“Results unpublished are little better than those never achieved.”
The excitement of being notified that all your hard work in preparing your abstract or poster paid off is fading. The memory of the meeting and the pride and adulation that came from your presentation or your poster are satisfying memories. Is what you have accomplished enough or is there more to be done to “finish” the task? What do I mean by more? What about your data and information? In most instances, your abstract was published in the meeting book for all in attendance to see. Occasionally, abstracts are published in journals, but if not, how will anyone be able to find out about your research for future use? Will your research be available to those searching for answers to the same questions you may have already answered? Unfortunately, the answer to the question is no. All of your hard work is gone unless you finish the task. Michael Faraday said it succinctly, “Work. Finish. Publish.”2 Yes, the work left to be done is to publish your manuscript.
If your response to this is like mine you think, “I just finished that project. I am tired of looking at that data. I am ready to move on to something else.” Apparently this is not an uncommon problem. In a recent publication it was found that only 12% of abstracts presented at two large wound care conferences ever resulted in a publication.3 Other work has shown only 51% of randomized controlled trial results presented in abstract form at meetings are developed into published manuscripts.4
Reasons for the lack of follow-up publication can include: there is not enough time to do it; there is no longer interest in the project; new data do not justify the original results; the product discussed is no longer available; the information is not good enough to publish; the study yielded negative results. All of these reasons (excuses?) can be justified in one’s mind, but I think you may be selling yourself short.
Since there was enough time and interest to do the project originally, there should be enough time to write it in manuscript form. Sure, it takes time and effort, but in the end, an accepted manuscript is more exciting than having the abstract accepted, and the information will be available to anyone interested in your subject. I still feel a sense of accomplishment when I see references to articles that I wrote in the 1970s and 1980s.
Just because a study yielded negative results is no reason not to submit a manuscript for publication. I have said many times that it is just as important to know what does not work as it is to know what does work. If nothing else, this may lead to others doing additional work to define why something that was supposed to work did not. This is how science and our understanding of it are forwarded. Many times good work results in negative outcomes. There is no reason to hide it. We must learn from it.
I encourage you to find the abstracts you presented at meetings this year and turn them into manuscripts. There are people willing to help you, including the editorial staff of WOUNDS, should you have questions or problems. Submission of your manuscript is the first step toward publication and further validation and preservation of your information. Remember: “All the thinking, all the textual analysis, all the experiments and the data-gathering aren’t anything until we write them up.”5
1. Wilson L. The Academic Man: A Study in the Sociology of a Profession. London: Oxford University Press; 1942:197.
2. Faraday M. In: Beveridge WIB. The Art of Scientific Investigation. New York, NY: WW Norton; 1957:121.
3. Dumville JC, Petherick ES, Cullum N. When will I see you again? The fate of research findings from international wound care conferences*. Int Wound J. 2008;5(1):26–33.
4. Scherer RW, Dickersin K, Langenberg P. Full publication of results initially presented in abstracts. A meta-analysis. JAMA 1994;272(2):158–162.
5. Kennedy D. Academic Duty. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; 1997:186.