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Anatomy of the epidemiological literature on the 2003 SARS outbreaks in Hong Kong and Toronto: a time-stratified review.

Xing W, Hejblum G, Leung GM, Valleron AJ - PLoS Med. (2010)

Bottom Line: We compared the SARS-case and matched-control non-SARS articles published according to the timeline of submission, acceptance, and publication.Only 22% of the studies were submitted, 8% accepted, and 7% published during the epidemic.To facilitate information dissemination, journal managers should reengineer their fast-track channels, which should be adapted to the purpose of an emerging outbreak, taking into account the requirement of high standards of quality for scientific journals and competition with other online resources.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: INSERM, U707, Paris, France. weijia.xing@inserm.fr

ABSTRACT

Background: Outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, especially those of a global nature, require rapid epidemiological analysis and information dissemination. The final products of those activities usually comprise internal memoranda and briefs within public health authorities and original research published in peer-reviewed journals. Using the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic as an example, we conducted a comprehensive time-stratified review of the published literature to describe the different types of epidemiological outputs.

Methods and findings: We identified and analyzed all published articles on the epidemiology of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong or Toronto. The analysis was stratified by study design, research domain, data collection, and analytical technique. We compared the SARS-case and matched-control non-SARS articles published according to the timeline of submission, acceptance, and publication. The impact factors of the publishing journals were examined according to the time of publication of SARS articles, and the numbers of citations received by SARS-case and matched-control articles submitted during and after the epidemic were compared. Descriptive, analytical, theoretical, and experimental epidemiology concerned, respectively, 54%, 30%, 11%, and 6% of the studies. Only 22% of the studies were submitted, 8% accepted, and 7% published during the epidemic. The submission-to-acceptance and acceptance-to-publication intervals of the SARS articles submitted during the epidemic period were significantly shorter than the corresponding intervals of matched-control non-SARS articles published in the same journal issues (p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). The differences of median submission-to-acceptance intervals and median acceptance-to-publication intervals between SARS articles and their corresponding control articles were 106.5 d (95% confidence interval [CI] 55.0-140.1) and 63.5 d (95% CI 18.0-94.1), respectively. The median numbers of citations of the SARS articles submitted during the epidemic and over the 2 y thereafter were 17 (interquartile range [IQR] 8.0-52.0) and 8 (IQR 3.2-21.8), respectively, significantly higher than the median numbers of control article citations (15, IQR 8.5-16.5, p<0.05, and 7, IQR 3.0-12.0, p<0.01, respectively).

Conclusions: A majority of the epidemiological articles on SARS were submitted after the epidemic had ended, although the corresponding studies had relevance to public health authorities during the epidemic. To minimize the lag between research and the exigency of public health practice in the future, researchers should consider adopting common, predefined protocols and ready-to-use instruments to improve timeliness, and thus, relevance, in addition to standardizing comparability across studies. To facilitate information dissemination, journal managers should reengineer their fast-track channels, which should be adapted to the purpose of an emerging outbreak, taking into account the requirement of high standards of quality for scientific journals and competition with other online resources.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Timeline of SARS epidemiology publications on the Hong Kong and Toronto epidemic.The curves (red, green, and both blue lines) show the cumulative distributions of the 311 articles published by 15 September 2007, according to the publication and acceptance or submission dates for the 185 and 157 articles, respectively, for which the information was available. The solid blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the publication dates, defined as the earliest date of publication, print or online. The dotted blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the print publication dates. The dashed yellow line shows the cumulative distributions of the 29 public health bulletins published by 15 September 2005 according to their publication dates. For comparison, the timing of the Hong Kong and Canadian epidemic is shown in gray on the left, as described in the legend to Figure 3. The vertical line points to 5 July 2003, the date WHO declared that the last human chain of transmission had been broken. The insert is a superposition of the publication timeline and course of the epidemic.
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pmed-1000272-g004: Timeline of SARS epidemiology publications on the Hong Kong and Toronto epidemic.The curves (red, green, and both blue lines) show the cumulative distributions of the 311 articles published by 15 September 2007, according to the publication and acceptance or submission dates for the 185 and 157 articles, respectively, for which the information was available. The solid blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the publication dates, defined as the earliest date of publication, print or online. The dotted blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the print publication dates. The dashed yellow line shows the cumulative distributions of the 29 public health bulletins published by 15 September 2005 according to their publication dates. For comparison, the timing of the Hong Kong and Canadian epidemic is shown in gray on the left, as described in the legend to Figure 3. The vertical line points to 5 July 2003, the date WHO declared that the last human chain of transmission had been broken. The insert is a superposition of the publication timeline and course of the epidemic.

Mentions: The date-of-submission distribution indicates that the academic response to the epidemic was rapid (Figure 4). In Hong Kong and Toronto, respectively, the 2003 SARS epidemic started on 7 and 15 March, and lasted until 23 June and 2 July [15]. On 31 March, a few weeks after the onset of the epidemic, the first articles reporting on the Hong Kong [24] and Toronto [13] outbreaks were both published online in the same journal. However, only a minority of the total number of SARS articles submitted (34/157, 22%), accepted (14/185, 8%), or published (21/311, 7%, with four, one, and 16 articles published only in an online version, only in a print version, and in both versions, respectively) were available to the scientific community up to and including 5 July, the end of the epidemic. The median date of article submission was 27 February 2004 (IQR: 30 July 2003–15 January 2005); their median acceptance and publication dates were 30 June (IQR: 02 December 2003–02 June 2005) and 16 September 2004 (IQR: 15 February 2004–15 July 2005), respectively, 124 and 202 d later. The median date of article print publication was 31 October 2004 (IQR: 15 February 2004–15 August 2005), 48 d after the median date of the earliest publication.


Anatomy of the epidemiological literature on the 2003 SARS outbreaks in Hong Kong and Toronto: a time-stratified review.

Xing W, Hejblum G, Leung GM, Valleron AJ - PLoS Med. (2010)

Timeline of SARS epidemiology publications on the Hong Kong and Toronto epidemic.The curves (red, green, and both blue lines) show the cumulative distributions of the 311 articles published by 15 September 2007, according to the publication and acceptance or submission dates for the 185 and 157 articles, respectively, for which the information was available. The solid blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the publication dates, defined as the earliest date of publication, print or online. The dotted blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the print publication dates. The dashed yellow line shows the cumulative distributions of the 29 public health bulletins published by 15 September 2005 according to their publication dates. For comparison, the timing of the Hong Kong and Canadian epidemic is shown in gray on the left, as described in the legend to Figure 3. The vertical line points to 5 July 2003, the date WHO declared that the last human chain of transmission had been broken. The insert is a superposition of the publication timeline and course of the epidemic.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC2864302&req=5

pmed-1000272-g004: Timeline of SARS epidemiology publications on the Hong Kong and Toronto epidemic.The curves (red, green, and both blue lines) show the cumulative distributions of the 311 articles published by 15 September 2007, according to the publication and acceptance or submission dates for the 185 and 157 articles, respectively, for which the information was available. The solid blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the publication dates, defined as the earliest date of publication, print or online. The dotted blue line shows the cumulative distribution of the print publication dates. The dashed yellow line shows the cumulative distributions of the 29 public health bulletins published by 15 September 2005 according to their publication dates. For comparison, the timing of the Hong Kong and Canadian epidemic is shown in gray on the left, as described in the legend to Figure 3. The vertical line points to 5 July 2003, the date WHO declared that the last human chain of transmission had been broken. The insert is a superposition of the publication timeline and course of the epidemic.
Mentions: The date-of-submission distribution indicates that the academic response to the epidemic was rapid (Figure 4). In Hong Kong and Toronto, respectively, the 2003 SARS epidemic started on 7 and 15 March, and lasted until 23 June and 2 July [15]. On 31 March, a few weeks after the onset of the epidemic, the first articles reporting on the Hong Kong [24] and Toronto [13] outbreaks were both published online in the same journal. However, only a minority of the total number of SARS articles submitted (34/157, 22%), accepted (14/185, 8%), or published (21/311, 7%, with four, one, and 16 articles published only in an online version, only in a print version, and in both versions, respectively) were available to the scientific community up to and including 5 July, the end of the epidemic. The median date of article submission was 27 February 2004 (IQR: 30 July 2003–15 January 2005); their median acceptance and publication dates were 30 June (IQR: 02 December 2003–02 June 2005) and 16 September 2004 (IQR: 15 February 2004–15 July 2005), respectively, 124 and 202 d later. The median date of article print publication was 31 October 2004 (IQR: 15 February 2004–15 August 2005), 48 d after the median date of the earliest publication.

Bottom Line: We compared the SARS-case and matched-control non-SARS articles published according to the timeline of submission, acceptance, and publication.Only 22% of the studies were submitted, 8% accepted, and 7% published during the epidemic.To facilitate information dissemination, journal managers should reengineer their fast-track channels, which should be adapted to the purpose of an emerging outbreak, taking into account the requirement of high standards of quality for scientific journals and competition with other online resources.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: INSERM, U707, Paris, France. weijia.xing@inserm.fr

ABSTRACT

Background: Outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases, especially those of a global nature, require rapid epidemiological analysis and information dissemination. The final products of those activities usually comprise internal memoranda and briefs within public health authorities and original research published in peer-reviewed journals. Using the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic as an example, we conducted a comprehensive time-stratified review of the published literature to describe the different types of epidemiological outputs.

Methods and findings: We identified and analyzed all published articles on the epidemiology of the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong or Toronto. The analysis was stratified by study design, research domain, data collection, and analytical technique. We compared the SARS-case and matched-control non-SARS articles published according to the timeline of submission, acceptance, and publication. The impact factors of the publishing journals were examined according to the time of publication of SARS articles, and the numbers of citations received by SARS-case and matched-control articles submitted during and after the epidemic were compared. Descriptive, analytical, theoretical, and experimental epidemiology concerned, respectively, 54%, 30%, 11%, and 6% of the studies. Only 22% of the studies were submitted, 8% accepted, and 7% published during the epidemic. The submission-to-acceptance and acceptance-to-publication intervals of the SARS articles submitted during the epidemic period were significantly shorter than the corresponding intervals of matched-control non-SARS articles published in the same journal issues (p<0.001 and p<0.01, respectively). The differences of median submission-to-acceptance intervals and median acceptance-to-publication intervals between SARS articles and their corresponding control articles were 106.5 d (95% confidence interval [CI] 55.0-140.1) and 63.5 d (95% CI 18.0-94.1), respectively. The median numbers of citations of the SARS articles submitted during the epidemic and over the 2 y thereafter were 17 (interquartile range [IQR] 8.0-52.0) and 8 (IQR 3.2-21.8), respectively, significantly higher than the median numbers of control article citations (15, IQR 8.5-16.5, p<0.05, and 7, IQR 3.0-12.0, p<0.01, respectively).

Conclusions: A majority of the epidemiological articles on SARS were submitted after the epidemic had ended, although the corresponding studies had relevance to public health authorities during the epidemic. To minimize the lag between research and the exigency of public health practice in the future, researchers should consider adopting common, predefined protocols and ready-to-use instruments to improve timeliness, and thus, relevance, in addition to standardizing comparability across studies. To facilitate information dissemination, journal managers should reengineer their fast-track channels, which should be adapted to the purpose of an emerging outbreak, taking into account the requirement of high standards of quality for scientific journals and competition with other online resources.

Show MeSH
Related in: MedlinePlus