Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research

Publications Officer hired to serve the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO)


The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society (England) and the Journal des Sçavans (France) were the first academic journals published in Europe. They printed their inaugural issue within two months of one another in the year 1665. Fast-forward 350 years, and there are now approximately 30,000 academic journals available as a conduit for publication. Against this long history, it is particularly regrettable that much of the research that continues to get published fails to report basic information, or is so poorly reported that it is unusable [1–3]. When one considers that few institutions have services in place, or resources available, to help researchers publish in a complete and responsible way, this outcome is perhaps unsurprising.

Dr. David Moher and Prof. Doug Altman recently called for the introduction of academic institutional Publications Officers [4]. The Publications Officer role was conceived to provide support to trainees, staff and researchers at the back end of research. Specifically, Publications Officers could provide guidance on how to prepare manuscripts for submission and how to get published. In addition, they could provide outreach on topics like publication ethics, use of reporting guidelines, open access publishing, predatory journals and metrics. The Publications Officer role should not be confused with the position of Author’s Editor. Author’s Editors typically work as consultants; most academic institutions don’t employ these individuals in-house. Moreover, Author’s Editors are not likely to be experienced educators and their role does focus on providing seminars or outreach on topics related to publishing, such as those noted above.

OHRI and CHEO RI have recently hired Dr. Kelly Cobey to serve in what is believed to be the first ever Publications Officer role. The OHRI Centre for Journalology, led by Dr. Moher, has generated a new webpage of resources that outlines more information about the Publications Officer role. This website will also host any newly developed publication resources and tools. It is hoped that by making these resources freely available it will contribute to tackling inequalities that exist in how training and teaching on responsible publishing occurs. If you have questions about the Publications Officer role, you can contact Kelly directly.


1. Altman DG. The scandal of poor medical research. BMJ. 1994;308:283-284. PMID: 8124111
2. Glasziou P, Meats E, Heneghan C, Shepperd S. What is missing from descriptions of treatment in trials and reviews? BMJ. 2008;336(7659):1472-1474. doi:10.1136/bmj.39590.732037.47. PMID: 18583680
3. Dwan K, Gamble C, Williamson PR, Kirkham JJ. Systematic review of the empirical evidence of study publication bias and outcome reporting bias – An updated review. PLoS One. 2013;8(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066844. PMID: 23861749
4. Moher D, Altman DG. Four Proposals to Help Improve the Medical Research Literature. PLoS Med. 2015. doi:10.1371/ journal.pmed.1001864. PMID: 26393914


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