From here to eternity (well Telford)

Categories: People & Places.

Dr Sarah Russell, Hospice UK’s Head of Research and Chair of Hospice UK’s National Conference abstract selection committee, explains how poster and oral presentation decisions are made and what happens once submissions have been accepted.

Thank you to all the authors who submitted abstracts to the Hospice UK annual conference. It represents a lot of hard work, commitment and energy! Abstracts have now been scored, decisions made and authors informed. But how do abstracts get selected for the conference?

The abstract selection committee is responsible for the management and selection of the submitted abstracts and is part of the wider planning group which has overall responsibility for the conference planning, promotion, delivery and evaluation.

This year we received via Compleat Conference 390 abstracts for which decisions are made for 25 oral presentation slots, approximately 200 displayed posters, and declined abstracts.

We are extremely grateful to our peer reviewers who review the content of the abstracts anonymously and score according to a  set criteria  (which includes examples of abstracts that may or may not be accepted) and within the categories of completed work or work in progress. Our scoring criteria and categories have developed over the last three years in response to authors’ feedback to be a transparent process which encourages both novice and experienced authors to submit abstracts of their projects. Overall, our intention is to be a stimulating place to facilitate confidence, conversations and collaborations about work, but also to encourage a disciplined approach to its design, delivery and evaluation.

We have 11 review team pairs which come from a variety of backgrounds (e.g. clinical, education, research, academic, user, non-clinical, adult and young people settings). Each reviewer individually scores approximately 36 abstracts out of 18 points, and then compares and agrees the final scores with their review partner. The final score (out of 34 points) is then submitted to the committee alongside recommendations for oral presentations, displayed poster or decline. Comments are also provided by the reviewers on their recommendations or general observations.

All abstracts are then grouped into review pair scores – by reference number and ranked by score – and overall rank by score. I read every abstract, every score and every comment and recommendation to gain an overall picture of topics, organisations, settings, consistency in marking and abstract writing standard.

At the July abstract selection meeting, each review team has a 20-minute opportunity to recommend abstracts to the committee that they feel should be oral presentations and those which should be declined. Every abstract that is recommended for oral, poster or decline is listed and discussed so that we can double check them at the end of the meeting.

Once all the review pairs have provided their recommendations, the committee makes the final decisions. We offer personalised feedback about decisions to any authors who request it in order to support and encourage them. The most common feedback given is that the reviewers found it difficult to score if the criteria were not followed or that there was not enough detail in the methods or results to support the conclusion. It is also not unusual to reply that the abstract just missed out on being selected for an oral presentation or a poster.

Compleat Conference then communicates the decisions to the first-named author of each abstract and how they can accept or decline the offer.

Meanwhile, Jean Hindmarch, Hospice UK’s Projects Director, organises the oral presentations into parallel session groupings that fit into the wider programme. At the same time, we think of imaginative headings and descriptions for each parallel session in which the selected abstracts feature. Our information specialist Melanie Hodson starts to categorise all the abstracts, which will be displayed as posters into themes. These themes provide the ‘poster lanes’ at the conference so that delegates can visit posters by topics. By November 27, after proof reading, all the abstracts are published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, an official journal of Hospice UK, as a printed conference supplement and online (for example you can browse the abstracts presented at our 2017 conference via this  link).

Every year a prize is awarded to a displayed poster for its visual design and content – generously donated by BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. If you look carefully during the conference you will see the judges viewing every poster and shortlisting the final six for consideration. And that is it – we start again early next year!

“BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care is delighted to support the Hospice UK poster award and I look forward to meeting the eventual winners in Telford – it will be a difficult decision if the standards of previous years are to be repeated. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care was launched to publish and communicate the best evidence in supportive and palliative care to those working directly with patients and carers and we value our relationship with Hospice UK in furthering this endeavour”. Janet O’Flaherty, Publisher at BMJ

Hospice UK’s National Conference takes place on 27-28 November in Telford.