Veterinary journals not clear on antibody reporting

As part of Veterinary Month here at CiteAb, we’ve been busy reviewing the veterinary research journals for the antibody reporting guidelines they provide to researchers.

We used SCImago to establish which the highest ranked veterinary journals are, and have looked in detail at some of the leading publications; Vaccine (who run veterinary as well as human vaccine papers), the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, and Veterinary Research.

take_surveyIf you’ve followed our blog here at CiteAb for a while, you’ll be aware that we work to increase the information given to researchers about citing their reagents correctly. Few people realise that less than half of antibodies used in publications can even be identified, making it harder for everybody else to reproduce and build on published work. The situation has gained the attention of the whole publishing community, with Nature publishing group recently mentioning antibody reporting specifically in their attempt to improve reproducibility in their articles.

So how do the veterinary journals do?

Well both Vaccine and Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology give instructions to authors that include limited mentions of antibody reporting.

In Vaccine, an Elsevier journal, the guide to authors states ‘Publication of an article in Vaccine is taken to imply that the authors are prepared to freely distribute materials used in the published experiments (e.g. antibodies, cell lines) to academic researchers for their own use.’ This doesn’t demand accurate reporting, but does approach the subject.

Antibody usage is not common in Vaccine but when they are used, only the antibody company names, not codes, are given in citations. For example, in the paper ‘Needle-free and adjuvant-free epicutaneous boosting of pertussis immunity: Preclinical proof of concept’ companies supplying antibodies are clearly named, whereas the antibody codes are not listed.

Veterinary Research gives instructions to its authors, but does not mention reporting on reagents or antibodies. Instead it says ‘The materials and methods section should include the design of the study, the type of materials involved, a clear description of all comparisons, and the type of analysis used, to enable replication.’

However, this is the journal which actually had the most accurate reporting – just imagine how good it could be with a bit of extra guidance for its authors!  Take the paper ‘Investigating the contribution of IL-17A and IL-17F to the host response during Escherichia coli mastitis’ as an example. A separate list of antibodies, with both the supplier name and the antibody code, are included.
pic_veterinary_degreeThe third journal we looked at was Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, which states in its guidelines for authors that ‘manuscripts that describe new genes and development of tools such as monoclonal antibodies are also of interest when part of a larger biological study’ but does not give guidance on antibody reporting. Unsurprisingly, the reporting in the journal is not strong, with most papers giving supplier names but no antibody codes. For example, see ‘Ovocalyxin-36 is an effector protein modulating the production of proinflammatory mediators’.

Finally, the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine does not specifically mention antibodies, but does state that ‘the materials and methods should be provided in sufficient detail that another investigator could replicate the study’.

Tulay Gulsen, a postdoctoral researcher doing an internship here at CiteAb, said: “This journal is medicine based, so there are not a huge number of papers that report antibody use. However, in a few cases that antibodies are used, codes and company names are not clear. As the journal has already included reproducability in its guidelines, it wouldn’t take much to mention antibody reporting, and we urge journal editors to do this. We welcome enquiries from journal editors looking to improve reagent reporting, and will happily help out and support where we can.”

For researchers writing up at the moment, see our guidelines on antibody reporting. Please do share these with your colleagues and labs, and feel free to reproduce them on your own webpages if they’ll help more people accurately report on antibody use.

– Andrew and the CiteAb team

Subscribe to the CiteAb Newsletter