Tag: peer review

The MENLOC study (again)

In July 2020, with colleagues I received peer review feedback on our draft MENLOC study final report, about which I’ve written before.

Final reports from studies funded by the National Institute for Health Research are sizeable affairs, typically running to 40,000 words or so and detailing the minutiae of what’s been done, and what’s been found. Once peer and editorial review has been satisfied draft reports progress to pre-publication, involving the careful copyediting of the text. Finally, once everything is typeset each report appears in a single issue of the open access journal bearing the name of the funding programme through which the research award was originally made. The screenshot I’ve included in this post is from the NIHR’s comprehensive information for authors, which takes grantholders through the process.

In the case of MENLOC the journal in which our final report will be published is Health Services and Delivery Research, and we’re expecting publication to be sometime in the spring of 2021. In the meantime, this current version of our plain English summary captures what we’ve done and what we’ve found:


We brought together evidence from research, policies, guidance and case studies in the area of end of life care for people with severe mental illness. End of life care refers to the help given to people with life-threatening conditions in their expected last 12 months. Severe mental illness refers to a range of issues for which care is usually provided by specialist mental health services.

An advisory group, including people with experience of mental health and end of life care, helped us throughout our project. We searched research databases, journals and online sources. We assessed research articles for their quality, and summarised their content. In one review we combined content from research with content from policy and guidance. In another review we combined the content of the case studies. We wrote synthesis statements summarising the research evidence, and assessed how confident decision-makers should be in these.

We included 104 documents overall. We synthesised research, policy and guidance under themes reflecting their content: the structure of mental health and end of life care services; professional practice; providing and receiving care; and living with severe mental illness. We synthesised case studies under themes relating to: delays in diagnosis; making decisions; treatment futility; supporting people; and the experience of care.

Our project has implications for care. Partnerships should be built between mental health and end of life care staff, and people should be supported to die where they choose. Care staff need education, support and supervision. A team approach is needed, including support for advocacy. Physical health care for people with severe mental illness needs improving so that life-threatening conditions can be recognised sooner.

Future research should involve people with severe mental illness at the end of life and their carers. Research is also needed evaluating new ways of providing and organising care.


MENLOC is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Health Services and Delivery Research programme (project number 17/100/15).

The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR or the Department of Health and Social Care


In addition to responding to these detailed reviewers’ and editors’ comments, as our MENLOC report continues on its way we’ll also be preparing papers for publication, and thinking about next steps in this programme of research. We’ve discovered that very little is known about how best to provide care at the end of life to people with severe mental health problems, making this a wide-open area for researchers and people concerned with service improvements.

Catching up post

Plenty going on in the last week or so. I had the chance to join pre-registration mental health nurses and occupational therapists for a second day as they made preparations for an interprofessional event scheduled for early December. Some of these students have also been giving me drafts of assessed work to comment on, but as the deadline for receipt of these is first thing next week I expect a deluge then. ’twas ever thus.

Elsewhere there has been RiSC reviewing to crack on with, assignment marking, and peer review reports to both consider and write. I’ve also put myself in the frame to act as a reviewer for another university’s proposed new MSc mental health programme, this being the kind of curriculum work I haven’t had the chance to do for a while.

I’m not normally one for formal, suit-and-boot, events, but made an exception last Wednesday (November 27th) to join a posse of colleagues from the School of Healthcare Sciences at the RCN Wales Nurse of the Year awards. These took place at Cardiff City Hall, and the overall winner was Cardiff and Vale UHB ward sister Ruth Owens. Congratulations, Ruth. Congratulations, too, to the individual category winners: including Andy Lodwick (also from Cardiff and Vale) for picking up the Mental Health and Learning Disabilities award and Dr Carolyn Middleton, doctoral graduate from what was the Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, for winning the Research in Nursing award.

This week also brought me to a meeting of the MHRNC Service User and Carer Partnership Research Development Group and, yesterday morning, to the Cardiff City Stadium for an open meeting to discuss NISCHR’s infrastructure and programme funding review. Both were lively events, and on the NISCHR front I see big changes ahead from 2015.

And to close this summary post: via the twitter grapevine I see that the RCN is now giving early notification of the Network for Psychiatric Nursing Research 2014 conference. This will take place at Warwick University on the 18th and 19th of September. I’ll post a link to the call for abstracts once this appears, but for now will reproduce this extract from the event website:

This year [2014] is the 20th international NPNR conference and it’s going to be a celebration.

We wish to celebrate and promote some of the outstanding mental health nursing research that shapes mental health policy and nursing practice across the world. We will also acknowledge some of the best psychiatric and mental health nursing research that helped create the strong foundation for our work today. And we will invite delegates to look ahead to map out the future for mental health nursing research, education and practice.

Two out of three (revisited)

A brief note, further to yesterday’s post on the business of submitting papers for peer review and possible publication. Aled Jones (tweeting as @AledJonze) alerts me to this post on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences blog. In it Vincent Calcagno, an evolutionary biologist, writes that the ‘[p]re-publication history of articles tells us that rejection leads to higher citations’. Interesting.

Two out of three…

…ain’t bad. After a fairly intensive burst of writing over the last few months I received, on Saturday, an editor’s ‘no thanks’ email following completion of the peer review of a paper I offered for publication at the end of 2012.

Of three manuscripts under review at the turn of the year one is now available as early online and in green open access form. This is the article (written with Michael Coffey) on nurses as approved mental health professionals, which I blogged about here.

A second, which I mentioned here, has been revised and resubmitted. Fingers and toes remain crossed for a positive final outcome.

The last is now back with me for a rethink following receipt of this weekend’s editorial decision email. The anonymous reviewers and the editor, I have to say, gave this third manuscript a proper run-through. In turn I’ve thanked them for their efforts, disappointing though the outcome is. As it happens, one reviewer liked what s/he read, and a second definitely did not. The editor went with the second, and gave a reasoned account why the paper should not proceed. Thank goodness for that academic rhino hide I’ve developed. Emails rejecting papers sting, but it passes. So right now I’ll take what I’ve got and put some time into refashioning this paper for another outlet. More to follow in due course.

Writing for publication

Some promising news today from the assistant editor of a journal a colleague and I sent a jointly authored paper to last year. It’s taken a while for them to be sent, but we’ve now received peer review comments. They’re detailed and considered, and we’ve got work to do, but I’m optimistic the reviewers like our paper enough for it to make the cut (at some futue point) and get into print.

It would be tempting fate to say more at this juncture (like giving the identity of my esteemed collaborator, the name of the journal or what the paper is about), so I’ll resist. Suffice to say that the receipt of an editor’s email with an update on a submitted manuscript is always a moment of excitement and anxiety, in equal measure. It’s a big deal getting something into press in this job, and invitations to revise and resubmit (or even better, correspondence indicating that a journal will accept something ‘as is’) are always welcome.

Of course, editors also say ‘no thanks’, and I can confirm that I’ve had my share of being on the receiving end of emails of this type. At this point thick-skinned tenacity is key. I’ll perhaps sulk a little and protest to loved ones, friends and colleagues, but then I have to get on with it and do what’s necessary before offering my article to a new journal. I once had to submit versions of a paper to something like five journals, one after another, before one was willing to accept it. It was either ‘too social science-y’, or not ‘social science-y’ enough, depending on where I sent it.

Peer review

This morning, with good grace and a reasoned explanation, I declined an invitation to review a paper submitted for publication. The journal the article has been sent to is a good one, serving an international and interdisciplinary readership. I published in there once, and was pleased to have done so. This particular paper (having read the abstract) looked interesting, and broadly put was in my field insofar as it dealt with matters mental health-related.

Peer review is at the heart of academic practice. I wrote about it once, with Philip Burnard, in this paper published in Nurse Education Today. To write articles for publication in scholarly journals, and/or to write grant applications for research funders, is to submit to the process. In return for having other people read what I write I am happy to play my part in the system, and to take my share of papers to review.

It is certainly true that peer review is far from perfect, as the former editor of the BMJ spells out here, and as Stephen Mumford writes here in a recent edition of Times Higher Education. But it might be the best system we’ve got, even if it could be improved. And for me, today: why the refusal to review? Simply put, the article I was invited to give an opinion on was reporting findings from a study using specialised methods in which I entirely lack expertise. Declining was the only way to go. Maybe a better match next time.