Elevate Your ASHG 2018 Abstract – Here’s How

Posted By: Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, Chair, ASHG 2018 Program Committee

Every year, I look forward to getting an early look at all the exciting developments presented in ASHG abstracts. As an abstract scorer, I am even more enthusiastic when the abstract is easy to read and evaluate. Read on for tips to elevate your abstract during scoring and get started writing.

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2018 Program Committee Chair Heather Mefford, MD, PhD (courtesy Dr. Mefford)

→ Ready to submit? Visit the abstract submission site.

Start Early and Get Organized

When scoring an abstract, I generally do a quick read through the abstract to get an overall feel for the study being presented. During this first pass, I also try to get a sense for how organized/well-written the abstract is as well as a sense for how ‘excited’ I am about the content.

I then do a more careful read to determine: (a) is the aim (hypothesis) of the study clear? (b) are the methods clearly outlined? (c) are there results presented – not just promised – in the abstract? Do the results seem valid?

These may seem like simple things, but I can’t emphasize enough the importance of a well-organized abstract that is easy to follow. If the reviewer has to work too hard to figure out what the abstract is about, it will be difficult to score it well.

Give Your Work Context

Although reviewers are all ASHG members, and we try to select reviewers with sub-topic expertise, remember that your reviewers may not be experts in your specific area. Your abstract should be clearly written with enough background to put your research into context and highlight the importance of your data. Don’t put it off until the last minute – give yourself time to draft the abstract and to get input from others before you submit!

Submit Exciting and Mature Work

The highest-scoring 10 percent of >3000 submitted abstracts are awarded speaking slots, and only twelve of those are chosen for plenary talks. Abstracts that make good plenary talks address all of the points above. In addition, they present results that are novel and that represent a significant advance in the field. Often, the work presented is fairly ‘mature’, but this doesn’t mean the project has been going on a long time. The work presented has a clear hypothesis, approach, and results that represent a new finding.

Did You Know?

Abstract reviewers dedicate 4-6 hours to score approximately 150 abstracts in just one week. I always learn a lot when reviewing abstracts! I think you really get a feel for what is up-and-coming in the field, and it’s a good experience that is helpful for writing your own abstracts in the future. The hardest part is that it is time consuming. You want to make sure you are giving each abstract full consideration, and that just takes time.

ASHG’s double-blinded review process is important for scoring and selecting the best abstracts. It decreases bias in that the reviewer does not know from which lab or institution the abstract is coming, whether the first author is a student, fellow, junior faculty, or PI, or what the gender of the submitter is. I think that reviewers appreciate the blinding as much as the submitters.

Submit by June 7, 2018, to have your work considered for ASHG 2018. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Heather Mefford, MD, PhD, is Chair of the 2018 Program Committee. She is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics & Genetic Medicine, Director of the Mefford Lab at the University of Washington, and Deputy Director of the Brotman Baty Institute for Precision Medicine. She has been a member of ASHG since 2006.

 

 

Snapshots from the July Program Committee Meeting

Posted By: Pauline Minhinnett, Director of Meetings; and Emily Greene, Meetings Program Coordinator

Earlier this week, the ASHG Program Committee gathered in Bethesda, Maryland, to create and assemble the ASHG 2017 scientific program. Having reviewed more than 3,100 submitted abstracts, with help from more than 100 reviewers, the Committee met in person to bring the highest-scoring work together into themed sessions for the meeting’s three Featured Plenary Abstract Sessions and five Platform Sessions. They used early registration data to assign sessions to rooms, ordered presentations within each session to tell a coherent story, and selected Reviewers’ Choice Abstracts among top-scoring posters. They also discussed educational events at the meeting, trainee opportunities, and abstracts of interest to press.

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PC members alternated small group work with full-committee presentations as each session was constructed.
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Large group discussions informed the scientific program and planning for future years.
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The ASHG 2017 Program Committee

In the coming weeks, the Committee will select and confirm moderators, make any necessary adjustments, and continue planning Tuesday’s Poster Talks session. Those who submitted abstracts should receive their program assignment in mid-August.

Pauline Minhinnett, CMP, CEM, and Emily Greene, MS, are part of ASHG’s Meetings Department. Learn more about the ASHG 2017 Annual Meeting, October 17-21 in Orlando, Florida.

Make Your ASHG 2017 Abstract Shine

Posted by: Emily Greene, MS, ASHG Meetings Program Coordinator

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Watch our 2-minute video of tips to translate your great work into an equally great abstract.

ASHG 2017 abstracts are due in just a few weeks, and every year, abstract authors have the same question: How do I get my abstract programmed? The Rules & Policies and Step-by-Step Submission contain important information about how to conform to ASHG standards and avoid rejection, but today I’ll share some more nuanced tips to help abstract authors rise to the top of the pile.

Include the Most Relevant Information

First and foremost, write a clear, concise abstract that specifies what you did and why it’s exciting. If you sent your abstract to a friend in a distantly related genetics field, could he or she easily identify the work’s purpose, methods used, and key results? If not, then it’s back to the drawing board (or computer, in this case). You may think the information is self-evident, but abstract reviewers each read 150-200 of the >3000 abstracts submitted and will appreciate clarity – they are not mind readers!

Abstracts with broad scientific appeal and new information are more likely to be chosen for talks, especially for the Plenary Sessions. When asked their main reason for attending, most meeting attendees want “to hear about cutting-edge science.” Avoid using general language and clearly state what new information you will present, even if part of your work has been published. It is tempting to recycle language from old abstracts, but keeping your science fresh requires constant updating and a critical eye. Spending an extra hour on writing can reap big rewards if you are awarded a coveted speaking slot.

Remember: your abstract must report scientific findings. Abstracts are not the proper place to announce the availability of a new resource or service, or to advertise a particular product. Discussion of commercial products is permitted and colleagues from industry are encouraged to present, but remember to present objective information about those products, based on generally accepted scientific evidence. Presenting your work as “X product works better than Y product” is a sure way to score poorly during review.

Help Reviewers Classify Your Work

Once you have perfected your abstract and are ready to submit, you may be wondering which main topic and subtopic to select. In 2016, the topics were reorganized for the first time in many years. Authors now choose one main topic and one subtopic indicating what clinical phenotype, related trait, or biological system is being studied, rather than a single topic that might inaccurately describe the research. Of course, given the rise of interdisciplinary and collaborative studies, some authors will still struggle with this classification system. A good rule of thumb is to choose the topic and subtopic that are most appropriate for review. The number of talks chosen from each topic is scaled to the number of submissions, so your abstract has an equal chance of being chosen for a talk regardless of topic. Be sure to tag keywords in your abstract to help the reviewers and Program Committee identify exciting research and build themed sessions.

Follow these tips and submit by June 7, 2017 to have your work considered for ASHG 2017. Then, check out the overview of ASHG’s abstract review process and register to see all your colleagues’ impressive research.

Emily Greene, MS, is the Meetings Program Coordinator at ASHG. She works with the Program Committee and Meetings department to put together the scientific program for the ASHG Annual Meeting.