Research by ophthalmologists of the Vetmeduni Vienna ranked top in Europe

Ophthalmologist Nell and Team showed best presentation to publication ratio compared to other European specialists. (Photo: Michael Bernkopf/Vetmeduni Vienna)

Barbara Nell  1

Ophthalmologists of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna have shown that also small groups can be at the top of the international research landscape. The European College of Veterinary Ophthalmology evaluated how much of the results presented in their specialist conference was also published. This was the first time that the scientific committee of the conference assessed the value of the conference contents. The small group around Barbara Nell convinced as an efficient research unit and was ranked number one ahead of England and specialists from North America. Nell had published around 60 percent of her presented data in specialist journals.

Besides specialist journals, international conferences are the only way to publish scientific data. However, the relevance of the contents of these conferences and thus the actual scientific value of a conference has hardly been assessed.

In human medicine, a quality attribute has been defined for some years. The umbrella organisations compare the presented contents with data published in specialist journals at the same time. Overlaps are summed up in a quota which serves then as the measured value for the ranking. The more overlaps, the higher is the quota of a group. The organisers can thus get a better idea of how their platform is used. If many groups reach a high publication quota, this indicates the relevance of a conference and the scientists’ success.

Best ratio of presentations and publications

The European College of Veterinary Ophthalmology (ECVO) has now assessed their own annual conference according to this method for the first time. The gained quotas have been published in a ranking. The front runners in the international field are the ophthalmologist of the Clinical Unit of Small Animal Surgery at the Vetmeduni Vienna. The team around Barbara Nell published 60 percent of their submitted contributions. The Vetmeduni Vienna was thus 20 points ahead of the runner-ups from England.

“This is a great international success for our small group,” said ophthalmologist Barbara Nell. Her team consists of PhD and doctoral students as well as participants in the residency programme for ophthalmology at the Vetmeduni Vienna campus. “This top rank confirms our concepts and our work. It shows that we are able to publish many of our data in scientific journals.” Nevertheless, she still sees a lot to be done in order to make veterinary ophthalmology more visible for human medicine research. According to Nell, this is particularly relevant for small research units. Only few vet schools have ECVO diplomates – internationally acknowledged experts – for clinical work. Even fewer institutions have their own active research unit.

Research in veterinary medicine has to be taken serious

“Ophthalmology in human medicine only deals with one topic: the human eye,” said Nell. “Veterinary ophthalmology, on the contrast, deals with eye diseases in different species. For instance, eye cancer like the melanoma processes differently in different species. In dogs it is benign and only in one position. But in horses there are tumours in several positions. Cats additionally develop metastases. Similar processes can be observed for some infectious diseases. Infections of the conjunctiva and the cornea caused by herpesviruses may occur in cats and horses, but hardly ever in dogs.” If scientists find out the reasons for these differences, this may also provide new ideas for human medicine.

However, time for research in the unit is short. Besides the daily work in the clinic, also teaching is important to Nell. She became an ophthalmologist starting as a veterinary surgeon. That is why Nell wants to get more students interested in veterinary ophthalmology.

New assessment is an important quality attribute

Conferences and symposia did not have a clear quality attribute like specialist journals so far. Every journal is compared with others by its impact factor. If the quality of the publications decreases, the impact and as a consequence the impact factor of the journal decreases, too. At conferences, mainly renowned participating researchers and institutions determine the level. A scientific committee of reviewers is responsible for the selection of the contents.

This new assessment method is also important for the members of the scientific committee. They decide about the speakers and poster presentations by assessing the submitted abstracts. Therefore, high publication quotas also confirm their choice of contents.

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