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New Report Makes Epi Writing Capacity Recommendations

Posted By Jessica Pittman, Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
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Over the past year, CSTE has conducted an assessment on the scientific writing needs and trends for applied epidemiologists. Applied epidemiologists communicate complex public health information in writing with various audiences, including conference presentations and peer-reviewed manuscripts for journals. This work is done with varying degrees of preparation, mentoring, or resources. The CSTE Scientific Writing Workgroup as part of the Epidemiology Methods subcommittee facilitated data collection and the CSTE national office performed the data analysis. The Applied Epidemiology Scientific Writing Trends, Needs, and Recommendations, 2014 provides you with constructive recommendations to promote professional development focused on scientific writing skills.

Click here to read the Executive Summary and Full Report of the Applied Epidemiology Scientific Writing Trends, Needs, and Recommendations, 2014.

The results are grouped into four categories: scientific writing and publishing experience, barriers to scientific writing, facilitators to scientific writing, and desired tools and resources for scientific writing. Respondents almost exclusively had a master’s degree or higher level of education (94%), and 62% reported CSTE membership. Seventeen percent of respondents had worked in applied epidemiology less than two years, while 13% of respondents had worked in applied epidemiology for 20 or more years. More respondents worked at state health departments (64%) than local health departments (23%), with the remainder representing federal and tribal agencies and academia. A select few results are listed below:
  • Only 58% of respondents published work in the peer-reviewed literature as a job function.
  • State health department epidemiologists were nearly twice as likely to report that publishing their work was a requirement of a funding source as local health department epidemiologists.
  • Publishing among those with academic appointments (19% of the sample) was statistically more likely than among applied epidemiologists who did not have an academic appointment.
  • Just over half of the respondents reported having access to peer-reviewed literature (55%), oftentimes through academic appointments.
  • Organizational structure, resources, and competing demands provide a better understanding of perceived barriers to scientific writing with time to write being the most common barrier expressed by 68% of applied epidemiologists, though 28% report they receive some protected time for this task.
  • Facilitating factors that influence scientific writing in health departments included: supportive organizational culture; technical support including writers, editors and communication specialists; access to peer-reviewed literature; university partnerships and the option for electronic publishing.
  • Templates for general publications were requested by about half of participants.
  • Access to a mentoring network of experienced writers from state and local health departments was also similarly desired, and access to editors (46%) and access to technical writers (44%) were also suggested as helpful.
  • A journal club to encourage publishing and peer review was requested by two out of every five respondents.
Recommendations from the report encourage scientific writing among applied epidemiologists by: offering dedicated time to write, allowing epidemiologists to hold academic appointments, partnering with libraries or universities to ensure access to peer-reviewed literature, encouraging a supportive organizational culture to foster writing and publishing, and providing resources, such as manuscript templates, technical writers, editors, and journal clubs.

The results of the Applied Epidemiology Scientific Writing Trends, Needs, and Recommendations, 2014 will be presented by webinar on Thursday, May 21st at 1pm ET and will be subsequently archived on the CSTE Webinar Library. Register for the webinar at: https://cste.webex.com/cste/k2/j.php?MTID=t527e19346509124ae87f7253b281df5d


A roundtable discussion will be held at the 2015 CSTE Annual Conference on Monday, June 14, 2015 at 1pm. The roundtable will provide an opportunity to talk about what types of resources can be developed and prioritized to support applied epidemiologists’ scientific writing.

The Applied Epidemiology Scientific Writing Trends, Needs, and Recommendations, 2014 report was created as a result of the hard work of the Scientific Writing Workgroup: Michelle Housey, Sarah Marikos, Sarah Patrick, Jessica Pittman, Maayan Simckes, Mandy Stahre, Laura Tolmedi, and Jessica Wurster.

Jessica Pittman, MPH, CHES is Associate Research Analyst at the CSTE national office. To learn more about workforce capacity, read the recent Epidemiology Capacity Assessment reports for Chronic Disease, Maternal and Child Health, Environmental Health, as well as core needs in the epidemiology workforce.

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