• Unverifiable Publications on Ophthalmology Residency Applications

    Written By: Lynda Seminara
    Selected By: Neil M. Bressler, MD, and Deputy Editors

    Journal Highlights

    JAMA Ophthalmology, June 2018

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    Tamez et al. looked at rates of unver­ifiable publications among applicants offered an interview for ophthalmology residencies. They found that among candidates who listed published works, just over 9% had at least 1 unverifiable citation. As a result, they recommended that ophthalmology residencies require applicants to supply reference identification numbers or copies of publications.

    For this retrospective review, the authors evaluated 322 ophthalmology residency applications (San Francisco Match) submitted to Vanderbilt Uni­versity School of Medicine during a 6-year period. Various search engines were used to verify publications listed by the applicants, including PubMed, Google, Google Scholar, and journal websites. Publications were deemed unverifiable if no record was found by any search attempt or if substantial discrepancies were detected, such as errors in authorship, incorrect journal names, or meaningful differences in the publication title or length (e.g., abstract vs. full length). Entries with small errors such as incorrect page numbers were not considered unverifiable.

    Of 322 applications, 239 listed at least 1 published work. Of these, 22 (9.2%) cited an unverifiable publica­tion. Two applicants had 2 unverifiable publications. Two of the 22 applicants with unverifiable publications (9.1%) had completed medical school outside the United States.

    Specific problems included no veri­fiable location of a publication (54%), incorrect type of publication (20.8%), incorrect author position (16.7%), ap­plicant not listed as an author (4.2%), and substantial differences in the title (4.2%). One entry contained both an incorrect author position and journal.

    In light of these findings, the authors are changing their review process for applicants to Vanderbilt’s ophthalmolo­gy residency program. Candidates may be asked to bring copies of published works to interviews or to list DOI (digital object identifier) and PubMed identification numbers in a brief supplemental application. The authors also noted that, given the persistence of this problem, making appropriate modifications to the San Francisco Match application may help to ensure recruitment of highly ethical individu­als. (See related commentary by Neil R. Miller, MD, in the same issue. Also see a response from San Francisco Match in this month’s “Thought From Your Colleague.”)

    The original article can be found here.