Annals of Clinical Biochemistry Guidelines for Authors

SUBMIT YOUR ARTICLE ONLINE

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These instructions comply with the Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals formulated by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (for further details, see the ICMJE site)


All articles submitted to the Annals of Clinical Biochemistry must comply with the instructions below. Failure to do so will result in return of the manuscript and possible delay in publication.

1. Aims and scope
The Annals of Clinical Biochemistry accepts papers that contribute to knowledge in all fields of clinical biochemistry, especially those appertaining to the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of disease in humans. It publishes papers on clinical audit, metabolic medicine, immunology, genetics, biotechnology, haematology, computing and management where they have both biochemical and clinical relevance.
Papers describing evaluation or implementation of commercial reagent kits or the performance of new analysers require substantial original information.

Research undertaken in non-human animals will not be considered for publication in the Annals.

2. Editorial policy
Covering letter

The covering letter is important. To help the Editor in his preliminary evaluation, please indicate why you think the paper suitable for publication. If your paper should be considered for fast-track publication, please explain why.

Peer review

All papers submitted for publication undergo peer review.

Ethical approval

All research submitted for publication must be approved by an ethics committee and the ethical approval number included in the declarations (see below).

Patient consent

Any article containing identifiable patient information must be accompanied by a letter from the authors confirming that the patient has given written informed consent to publication. Patient’s names, initials or hospital numbers should never be published in written descriptions. Other information (age, gender, race, etc) should only be included where it is essential for scientific purposes and the patient (or parent or guardian) has given written informed consent. The Editors may also ask authors to remove personal information that, whilst interesting and colourful, does not add to the substance of an article, but does increase the likelihood of parties being identified. If there is any doubt about whether or not information is identifiable, the Editors are happy to discuss this before an article is submitted. Reviewers will also be asked to take careful account of issues relating to patient confidentiality when reviewing articles.

Case studies are not the only kinds of article to which this rule will be applied, but they will be subject to additional scrutiny. Not only should submissions be accompanied by the letter confirming written informed consent, but the Editors also expect to be informed about the measures that have been taken to anonymise the details that could have led to parties being identified. They also reserve the right to work with the authors to make additional anonymising changes as they or the reviewers see fit.

In order to ensure that valuable and novel issues are aired, the Editors will sometimes consider publishing cases studies that contain potentially identifiable information where it has been impossible or clearly undesirable to seek consent from relevant parties. However, given the strong preference for consent having been sought and obtained the reasons for not seeking consent must be compelling, and the public interest arguments for publishing the case must be powerful. In cases where consent has not been obtained, the authors must provide a statement from a Medical Director or equivalent that the hospital or medical centre is happy for the case to be published.

Please do not submit the patient’s actual written informed consent with your article, as this in itself breaches the patient’s confidentiality. The Journal requests that you confirm to us, in writing, that you have obtained written informed consent but the written consent itself should be held by the authors/investigators themselves, for example in a patients hospital record. The confirmatory letter may be uploaded with your submission as a supplementary file.

Should you require a template form for obtaining written informed consent, this can be supplied by e-mailing the
Journal Administrator.

Competing interests and other declarations

All authors are required to declare any conflicts of interest when submitting papers for publication.
Declarations of funding sources, a guarantor and a statement of contributorship are also required. If any of the fields are ‘None’ or ‘Not applicable’ please state so. The guarantor is the person willing to take full responsibility for the article, including for the accuracy and appropriateness of the reference list. This will often be the most senior member of the research group and is commonly also the author for correspondence. Please state author names as initials. For example;

DECLARATIONS

Competing interests: HG is an employee of Statins Incorp. EF has received grants from Globescape plc. LM provides consultative advice to Lab Tests Ltd.

Funding: This research was funded by the University of York

Ethical approval: The ethics committee of Northern Yorkshire approved this study (REC number: GH23335H)

Guarantor: EF

Contributorship: LM and HG researched literature and conceived the study. EF was involved in protocol development, gaining ethical approval, patient recruitment and data analysis. AB wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors reviewed and edited the manuscript and approved the final version of the manuscript

Acknowledgements: We would like to thank Sarah Powells for her assistance and guidance in this research. We would also like to thank Globescape plc for providing reagents at a reduced cost.

Permissions

All previously published material must be accompanied by the written consent to reproduction of the copyright holder.
An acknowledgement of permission should be included at the relevant point in the paper, and a full reference to the original place of publication should be included in the reference list.

Copyright

Authors of accepted manuscripts will be required to allocate copyright to the Association for Clinical Biochemistry prior to publication.

3. Types of articles
Editorials

Articles referring to research published elsewhere in that issue of the journal, or to important events in clinical biochemistry. Editorials are generally invited.

Personal Views

Articles pertinent to clinical and scientific developments or to the practice of clinical biochemistry. Personal Views are generally invited.

Review Articles

Articles of a substantial and topical nature. Review Articles are generally invited.

Original Articles

Articles describing substantial original research that falls within the scope of the journal. These should be up to 5000 words, including an Abstract, and have no more than six figures and tables. Structured headings are required.

Short Reports

Brief technical notes and preliminary communications. These should be less than 1000 words, including an Abstract, and have only one small figure or table and no more than six references. Structured headings, including a conclusion, are desirable.

Case Reports

Articles describing clinical cases that have significant original observations, are instructive, include adequate methodological details and provide conclusions. These should be up to 2000 words, including an Abstract, and have no more than two figures and tables. Structured headings are desirable. Please note the above comments regarding obtaining written informed consent.

Letters to the Editor

Letters arise normally but not exclusively from papers published in this and other scientific journals. These are usually less than 500 words.

Book Reviews

Commissioned by the Book Review Editor, Dr Andrew Day, c/o ACB Office, 130–132 Tooley Street, London SE1 2TU, UK.

Journal Watch

Short reviews of recently published articles of interest to clinical biochemists. These are usually less than 500 words.

Piscator

An entertaining end piece to the journal, written by the Piscatrix.

4. How to submit a manuscript
Only manuscripts submitted via the online manuscript submission and peer review site, which can be found at http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/acb will be considered for publication.

All submissions must be in English.

Tables and figures may be submitted as separate files, in which case the files should be uploaded in the following order: (1) main text, including title page, abstract and references; (2) tables; (3) figures; (4) supplementary files; and (5) author proforma.

File formats

Text files must be saved in .doc or .rtf format. Other suitable formats include .tif for photographic images, .xls for graphs produced in Excel, and .eps for other line drawings.

5. How to prepare a manuscript
Formatting

Manuscripts must be submitted using double line-spaced, unjustified text throughout, with headings and subheadings in bold case. Press ‘Enter’ only at the end of a paragraph, list entry or heading.

Title page

The first page should contain the full title of the manuscript, a short title, the author(s) name(s) and affiliation(s), and the name, postal and email addresses of the author for correspondence, as well as a full list of declarations.

The title should be concise and informative, accurately indicating the content of the article. The short title should be no more than six words long.

The correct order for declarations is: competing interests, funding, ethical approval (including reference number), guarantor, contributorship, acknowledgements.

Abstract

A structured abstract of no more than 250 words must accompany all Review Articles, Original Articles and Short Reports.
The abstract should normally use four headings: Background (context and rationale); Methods (type of study, patients, materials, techniques); Results (main numerical data and statistical information); and Conclusions (main objective and verifiable conclusions).
Personal Views and Case Reports should be accompanied by an unstructured abstract of up to 250 words.
Letters to the Editor do not require an abstract.

Tables

Tables must be prepared using the Table feature of the word processor. Tables should not duplicate information given in the text, should be numbered in the order in which they are mentioned in the text, and should be given a brief title.

Figures

All figures should be numbered in the order in which they are mentioned in the text. All figures must be accompanied by a figure legend. If figures are supplied in separate files, the figure legends must all be listed at the end of the main text file.

Line drawings should be produced electronically and clearly labelled using a sans serif font such as Arial. Graphs may be supplied as Excel spreadsheets (one per sheet). Other line drawings should be supplied in a suitable vector graphic file format (e.g. .eps)

All photographic images should be submitted in camera-ready form (i.e. with all extraneous areas removed), and where necessary, magnification should be shown using a scale marker. Photographic images must be supplied at high resolution, preferably 600 dpi. Images supplied at less than 300 dpi are unsuitable for print and will delay publication. The preferred file format is .tif.

References

Only essential references should be included. Authors are responsible for verifying them against the original source material. RSM Press uses the Vancouver referencing system: references should be identified in the text by superscript Arabic numerals after any punctuation, and numbered and listed at the end of the paper in the order in which they are first cited in the text. Automatic numbering should be avoided. References should include the names and initials of up to six authors. If there are more than six authors, only the first three should be named, followed by et al. Publications for which no author is apparent may be attributed to the organization from which they originate. Simply omit the name of the author for anonymous journal articles – avoid using ’Anonymous’. Punctuation in references should be kept to a minimum, as shown in the following examples:

  1. Baynes J, Dominiczak M. Medical Biochemistry. Philadelphia: Mosby, 1999
  2. Abozguia K, Phan TT, Shivu GN, et al. Insights into how to conduct a clinical trial in the UK. J R Soc Med 2007;100:469–72

Abbreviations

Symbols and abbreviations should be those currently in use. Authors should not create new abbreviations and acronyms. The RSM’s book Units, Symbols and Abbreviations provides lists of approved abbreviations.

Units

All measurements should be expressed in SI units.

6. Statistical Guidelines
These guidelines are designed to help authors prepare statistical data for publication and are not a substitute for the detailed guidance required to design a study or perform a statistical analysis. Each section of a scientific paper is addressed separately.

Summary

The number and source of data must be stated and conclusions which have a statistical basis must be substantiated by inclusion of pertinent descriptive statistics (mean or median, standard deviation [SD] or interquartile range, percentage coefficient of variation [%CV], 95% confidence limits, regression equations, etc.).

Methods

Experimental design, subject selection and randomization procedures should be described and analytical precision quoted when appropriate. The hypotheses to be tested by a statistical procedure must be stated and where appropriate power calculations for the sample size used should be given ((it is recommended that
the power is at least 80% and, preferably, at least 90%). In case-control studies clearly define how cases and controls were selected and what matching has taken place.

Authors should detail how they have addressed missing data
and loss to follow up. Analytical methods used to account for
sampling strategy should be described.

We would advise authors to consider the STARD,1 CONSORT2 and STROBE3 statements for studies reporting diagnostic or clinical trials. They offer guidance on writing reports with complete clarity.

Results

Unnecessary precision, particularly in tables, should be avoided. Rounded figures are easier to compare and extra decimal places are rarely important. Descriptive statistics require an additional digit to those used for the raw data. Percentages should not be expressed to more than one decimal place and not be used at all for small samples.

Normally distributed data should be described using a mean, SD and/or %CV and expressed as ‘mean (SD)’ not ‘mean ± SD’. When data are not normally distributed, following demonstration by tests such as the Shapiro-Wilk test,4 then medians and interquartile ranges should be used in place of mean and SD. Skewed data can often be normalized by logarithmic transformation or a power transformation. The statistical analysis and calculation of summary statistics should be carried out on the transformed data and the summary statistics transformed back to the original scale for presentation. If a logarithmic scale is used then graphs should display non-transformed data on a logarithmic scale.

Graphs showing data of comparable magnitude should be of a similar size and design. All individual points should be displayed where possible by displacing overlapping points. Error bars showing the standard error of the mean (SEM) or interquartile range, as appropriate, can be used to aid interpretation of the data.

The results of significance tests such as Student’s and chi-squared should be presented with descriptive statistics, degrees of freedom (if appropriate) and probability P. The validity of any assumptions should be checked (e.g. conventional t-tests assume a normal distribution and equal variance for each set of data). For 2 x 2 contingency table analysis by the chi-squared test the continuity correction must be applied and for small expected frequencies Fisher’s Exact Test used. P values should be reported in full to 1
or 2 significant figures, describing P values as <0.05 or NS (not significant)should be avoided. If the results are highly significant and the calculated P value from the computer is e.g. 0.000, then the use of P<0.0005 is acceptable. Confidence intervals should be stated, particularly for non-significant results.

The conventional use of statistical significance is P≤0.05. If a different significance level needs to be used then the reasons why must be clearly stated in the statistical method section.

Discussion

Statistical significance should not be equated to importance and P values should not be compared between different data sets or different statistical tests. Association should not be interpreted as causation without additional evidence.

Problem areas

Multiple comparisons: These can produce spurious and misleading significance values. The primary hypothesis should always be clearly stated, and associations detected by retrospective analysis should be interpreted with caution. Whenever possible a single overall statistical test should be applied first e.g. ANOVA. If this is not significant then multiple comparisons must not be applied. If it is significant then some form of multiple range test can be applied. If a single overall test is not possible then multiple comparisons must use a Bonferroni type significance level.

Paired data: With paired data the differences between individual pairs of data and the variability of the differences are more important than the individual values. Graphical representation should also show the difference between individual pairs, e.g. by plotted lines joining the paired data points.

Standard regression analysis: This requires data points to be independent (repeated measurements are not independent). Any independent variable should be measured without significant error, e.g. age or time, and the points should be evenly distributed over the range and have no outliers (this can be easily examined with a scatterplot). These requirements are rarely satisfied with biological data.

Method comparison: Method comparison using regression and correlation coefficients is inappropriate and should be performed using Bland and Altman difference plots.5,6 If a standard scatter plot and regression line are thought to be useful they can be given along with the Bland–Altman plot (also called a
Tukey-mean difference plot). When a method is being compared
against a reference method, then the latter should be plotted on
the X-axis, in preference to the mean of the two methods.6 Remember if two methods are supposed to be measuring the same thing then it is extremely likely they will be correlated so as a statistical tool correlation is not going to provide anything new.

If you are carrying out complicated statistical analyses e.g. multivariate analysis, ROC analysis etc., then it is recommended that you seek advice from a statistician and evidence this with your
submission.

References

  1. Bossuyt PM, Reitsma JB, Bruns DE, et al. for the STARD Group. Towards complete and accurate reporting of studies of diagnostic accuracy: the STARD initiative. Ann Clin Biochem 2003;40:357–63
  2. Moher D, Schultz KF, Altman DG for the CONSORT Group. The CONSORT statement: revised recommendations for improving the quality of reports of parallel-group randomization trials. Lancet 2001;357:1191–4
  3. von Elm E, Altman DG, Egger M, Pocock SJ, Gøtzsche PC, Vandenbroucke JP for the STROBE Initiative. Strengthening the reporting of observational studies in epidemiology (STROBE) statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies. BMJ 2007;335:806–8
  4. Altman DG. Practical Statistics for Medical Research. London: Chapman & Hall, 1991:132–12
  5. Bland JM, Altman DG. Statistical methods for assessing agreement between two methods of clinical measurement. Lancet 1986;1:307–10
  6. Twomey PJ. How to use difference plots in quantitative method comparison studies. Ann Clin Biochem 2006;43:124–9

7. Proofs and eprints
Proofs will be sent by email to the designated corresponding author as a PDF file attachment and should be corrected and returned promptly; corrections should be kept to a minimum.

A PDF eprint of each published article will be supplied free of charge to the author for correspondence; hardcopy offprints may be ordered from the publisher when the proofs are returned.