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Trenden Flanigan


Objectives: The orthopaedic surgery residency applicant class of 2016 had a nationwide match rate of 67.8%. This institution received 573 applications for four residency spots. As orthopaedic surgery residency becomes more competitive, so does the drive among applicants to improve their residency applications. Research experience, in particular, is becoming an increasingly common component of applications. Previous research has demonstrated that the requirement for a PubMed Identification number on all published citations on residency applications since 2014 has led to a drastic decrease in misrepresentation of published research. While publication is the ultimate goal of most research projects, not all manuscripts are published at the time of application. The purpose of this study was to determine the ultimate publication rate of the unpublished manuscripts listed as accepted by or submitted to a journal on orthopaedic residency applications and provide orthopaedic residency selection committees with information they can use to assess the relevance of not-yet-published works listed on applications.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed on all orthopedic surgery residency applications to a single institution (n=573) 30 months after their submission, focusing on the updated publication status of those manuscripts that applicants had listed as accepted by or submitted to a journal. Manuscripts were assessed by searching PubMed, Google Scholar, and specified journal websites by means of manuscript title, applicant name, lead author name, other author names, journal name, and finally by keywords. Publications found were compared to reported information supplied by the applicants and any not encountered after this search were deemed not found. In addition, the validity of each journal to which manuscripts were accepted or submitted was assessed using Ulrich’s Periodicals Directory.

Results: Among all applications, there were 309 reported “accepted” and 693 “submitted” manuscripts. Of those works listed as accepted by a journal, 73.7% (228/309) went on to publication as reported, whereas 40.4% (280/693) of those listed as submitted to a journal progressed to publication. Of note, there were a high number of manuscripts (45 “accepted”, 82 “submitted’) listed as pending publications that were not submitted for publication at all, but rather were poster or oral presentations incorrectly categorized by applicants. In a total of 23 cases, contrary to their report, the applicant was not listed as an author on a project that did progress to publication.

Conclusion: Less than half of research projects listed as submitted to a journal eventually became published, some of which may be due to rejection of the initial research manuscript. Surprisingly, a large percentage of projects listed as accepted for publication also failed to achieve published status. While some of this discrepancy may be attributable to intentional misrepresentation or other unknown factors, it is likely that a greater percentage is secondary to applicant misunderstanding as to how to complete the research section of their residency applications. Many projects listed as in the process of publication were found to be, in actuality, poster or oral presentations that were incorrectly categorized. Clearer application section distinctions and medical student education on the research publication process may be merited. Orthopaedic residency selection committees should consider this information when assessing the relevance of not-yet-published works listed on applications.