Elizabeth (Liz) Wager has been an insightful, industrious, and influential contributor to our profession. If you know Liz, you will be nodding your head. If you don’t know Liz, you need to type ”Liz Wager” into Google, and you can then join the nodders. What Google won’t tell you (yet) is that Liz is retiring from our profession to pursue other interests.* Say it isn’t so…but it is.
The purpose of this brief article is to highlight just a few of Liz’s wonderful contributions (more was said in person and with fanfare at the 2019 ISMPP European Meeting) and share some of her departing words of wisdom.
Liz has many professional achievements that deserve recognition, but if you ask her what she has been most proud of, she would blush and then say:
- Good Publication Practice (GPP) guidelines
- Committee for Publication Ethics (COPE) flowcharts
These contributions reflect just how much of a courageous pioneer and successful ambassador Liz has been for professional medical writers. She ventured into the worlds of medical journal editors and academics in the days when “medical writer” was almost synonymous with “ghost writer.” Ouch! Liz was NEVER a ghost writer and set out to explain and to prove that professional medical writers could work with authors to enhance the integrity and quality of medical publications. Her passion for ethical and effective publication practices, particularly for publishing industry-sponsored research, contributed to the first edition of the GPP guidelines.1 These guidelines, published in a peer-reviewed journal, set out for the first time the rules that industry sponsors and professional medical writers would follow. These guidelines helped build trust in our publication practices and paved the way for subsequent updates (GPP22, GPP33). As we embark on GPP4, it is timely to thank Liz for her pioneering work on GPP. She kindly signed copies of GPP and GPP3 for me – not available for sale, but authentic momentos nevertheless!
Liz’s pragmatic nature and drive to make guidelines more user-friendly and accessible led to the development of the COPE Flowcharts.4 Although primarily designed for editors, these flowcharts can and are used by publication professionals. The flowcharts can help us see “tricky situations” from the editors’ viewpoint. Nobody ever wants to be in these situations, but it is prudent to know how editors are advised to manage these real-world issues.
Wager’s Words of Wisdom
When a living legend leaves a profession, she might be in a prime position to offer diplomatic, yet thought-provoking, advice to her colleagues. Our profession would be well served to listen and respond to Liz’s departing words of wisdom. Here are a few gems from Liz:
- Don’t be complacent – while a concerted and global effort has been made to build trust in our profession, we can never assume that we are “done.” One of Liz’s favorite proverbs is, “Trust comes on foot, but leaves on horseback.” Our actions must send a strong message, especially to new people joining our profession, that integrity is everything. Our guidelines must help all of us navigate our way, ethically, through changes in the publication environment. In times of uncertainty, we need to be certain about our integrity.
- Prove our value to academics, editors, and publishers – if we are publication professionals, then we should be the experts in planning and delivering timely and trustworthy publications. Through her publications, volunteerism, and networking, Liz was able to establish her expertise, which helped her gain respect from and partner with academics, editors, and publishers. She earned her seat at the publication table. Given the adage, “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu,” we need more of our members to earn a seat at the publication table. Fortunately, we are starting to be invited to contribute to reporting guidelines. By proving our value on these guideline committees, we can expect more invitations to come.
- Be bold – we can and should be proud of the contributions we make to communicating science. We need to keep building the evidence base to demonstrate our value and to pinpoint where we need to do more. We need to engage with those outside of our profession, especially with those who may not know what we do or misunderstand what we do. Liz has shown us the way – it’s now time for more of us to follow her lead.
I hope this article has highlighted just a few reasons why it is important for our profession to recognize Liz’s achievements and listen to her words of wisdom. Liz can look back on her career with satisfaction, and we can look back on her career for inspiration.
Professor Karen Woolley, BHMS, Ed Hons, PhD, ISMPP CMPPTM, Envision Pharma Group
(Liz kindly shared the information that led to this article during an informal interview over a hot Indian lunch in chilly London on December 1, 2018. She has reviewed this article – any errors are mine.)
1 Wager E, Field EA, Grossman L. Good publication practice for pharmaceutical companies. Curr Med Res Opin. 2003;19(3):149-54.
2 Graf C, Battisti WP, Bridges D, Bruce-Winkler V, Conaty JM, Ellison JM, Field EA, Gurr JA, Marx ME, Patel M, Sanes-Miller C, Yarker YE; International Society for Medical Publication Professionals. Research Methods & Reporting. Good publication practice for communicating company-sponsored medical research: the GPP2 guidelines. BMJ. 2009 Nov 27;339:b4330. doi: 10.1136/bmj.b4330.
3 Battisti WP, Wager E, Baltzer L, Bridges D, Cairns A, Carswell CI, Citrome L, Gurr JA, Mooney LA, Moore BJ, Peña T, Sanes-Miller CH, Veitch K, Woolley KL, Yarker YE; International Society for Medical Publication Professionals. Good publication practice for communicating company-sponsored medical research: GPP3. Ann Intern Med. 2015 Sep 15;163(6):461-4. doi: 10.7326/M15-0288.
4 Committee on Publication Ethics – Flowcharts. https://publicationethics.org/resources/flowcharts Accessed 12 January 2018.
* Liz is pursuing volunteer work in the world of musical therapy for people with dementia. She has also recently published a book, “The poetic mews: cat and their poets.” This whimsical book allows us to view history through the cats of poets. She’s still writing…but, quite delightfully, not as we know it!