OBJECTIVE: Selection of physicians for fellowships in obstetrics and gynecology subspecialties has become increasingly competitive. The number and quality of research publications is an important factor in the selection process. We sought to estimate the incidence of unverifiable publications among gynecologic oncology fellowship applicants.
METHODS: We reviewed the applications to a single gynecologic oncology fellowship program during 2004–2008. Articles and book chapters reported as published, in press, submitted, or in progress were searched for systematically by three reviewers using PubMed and Google. χ2 analysis was used to evaluate associations between demographic factors and unverifiable publications.
RESULTS: Two hundred forty-three applications met the inclusion criteria. Of the 35 applicants who listed membership in Alpha Omega Alpha, four (11%) were not listed on the organization's web site as inductees. Of the 464 articles reported as published or in press, only 387 (83%) could be verified. Of the 148 applicants who reported at least one published or in press article, 44 (30%) had at least one unverifiable publication. On multivariable analysis, only male gender increased the likelihood of unverifiable (“ghost”) publications (odds ratio 2.1, 95% confidence interval 1.1–4.1). Of the 282 manuscripts reported as submitted or in progress, only 126 (45%) were published. Of the 124 applicants who reported at least one submitted or in progress manuscript, 88 (71%) had at least one unverifiable manuscript.
CONCLUSION: The proportion of unverifiable publications listed on gynecologic oncology fellowship applications is concerning. Stringent review of applications before interview invitations and match list submission is warranted.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III