudson. (For details on Google+, see the next article, Discover Google+.) 


    Using Social Media Effectively

    The objective of using social media is to build engagement. Doing this starts with developing a social media strategy, and then developing a plan to implement the strategy. The presenters advise starting small, tweaking the strategy, and continuing to grow. Regardless of the social media platform, consistency online and offline is key.  


    Lori De Milto, MJ, is a freelance medical writer specializing in targeted medical marketing communications and author of The Mighty Marketer: Your Guide to Making More Money as a Freelance Medical Writer. 

    Discover Google+

    By Jennifer Minarcik


    On December 3, 2014, AMWA-DVC hosted its first webinar: Discover Google+. Beth Browning, SEO and inbound marketing trainer, discussed the benefits of using Google+ and provided some tips and tricks to getting started.  


    What is Google+

    Google+ is a social media and networking service from Google. It is currently the second largest platform, with more than 300 million monthly active users, says Browning. Google+ is a great place to share photos and links, hangout and chat, write commentaries, and promote your business and personal brand. When comparing LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+, Browning likens LinkedIn to a networking event, Facebook as a family picnic, and Google+ as a company picnic. As a writer, Browning recommends using Google+ and LinkedIn as the primary platforms for a social media strategy, stating that "Google+ and LinkedIn are like peanut butter and jelly. They just work well together."


    By participating on Google+, freelance medical writers could experience the following benefits:
    * Build a professional brand
    * Increase visibility on search results
    * Effectively filter online information
    * Connect with potential clients and colleagues

    Getting Started
    Browning's 5 key steps to consider when starting out with Google+:

    1. Create an authentic profile and Google+ page. Google+ provides tools for users to creatively format text, add links, and tell a story about themselves on their Profile page. Consider a custom background image and headshot to help your personality shine through. Be authentic, Browning recommends, filling out your profile completely, using words that describe who you are and what you do (for search engine optimization), and adding links to your already published blogs.


    The Google+ page is optimized for businesses. Browning recommends going through the steps of verifying your website and adding all relevant contact information to your Google+ page. 


    2. Control your privacy and notification settings. Google+ has user-friendly privacy setting options, Browning said, and features substantial flexibility in managing notifications. For example, you can turn on notifications to alert when you are mentioned in a post or when someone you are following shares a post, she said. This is a great way to filter information.

    3. Make connections
    Making connections is "a BIG part of Google+," Browning says. Creating "Circles" is a way of organizing your connections. Browning shared her tips for building an engaged audience: organize your connections into groups (Circles), use Circloscope to manage your Circles, filter posts according to their circle, remove inactive people from your Circles, and circle only people whose profiles you have checked out. Add people to your Circles and then organize the connections for sharing and reading, she said.

    4. Home posts and Communities
    The home post page is similar to status updates on LinkedIn. Browning recommends optimizing posts for readers and search engines, giving credit for content via +mentions and hat tips, using Circles to share relevant content to a specific audience, and using hashtags to help people join your conversation.

    Communities on Google+ are a great place for finding the latest news on a particular topic. Browning suggests that everyone participating in a community needs "to be present, be active, and be helpful." 


    5. Take advantage of the technology
    Google+ offers 2 types of Hangouts, private or public. Up to 10 people can participate in a Hangout. Public Hangouts, also known as Hangouts On Air (HOA), are automatically uploaded to YouTube. With HOA, you can broadcast live discussions through your Google+ home page and YouTube channel. Hangouts, whether private or public, can be scheduled ahead of time by creating an event. Your event invitation can be for one person, a Circle, or open to the public. Great tips for creating your event page are: use images when creating your event, invite friends in your circle, and promote your event through posts.


    Additional Google+ Resources
    Learn more about Google+ from experts Beth Browning and Stephan Hovnanian 


    Check out Stephan Hovnanian's latest Google+ guide 


    If you missed the webinar and would like to watch the recording, please visit the AMWA OnDemand webinar page. 

    Jennifer Minarcik, MS, is a freelance science and medical writer. Minarcik is also the current webinar chair for AMWA-DVC.

    Princeton Conference: April 25, 2015

    AMWA-DVC's 18th Annual Princeton Conference will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2015, at the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal in Princeton, NJ, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This intensive one-day program offers regulatory and essential skills knowledge and networking through four credit workshops and two How-To sessions. 


    Chair Nick Sidorovich, MSEd, Content Manager, ClearPoint Learning Systems (Hoboken, NJ) and co-chair Susan Dalton, MS, ELS, associate director, US Medical Writing, Bristol-Myers Squibb (Newtown, PA) have confirmed the credit workshops so far:


    * Organizing the Medical Paper (CP/EW/PH) [3019], with Howard M. Smith, MA
    * Writing Abstracts (CP/EW/FL) [3010], with Howard M. Smith, MA
    * In addition, at least one, and possibly two, Regulatory and Research (RR) workshops will be offered. If only one Regulatory and Research workshop is offered, the other workshop will most likely be offered from the Concepts in Science and Medicine (SM) specialty area.

    The afternoon How-To session is entitled Online Manuscript Submission: Pitfalls and Best Practices with Don Fallon. Our morning How-To session will be announced shortly.


    For those wishing to mix recreation with their educational experience, the conference center is just a 5-minute drive or cab ride to Princeton University and the popular cultural, shopping, and dining experiences of Nassau Street and Palmer Square in downtown Princeton.

    Registration includes continental breakfast, a sumptuous buffet lunch, and gourmet break snacks! Registration is expected to open by February 17, 2015. Look for details in announcements from AMWA-DVC, and check the DVC website's Upcoming Events.  

    News From National

    Medical Writer Certified. The first Medical Writing Certification Examination will be administered at the 2015 Annual Conference in San Antonio on September 30, 2015. The application deadline to sit for the exam at this year's conference is June 30, 2015. For more information please see http://www.amwa.org/mwc.

    AMWA Certificate program updates. The Essential Skills certificate is no longer required in order to earn a Specialty certificate, though the Essential Skills certificate will still be offered and recommended. Up to two of the eight workshop credits required to earn a specialty certificate can now be electives. These electives can be chosen from any of the specialty or advanced workshops.

    Check out the gems from other chapters. Chapter-based resources, including podcasts, newsletters (including our Delawriter), digital roundtables, and lists of free online courses, have been compiled and are available at http://www.amwa.org/chapter_gems.

    Chapter Treasurer Handbook to be developed. A volunteer workgroup has committed to develop this resource for chapter treasurers. DVC's own Amy Rovi and Kate Casano are on the team.

    Thanks, Kate and Amy!
    U Sciences Philadelphia Sponsored Holiday Get Together

    AMWA-DVC is one of the most active chapters in the organization, even when we're not volunteering our time or expertise. In what is becoming a tradition, almost 50 members met in December for a holiday networking event, sponsored in part by University of the Sciences/Philadelphia (USP).
    The event was held at the Glenmorgan Bar & Grill at the Hotel Radnor, members enjoyed cocktails and appetizers in a private area of the bar. Some networked, others just socialized.
    "As always, the AMWA-DVC holiday get-together was a great opportunity to meet with old friends and make new ones," said Lisa Breck, founder of Breck & Company. "We got to congratulate each other on new opportunities, and pass along some pearls of wisdom to those just entering the field. A fun time was had by all!"
    Agreed another long-time DVC member, Kate Casano, MHS, "Sometimes it's nice just to socialize at a DVC get-together and not imbibe any didactic content. The snacks, drinks, and especially the company made for a welcome break from the workweek. Thanks to USP for sponsoring the event."


    ATTENTION: The Delawriter is actively seeking writers and editors to add to our already stellar group. If you're interested in showing off your writing skills, want to hone your editing talents, or just want to be a part of our quarterly publication, jot a quick note off to delawriter@amwa-dvc.org. Thanks in advance!
    Upcoming Event
    Registration is Now Open for the AMWA-DVC Freelance Conference

    Saturday, March 28, 2015
    Crowne Plaza Valley Forge, King of Prussia, PA


    * Presentations on key topics in freelancing
    * Interactive sessions on challenges and best practices
    * Networking luncheon
    * Roundtable discussions


    Click here for details and to register.

    Correction: In the Winter 2014 DVC Newsletter, we misidentified the title of one of the books written by Rosemary Gibson, MSc. The correct title is Wall of Silence. We apologize for the error. 


    Published quarterly by the American Medical Writers Association-Delaware Valley Chapter 


    Executive Editor: Eileen McCaffrey  

    Editor: Michelle Dalton

    Assistant Editor: Jason Vian

    Designers: Mark Bowlby, PhD and Darryl L'Heureux, PhD 

    Editorial Consultants: Elisha Darville, Robert Hand, Rachana Sainger, Katherine L. Molnar-Kimber, PhD 

    E-mail List Managers: Mark Bowlby, PhD and Darryl L'Heureux, PhD 


    Please direct change of address/information to AMWA Headquarters Staff:


    American Medical Writers Association
    30 West Gude Drive, Suite 525
    Rockville, MD 20850-1161
    (240) 238-0940 (tel)
    (301) 294-9006 (fax)
    e-mail: amwa@amwa.org 


    Copyright ©American Medical Writers Association-Delaware Valley Chapter 2015. You may not copy or reuse the content of this newsletter without our written permission.