OBJECTIVE: To estimate the rate of erroneous and unverifiable publications in applications for an obstetrics and gynecology residency and to determine whether there were associated characteristics that could assist in predicting which applicants are more likely to erroneously cite their publications.
METHODS: This was a review of the Electronic Residency Application Service applications submitted to the University of Washington obstetrics and gynecology residency for the 2008 and 2009 matches. Publications reported to be peer-reviewed articles and abstracts were searched by querying PubMed, Google, and journal archives (first tier), topic-specific databases (second tier), and by e-mailing journal editors (third tier). Errors were categorized as minor, major, and unverified.
RESULTS: Five-hundred forty-six (58%) of 937 applicants listed a total of 2,251 publication entries. Three-hundred fifty-three applicants (37.7%) listed 1,000 peer-reviewed journal articles and abstracts, of which 751 were reported as published and 249 as submitted or accepted. Seven-hundred seventy (77.0%) publications were found by a first-tier search, 51 (5.1%) were found by a second-tier search, 23 (2.3%) were found by a third-tier search, and 156 (15.6%) were unverified. Of the 353 applicants listing peer-reviewed articles or abstracts, 25.5% (90 of 353) committed major errors, 12.5% (44 of 353) committed minor errors, and 24.1% (85 of 353) had articles or abstracts that were unverified.
CONCLUSION: Most applicants reported their publications accurately or with minor errors; however, a concerning number of applicants had major errors in their citations or reported articles that could not be found, despite extensive searching. Reported major and unverified publication errors are common and should cause concern for our specialty, medical schools, and our entire medical profession.
LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: III