Objective: To understand academic/clinician authors' perceptions regarding the value of professional medical writers.
Research design and methods: An online survey of academic/clinician authors was conducted to understand the value of professional medical writer support in the development of publications (abstracts, posters and manuscripts). Responses were collected anonymously. The survey used a negative-to-positive, 6 point scale to evaluate respondents' opinions and experiences of working with professional medical writers, and multiple choice to indicate in which areas professional medical writers added value.
Results: Responses from 76/260 authors were received (Europe, n = 57; 75.0%; North America, n = 16; 21.1%; Asia-Pacific region, n = 3; 3.9%). The majority of respondents were either clinicians (n = 45; 59.2%) or academic researchers (n = 25; 32.9%). A total of 82.9% (63/76) of respondents felt that it was acceptable to receive professional medical writer assistance with their publications, and 84.0% (63/75) valued the assistance provided. The services most valued (>50 responses) were editing and journal styling, conformity with reporting guidelines (e.g. CONSORT) and manuscript submissions. Fewer respondents (25-49 responses) valued management of timelines and co-author reviews, scientific/technical writing assistance and expert guidance on authorship requirements/good publication practice. The least valued service was the scientific expertise of the professional medical writer (3 responses).
Conclusions: Respondents to this survey were generally accepting of medical writing assistance and valued many aspects of the role, in particular editorial support. The survey was small, however, and potentially biased towards authors with experience of working with medical communication agencies. Although many medical writers come from a scientific background and have relevant expertise, this was not perceived as a value. It would be beneficial to educate authors and journal editors regarding medical writers' scientific expertise and role.
Keywords: Authorship; Editorial policies; Publication bias; Publishing; Writing.