Medical publication policies and guidelines offer a framework for best practices, but there may be situations when more than one approach seems reasonable. The primary purpose of “What Would You Do?” is to explore examples of such situations. With the limited information provided to interpret the scenarios, you may find yourself agreeing with one, more than one, or none of the proposed actions. And that’s the point ‒ you should debate, contemplate, and communicate (with a comment) before selecting your “best” answer.

Now let’s find out how you responded and read through some commentary (for context only; not meant to be comprehensive) to the below scenario:

You are a company publication professional and have been supporting authors to develop an oral presentation for a scientific congress. The content is agreed upon and approved by authors prior to the start of the congress. Both sponsor and medical writing agency colleagues are onsite to provide support, and it was agreed that the presenting author would upload the slides to the system. Approximately 2 hours before the presentation, you see the presenting author, who mentions that he/she reviewed the slides again, changed them, and then uploaded them without obtaining further approval from the co-authors.

What would you do?

A total of 141 respondents replied to this poll.

Proceed with the uploaded version; it is important that the presenter is happy with the slides and he/she takes responsibility for the content (6% of responses)

This approach seems to imply that any changes should be accepted straightaway. It is true that the presenter should be comfortable with and take primary responsibility for the presentation, but it generally should not be an individual decision. The sponsor/publications team (and co-authors, when time permits) should also have visibility and be aligned.

The approach is usually fine when the edits are minor; but when the edits are major and may alter the key results and conclusions, further consideration is warranted. When there are only minor edits, it would be beneficial to send the final version to all authors for informational purposes.

Download the presentation from the system and immediately contact all authors to obtain approval of the new version (16% of responses)

This action seems like an ideal step based on good publication practice. However, with only two hours until the presentation, it is likely not realistic to obtain approvals, especially if authors are in different time zones and/or the presentation takes place during the weekend. Good publication practice applies to oral presentations, posters, and manuscripts, but constraints related to congress presentations may sometimes prohibit full adherence in the final deliverable as it relates to author approvals of last-minute changes. For an oral, the presenter and sponsor may take on greater responsibility for the content due to the nature of this type of scientific exchange.

Tell the presenter that the presentation should be changed back to the previous version that all authors approved (18% of responses)

This approach would probably be taken if the presenter made major changes that altered the key results or conclusions and the sponsor/publications team disagreed with the edits. A compromise with the presenter would need to be reached quickly (eg, would the presenter be willing to verbally state some of the points instead of changing the slides?); otherwise, the decision could be to either go back to the original version or withdraw from presenting. If the edits were minor, there is probably no need to change the content back because there is minimal impact to the approved version. The updated version should be shared with all authors for informational purposes.

Check the uploaded version, and if the key data and conclusions remain the same, then it is OK to proceed (59% of responses)

With this option, the sponsor/publications team have transparency and opportunity for input into the changes and often will not object to proceed if the key data and conclusions remain the same so that the presenter can be comfortable with the content. The time constraint may not allow for another round of author approvals, so minor edits may be acceptable since the key content that was previously approved remains unchanged. It would also be good practice to send the final version to all authors for informational purposes.

Key Takeaways

This case scenario illustrates that:

  • The choice of presenter is critically important, and the presenter should be informed about good publication practice as it relates to congress presentations.
  • Good publication practice related to author approvals should be applied to the extent possible for oral presentations.
  • The nature of congress presentations may pose constraints that need to be managed with the presenter.

Eric Y. Wong, PhD, MBA, ISMPP CMPPTM, Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC
This article was prepared by the author in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed within are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC.

%d bloggers like this: