Mastering the ASHG Abstract Review Process: Select the Right Topic

Posted By: Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

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Kiran Musunuru, 2019 Chair, ASHG Program Committee

As you are preparing your ASHG 2019 abstract, I wanted to take some time to share how the ASHG topics and subtopics are structured and guidance on how to select the right topic. Understanding this will help you score better during review and get your talk or poster in front of the right people.

How ASHG Topics are Structured

Each of the twelve topics covers a large portion of current research in human genetics and are organized to group the most similar abstracts together. The topics and subtopics form the basis of the abstract review and session building process and, eventually, the organization of the poster hall. Program Committee members are assigned to review an abstract topic aligned with their research expertise.

With an average of 3,500 abstracts submitted, it has been helpful to further divide the topics into subtopics based on organ systems and clinical phenotypes. The subtopics are the same regardless of the main topic chosen. When Program Committee members gather to draft the Platform Sessions in July, they will often use the subtopics to build cross-topic sessions covering the most exciting research.

Changes to the Topics to Keep Up with the Field

The topic/subtopic system was last reorganized in 2016. Given the pace of expansion in human genetic research, the Program Committee reviewed and revised the topics this year. The largest changes were the addition of two topics. “Precision Medicine, Pharmacogenomics, and Genetic Therapies” was added to address the rise in genetic therapy development in recent years. “Molecular Effects of Genetic Variation” expands upon the previous “Genome Structure and Function” topic, so that we may group together all the functional genetics and gene expression abstracts that were previously spread across several abstract topics. Look for the new topics as you browse posters in Houston.

Tips for Selecting the Right Topic

Selecting the correct topic for your research is important to make sure it is reviewed by the appropriate experts and programmed with similar abstracts in either an oral or poster session. Each topic is represented proportionally in the talks, so there is no advantage to selecting one topic over another. In fact, submitting to the wrong topic will likely result in a poorer score because experts from other fields may view your work as less compelling.

Before submitting your abstract, make sure you read the definitions for each of the twelve topics. Determine which topic is most likely to have closely related studies to yours, as that is likely the best fit. Taking a few extra minutes to find the right home for your abstract will help you achieve the best possible score and boost your visibility with relevant colleagues.

Submit by June 6, 2019, to have your work considered for ASHG 2019. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Kiran Musunuru, MD, PhD, MPH, 2019 Program Committee Chair, is an Associate Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine and Genetics, and the Director of the Cardiovascular Institute’s Genetic and Epigenetic Origins of Disease Program, at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

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