A number of biomedical journals designate articles to undergo accelerated review and publication to quickly relate important research or public health findings. However, a study in the April 30 issue of Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests the criteria for accelerated publishing may be inconsistent.
To assess whether fast-tracked articles are as important as their designation implies, William Ghali and coauthors selected 6 articles published in the New England Journal of Medicine and 6 in
The Lancet that were either prereleased on the journal Web site or fast tracked. Twelve "control" articles published in the usual way were matched to the case articles according to journal, topic and year of publication. Forty-two general internists rated the articles, using 10-point scales, on 6 dimensions addressing the articles' importance, ease of applicability and impact on health outcomes.
For each dimension, the mean score was significantly higher for the case articles than for the control articles. However, in 5 of the 12 matched pairs the control article had a higher mean score than the case article across all the dimensions. The authors suggest that the journals' current practices for choosing articles for accelerated publication may be inconsistent.
In a related commentary form New England Journal of Medicine Editor Jerome Kassirer relfects on his experiences and describes the challenges of choosing between a more metred approach to editing and releasing biomedical information and one of rushing important but sometimes imperfect papers to print.