Where can I find the latest cancer statistics?

We receive quite a few cancer research papers to edit, and it is not uncommon for authors to set the scene by presenting a few ‘critical’ cancer facts (such as incidence, prevalence, and mortality) in the opening lines of the introduction. There is nothing wrong with this (although we wouldn’t necessarily advise it if you are submitting to a highly specialised cancer journal), but it is important that the figures are correct. We often find that the ‘facts’ are, more often than not, wildly out of date, inaccurate, or incompletely referenced. Given the easy accessibility of online data, there really is no excuse for glaring inaccuracies and any sloppiness could irritate a reviewer.

That’s why we suggest that you visit GLOBOCAN, an online resource established and maintained by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the WHO). The GLOBOCAN project provides current estimates of the incidence, mortality, and prevalence of major cancer types for 184 countries. The data can be separated by sex, and 1-, 3-, and 5-year prevalence data are available for the adult population.

The database is particularly useful since it can be queried using online analysis tools, which allow you to produce graphs, tables, and maps to illustrate data. These tools are likely to be particularly useful for theses and dissertations, where there is often a need to provide more comprehensive background to the subject and provide basic data.

For instance, let’s say that you need to prepare a graph that compares age-standardised incidence and mortality rates of female cancers in ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ regions. Easy!

GLOBOCAN Graph

The graph clearly highlights those cancers that persist as first-world problems, such as breast cancer, and those cancers that more commonly affect women in the developing world (such as cervical cancer). This might provide an excellent starting point for a discussion about the epidemiology of these diseases.

GLOBOCAN can be referenced in your manuscript, and there is a useful glossary of terms, just in case you tend to get your ‘incidences’ and ‘prevalences’ mixed up. Of course, there are other excellent statistical resources available to cancer researchers, such as CRUK’s Cancer Stats resource in the UK or the NCI’s tools in the US. Please let us know if you know of any other resources that you find useful by commenting below!


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Our new resource to help you find funding

We just wanted to give you a sneak preview of a new resource we are putting together - again, at no cost - to help you find relevant funding opportunities. We are compiling an up-to-date and fully searchable database of available grant, fellowship, and other funding opportunities offered by a range of organisations. Each entry is annotated with the funder, type of funding, broad area of research, and application deadline, and we also provide links to the specific funding details. We have started with funders in the UK and Europe, mainly within the biomedical sciences, and we already have over 200 individual entries. We aim to expand the database to provide a complete, one-stop resource for scientists to find funding opportunities, and we will try to keep it carefully curated.

We think that this will be phenomenally useful, not only for keeping on top of deadlines, but also for exploring other funders or funding opportunities you may not even be aware of. This is just one more way in which we are trying to make life a little easier for scientists (check out our free templates for your manuscript preparation, too). Remember that we can provide professional help with your applications (and see our take on Horizon 2020), and since the next two months are packed with deadlines, we are offering a 10% discount on all grant and fellowship editing until the end of April - see our Facebook page and Twitter feed for details and to find a discount code.

Finally, if you know of any funding opportunities that we have yet to include, please let us know - we can provide an even better and more complete resource with your help.

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Free templates to help with your paper writing

Those of you who regularly follow us will know that we feel very strongly about reducing barriers to scientific publishing. Manuscript preparation (author) guidelines vary wildly between different journals, from the sublime (see Cancer Medicine’s guidelines here, which only demand ‘a clear, generic and readable layout’) to the ridiculous (PLOS One being a notable culprit). We had considered naming the best and shaming the worst but decided against it - there are many sensible reasons for prescriptive manuscript preparation, not least to raise scientific standards (such as with guideline-driven statistical or clinical trial reporting) and improve accountability and transparency (such as full reporting of conflicts of interest or ethical statements). Not all journals have the editorial budgets they would like, and it is perhaps inevitable that some of the editorial burden is passed on to authors. Some are unnecessarily onerous, but we’ll leave that for another day.

However, complex author instructions remain a barrier, particularly if English is not your first language. Even well-seasoned scientists will have their papers returned from editorial offices from time to time for technical reasons. We therefore thought that, instead of complaining, we could be more solution-focussed and do something positive. That is why we have started to prepare a collection of free MS Word templates to help authors prepare their manuscripts for their target journal. We know that Thomson Reuters provide similar templates on their Endnote website, but these are very basic and many have not been updated for several years.

Our templates are journal specific and aim to contain all the required manuscript information under the correct section headings. Any additional information, such as conflicts of interest statements, are pre-filled at the correct point in the document. We have included example references (formatted using Endnote) in each file and provided links to Endnote style files - and a reminder that the wonderful Mendeley is a great free alternative for citation management. Additional web links are embedded in the templates where we believe them to be useful. These templates are free to use and share, but not for commercial purposes please.

This is a start and not a finish and if there is a template you would like to see, please just contact us using the request form - we will try to get that made as quickly as possible and post it for all to share. If there are errors or omissions, please just let us know. If you have a template you would like to share, you can upload it and let us know using the same form.

We hope that you find these useful - please spread the word via the usual social media channels (Facebook and LinkedIn) if you do or click here to tweet - our hashtag for this is #simplifyscience

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Do you need help with Horizon 2020?

Yesterday saw the UK launch of Horizon 2020, the European Union’s largest ever Research and Innovation programme.

Nearly €80 billion has been earmarked for innovative science in Europe over the next seven years. Horizon 2020 is subdivided into three main ‘pillars’: 1) Excellence in Science, 2) Industrial Leadership, and 3) Social Challenges, each containing a number of subdivisions and calls. The programme offers several opportunities for individuals of any nationality who wish to undertake research in one of the 28 EU member states or associated countries. As with the outgoing FP7 programme, many of the calls are consortium-based applications that require at least three partners and benefit from an emphasis on commercial/industrial participation.

EU Research Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has promised a streamlined process and that “loads of red tape” has been cut out. Those familiar with FP7 might be a little sceptical - the scale and complexity of these applications is daunting and Horizon 2020 is no different. Harmonising work packages written by different individuals and groups is not straightforward and communicating the overall vision can be a challenge, even when English is your first language. Specialist third-party input and critical appraisal of your application can really give you a competitive advantage.

Nextgenediting can help. We will make your application stand out against the competition. As well as making sure that the individual components of your Horizon 2020 application are perfectly edited, your specialist editor will also focus on integrating the work packages and make sure that together they achieve the desired impact - a major scoring criterion for framework programmes. We will provide individual feedback, comments, and suggestions for improvement. We will work collaboratively with you until the moment your application is submitted.

Given that we pride ourselves on scientific excellence - a core aim of Horizon 2020 - we are genuinely excited about helping individuals and teams achieve funding success.

If you are an individual looking for funding and want to work in the EU you might be interested in exploring the funding opportunities provided by the European Research Council (calls now open for starting, consolidator, and PoC grants) and the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). Our clinician scientist colleagues may be interested in the calls on Personalising Health and Care.

For more information or a quotation, please contact us or submit your application via our manuscript submission page.

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Open source software for scientists - our top five recommendations

As part of our drive to help reduce barriers to scientific publishing, today we would like to share Nextgenediting’s top five open source or free alternatives to commercial scientific software packages. Although the vast majority of the submissions we receive are written in Microsoft Word with citations embedded using Endnote, we also use the freely available programs listed below to help edit and prepare papers for submission. This has become even more important as we liaise with scientists from low- and middle-income countries as part of the Global Initiative, who sometimes cannot afford the (sometimes extremely) high cost of commercial software. Please let us know if you have any other recommendations or questions about the use of these packages.

1. Image processing and manipulation - GIMP (The GNU Image Manipulation Program)

GIMP is a fantastic and versatile alternative to Adobe Photoshop, feely downloadable for all platforms (Mac, Windows, Linux, and others). We find it particularly useful for image conversion in preparation for manuscript submission, especially for producing the high-resolution 300 dpi figures frequently required by the journals. Although the learning curve is relatively steep, there is comprehensive online documentation (including in multiple languages) that holds your hand through basic tasks, such as image re-sizing, cropping, and how to add text to figures. Although CMKY is not supported, we use the Separate+ plugin when conversion is necessary. Give it a try!

2. Statistical analysis - PSPP

Although SPSS is probably the dominant statistical analysis software package used in the social and life sciences, its high cost and annual license fees make it inaccessible to many researchers and students, particularly those already working in under-resourced environments. Although R is a phenomenally powerful (and free) statistical programming environment, it can be difficult to learn due to the lack of an intuitive graphical interface and need to grasp a new programming language (great in theory, just not going to happen in practice for most of us). PSPP is an open source alternative to SPSS that is certainly worth a shot. It is limited to basic analyses - descriptive statistics, linear regression, t-tests, and the like - but those familiar with the SPSS interface will have no problems using it since it is almost identical. If more people start to use it, perhaps we will see development of more complex functions.

3. Citation management - Bibus

Learning how to use citation management/bibliographic software is a must for academics. The proprietary software packages are not usually prohibitively expensive, but it would be wise to check with your institution first to see whether they have cheaper institutional licensing arrangements and training courses available. However, what about a free alternative? We recommend Bibus, a powerful reference management software package that integrates with MS Word and OpenOffice and allows online searching of PubMed via an intuitive user interface. One drawback though - while you can get Bibus to work on a Mac, it does not currently integrate with Word for Mac.

4. Typesetting and word processing - LaTeX

The scientific community is, without doubt, tied down to MS Word for document preparation and that is unlikely to change in the near future. The transition to any other word processing program can seem daunting, and most of us who have tried have generally failed. OpenOffice.org is a free alternative to MS Office and, as explained above, can be used with citation management software to good effect. However, LaTeX, another powerful ‘programming language’, might be worth exploring if you are embarking on a large document that requires a professional finish, such as a thesis. LaTeX produces documents with superior typesetting and is particularly useful if the document contains a lot of maths. It is free and easily extensible (see the Comprenhesive TeX Archive Network, CTAN). It does take some getting used to because it is not WYSIWYG, but consider it if you are about to undertake a ‘long-haul’ project. See also the great resource from the Department of Engineering at the University of Cambridge to help you get started with LaTeX.

5. Open Access (OA) article searching - CORE Research Mobile App (for iOS and Android)

Sometimes finding the data can be as difficult as processing it, especially when a lot of papers are still hidden behind paywalls. We recently found this nifty app from the UK’s Open University, which allows you to search and download freely available, full-text articles and read them on your device (in another app of your choosing, such as Kindle). The repository currently contains over 18 million open access articles. A great place to look if you need to find full text to support your research and don’t have access to journal subscriptions.

So there we are - our top five open source software packages for scientists - but please suggest your own too using the comments box below.

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