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Deciding on the Hospice UK Conference abstract submissions

Author: Dr Sarah Russell
21 August 2017

Dr Sarah Russell, Hospice UK’s Head of Research and Clinical Innovation, is Abstract Committee Chair for the Hospice UK Annual Conference. Now that the committee has selected the abstracts and their authors, she explains how the review process works.

The abstracts have been submitted, the scores are in and the verbal feedback has been given. The decisions have been made for the Hospice UK Annual Conference ‘Leading, Learning and Innovating’ on November 22-24 in Liverpool.

Thank you to everyone who submitted their work, you should by now have received an email with the decision about your abstract.

We value the submitted abstracts because one of the highly evaluated parts of the Hospice UK national conference is participating and sharing of work, e.g. when asked what was best about the 2016 conference, feedback from last year’s delegates included:

“The variety of topics covered in plenary and parallel sessions - allowed attendees to 'design their own conference'”

 “Poster presentations - getting ideas and networking” 

Our abstract peer review process aims to assess the abstracts as fairly as possible so that we can make decisions about the parallel sessions (27 oral presentations), oral posters (four in total) and displayed posters. This year we had 407 abstracts submitted (15.6 per cent more than last year) from a wide variety of authors.

The topics ranged from clinical practice, education, research and quality improvement studies to fundraising, strategy, communication and governance issues. Submissions included those from academics, professors, educationalists, clinicians, strategic leads, CEOs, fundraisers, communication, PR leads and human resource departments. Organisations that submitted their work were hospices, NHS palliative care teams, social care, non-statutory bodies, universities, schools and research bodies.

Eleven pairs of reviewers independently scored the abstracts for the selection meeting. It was not an easy choice because of the number of suitable abstracts. We did not accept all abstracts, which I know is disappointing, and as last year we offer personal feedback to those authors if requested. I would encourage authors not to be disheartened, often there are only small adjustments that need to be made. Please get in touch with me on if you would like feedback.

The review process

We are often asked about our peer review process. All abstracts are scored by two independent reviewers, who act as a pair and score about 35 abstracts per pair. They only see the title and content, not the author or their organisation.

Each reviewer scores each abstract out of 18 marks (background, aims, methods, results, conclusions and innovation) and makes recommendations for oral presentation, oral or displayed poster, or decline. Reviewers can add comments to explain their thinking.  

This then gives each abstract a combined score out of 36.

If reviewer 1 and 2 have very different scores then they discuss and change if necessary before submitting their final scores to us.

Because reviewer pairs can have variance in how they score, we rank each pairs’ ratings from high to low so that we can see what are the top and bottom scores per reviewer pair, rather than just base decisions on total scores from all the reviewers.

At the selection meeting we look at all the abstracts and have verbal feedback from the reviewers if there is anything else they want to say. We consider authors’ preferences for oral presentation or posters as well as their scores, ranks and reviewers’ feedback. We then make decisions about offering oral presentations for the parallel sessions and posters.

I read all 407 abstracts and I felt privileged to so do. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and honesty of the submissions. Thank you also to our peer reviewers who spent time reading, scoring and discussing the abstracts.

Whether your abstract was accepted or not - they showed how the hospice, palliative and wider community is rising to the challenge of 21st century end of life care. There were examples of organisations extending their reach both physically and conceptually. Access to hospice and palliative care is being widened, inequities acknowledged and ways to address it demonstrated. Collaborations and partnerships are building resilience and enabling various workforces to care for people at the end of life; the hospice and palliative care sector is responsive and dynamic.

I look forward to seeing you, the posters and presentations this November. There will be a prize for the best displayed poster, judged by Professor Keri Thomas, who is also judging the oral poster tour. These prizes are courtesy of BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care, where the accepted abstracts will also be published (it is an official journal of Hospice UK).

For more information about the programme or to register to attend visit Hospice UK National Conference. Do not forget to look at the FAQ page as well for information about deadlines to apply for bursaries or accept your abstract offer.

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