Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Are Medical Conferences Useful? And for Whom?

Credit: Wikipedia Commons

A medical doctor (who himself is a big draw at medical conferences) has recently questioned the motives and utility of medical conferences. [Mythbuster Ioannidis: Are Medical Conferences Really Useful?]

He believes much of the presented research findings  are not fully peer-reviewed, and thus cannot  fully educate, train, or contribute to evidence-based practice. Often findings at medical conferences are seized upon by the popular press and prematurely promoted as having sound scientific evidence. Quite often these findings change with peer review and are later published with the revisions and modified findings in scientific journals.

Excerpt from the 4 April 2012 JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) article
(The full text of this article is by subscription only, these excerpts came from a related posting at

An estimate of more than 100 000 medical meetings per year may not be unrealistic, when local meetings are also counted. The cumulative cost of these events worldwide is not possible to fathom.

Do medical conferences serve any purpose? In theory, these meetings aim to disseminate and advance research, train, educate, and set evidence-based policy. Although these are worthy goals, there is virtually no evidence supporting the utility of most conferences. Conversely, some accumulating evidence suggests that medical congresses may serve a specific system of questionable values that may be harmful to medicine and health care.

The availability of a plethora of conferences promotes a mode of scientific citizenship in which a bulk production of abstracts, with no or superficial peer review, leads to mediocre curriculum vita building. Even though most research conferences have adopted peer-review processes, the ability to judge an abstract of 150 to 400 words is limited and the process is more of sentimental value.

Moreover, many abstracts reported at the medical meetings are never published as full-text articles even though abstract presentations can nevertheless communicate to wide audiences premature and sometimes inaccurate results. It has long been documented that several findings change when research reports undergo more extensive peer review and are published as completed articles.* Late-breaker sessions in particular have become extremely attractive prominent venues within medical conferences because seemingly they represent the most notable latest research news. However, it is unclear why these data cannot be released immediately when they are ready and it is unclear why attending a meeting far from home is necessary to hear them. A virtual online late-breaker portal could be established for the timely dissemination of important findings….

…Power and influence appear plentiful in many of these meetings. Not surprisingly, the drug, device, biotechnology, and health care–related industries make full use of such opportunities to engage thousands of practicing physicians. Lush exhibitions and infiltration of the scientific program through satellite meetings or even core sessions are common avenues of engagement. Although many meetings require all speakers to disclose all potential conflicts, the majority of speakers often have numerous conflicts, as is also demonstrated in empirical evaluations of similar groups of experts named on authorship lists of influential professional society guidelines.”

Ioannidis doesn’t discard the entire notion of conferences.  In fact, he projects what “repurposed” conferences might be like:

“Repurposed conferences could be designed to be entirely committed to academic detailing (ed. note: drug company “educational” outreach to physicians). All their exhibitions and satellite symposia would deal with how to prescribe specific interventions appropriately and how to favor interventions that are inexpensive, well tested, and safe. Such repurposed conferences could also focus on how to use fewer tests and fewer interventions or even no tests and no interventions, when they are not clearly needed.”


Related Resources


April 10, 2012 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Posters from Life Sciences and Medicine Conferences and Meetings

The Faculty of 1,000 has a prototype site for their new open access F1000 Posters. This site will be a repository of posters from across the life sciences and medicine. Submissions are voluntary, but will only be  included  after a review process. In the future the site will have improved viewing of the posters, interactive tools, and full search capabilities.

From the Web site


Our aim in building F1000 Posters is to give poster presenters and supporting societies the opportunity to make their work known to a wider audience. It will also enable much greater discussion on new research, hopefully opening up opportunities for new collaborations which will help advance scientific research as a whole. Posters deposited here will be reviewed by our world-renowned Faculty who will select posters that they consider to be particularly interesting and important and write evaluations for inclusion in our award-winning F1000 evaluation service.


The early scientific information presented in conference posters is universally agreed to be an important resource but, unfortunately, it is almost always completely lost once a conference is over. As a result, posters are only viewed by a handful of people before they disappear, either forever or until the research is later published as a paper. Some important work may never get published, particularly if it focuses on negative results or case studies. The system of removing posters from view after a conference is over represents a vast loss to the scientific community of unique and potentially valuable information.

Posters advertising Faculty of 1000

For more information, contact Faculty of 1000,

They  have other options, including

* We would be happy to send you professionally printed copies of the
posters – just tell us which size you prefer – small (A4) or large (A3)
– and the best mailing address to use
* We could send you banner-type versions of these posters to put on your
institutional pages as appropriate (or simply some text and a logo) –
just tell us what you require
* Additionally, do you know of any students who might be keen to earn a
little extra money by putting up a whole series of posters around all
the relevant departments on your campus? We would then mail them a
whole batch of printed posters.

October 2, 2010 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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