In scientific research, submitting abstracts and manuscripts plays a critical role in disseminating knowledge and advancing scientific understanding. However, striking the right balance between the two can be challenging. In a recent communication with my research team, I outlined my thoughts about how I think about abstracts vs. manuscripts. Spoiler alert: I prioritize well-thought-out manuscripts over late-breaking abstracts. In this blog post, we will explore these insights as I share valuable guidance on how I think about managing abstracts, manuscripts, and the associated deadlines.
Prioritizing Manuscripts for Strong Contributions
When it comes to submissions, my focus is on prioritizing well-developed manuscripts over late-breaking abstracts. While abstracts hold their own value, they should not hinder the progress of robust manuscripts that contribute significantly to scientific knowledge. This emphasis on prioritization stems from my desire to ensure that my team publishes work that is high-quality.
My Personal Decision Tree
To provide clarity and structure, I share my personal decision tree to guide my team's approach to abstracts and manuscripts: A mature study with completed analyses is best suited for manuscript submission. Manuscript submission allows for a comprehensive and well-supported research contribution. Conversely, early-stage work with ongoing analysis lends itself to abstracts. To this end, abstracts provide a platform to share preliminary findings.
Overcoming Obligations and Publishing Constraints
Abstracts offer opportunities for team members, particularly young researchers, to gain early exposure, attend meetings, and network. They serve as platforms for practicing the defense of research and answering questions. Additionally, abstracts enable the sharing of ongoing work in portfolios or CVs, even if it has not yet reached the maturity required for publication. However, it is essential to remember that abstract obligations should not impede the publication of manuscripts. Given that many abstracts do not progress to publication, I ask my team to focus on prioritizing manuscripts.
Leveraging Expertise for Statistical Analyses
I work with a team that includes both Masters and PhD-level statisitcians. These statisticians have sophisticated statistical knowledge that is not the domain expertise of the rest of the team. For this reason, I ask my team to leverage our statisticians' specialized knowledge in complicated analyses such as multivariable logistic regression. For abstracts, the clinical team can collaborate in developing simpler analyses and seek advice from the statisticians as needed. This approach optimizes the use of expertise within the team and ensures high-quality statistical analyses are prioritized for manuscripts.
Managing Abstract Deadlines
To maintain a healthy approach to meeting abstract deadlines, I hold the following thoughts:
Prioritize Pending Manuscripts: Energy should be directed towards pending manuscripts rather than diverting focus to meet abstract deadlines.
Avoid All-Nighters: Pulling all-nighters is discouraged as they can introduce errors. Instead, abstracts should be ready for review by the entire authorship team well before the deadline, allowing for adequate revision and error correction.
Balance Current Projects: Dropping ongoing projects solely to meet abstract deadlines is unnecessary. Deadlines are cyclical. Therefore, prioritize excellence in work over arbitrary timelines.
Reframe the Relationship to Stress: Stress should be viewed as a sign of external pressures and an opportunity to reassess one's relationship with work. Remember, you control the work, and it does not not control you.
Maintain Personal Quality Standards: Strive to submit work that meets personal standards for high quality. This mindset ensures that work will stand the test of time and not cause embarrassment in the future.
De-emphasize the PI's Perspective: Rather than assuming the PI's desire for abstract submissions, recognize that deadlines should not dictate the team's work. The focus should remain on producing impactful research and maintaining excellence.
Finding the right balance between abstracts and manuscripts is essential for successful scientific research. Prioritizing well-thought-out manuscripts while acknowledging the benefits of abstracts ensures the team's work maintains the highest standards. By managing deadlines effectively, leveraging expertise, and emphasizing quality over external pressures, the team can contribute to the advancement of science while also making a lasting, high quality impact.