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The Role Of Professional Writers

Monday, July 31, 2006

Posted by: American Medical Writers Association’s (AMWA) Jim Cozzarin, MaryAnn Foote, Adam Jacobs, Mary Royer, and Barbara Snyder.

Medical writing has been the subject of numerous editorials.  Recently, two journals decided that they will no longer accept manuscripts prepared with the help of a medical writer.  This decision is both startling and drastic, and may have untoward consequences.  At least 1 journal, however, has endorsed the use of medical writers…

As professional writers, we acknowledge that some writers, agencies, and/or biopharmaceutical companies have “shopped around” for suitable key opinion leaders to serve as lead authors for manuscripts written by a professional writer.  We, along with the American Medical Writers Association and European Medical Writers Association, strongly disapprove of this practice, which is ‘ghostwriting’.  We know of no evidence that this practice is the norm.  We suspect that ghostwritten papers gain a high profile because journalists consider them highly newsworthy, not because they are common.

AMWA (www.amwa.org) and EMWA (www.emwa.org) have published guidelines concerning the way medical writers should interact with researchers to write manuscripts for publication.  We believe that medical writers are valuable to the writing process and can facilitate and speed the publication of important scientific information. 

Professional writers ensure that the literature cited is current; the study and statistical methods are complete, appropriate, and adequately detailed; and the author’s interpretation of the study findings is clearly and concisely communicated.  Because of their contributions, manuscripts may be reviewed more easily by peer reviewers with fewer queries to be answered before final acceptance. 

Medical writers have an important role in conveying valuable information to physicians and others in both a clearly communicated and a timely manner.  We do not consider ourselves to be ‘ghostwriters’ and do not promulgate the term.  For those who do see us as such, we would welcome an open and fair dialog so that we can explain our value.

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