Secondary Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Barriers and Facilitators to Scientific Writing Among Applied Epidemiologists

Pittman, Jessica MPH, CHES; Stahre, Mandy PhD, MPH; Tomedi, Laura PhD, MPH; Wurster, Jessica MPH

Journal of Public Health Management and Practice: May/June 2017 - Volume 23 - Issue 3 - p 291–294
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000433
Research Brief Report

Context: Communication in the form of written and oral reports and presentations is a core competency for epidemiologists at governmental public health agencies. Many applied epidemiologists do not publish peer-reviewed articles, limiting the scientific literature of best practices in evidence-based public health.

Objectives: To describe the writing and publishing experiences of applied epidemiologists and identify barriers and facilitators to publishing.

Design: Telephone focus groups and an 18-question multiple-choice and short-answer Web-based assessment were fielded in 2014.

Setting and Participants: Six focus groups composed of 26 applied epidemiologists and an online assessment answered by 396 applied epidemiologists. Sample selection was stratified by years of experience.

Main Outcome Measures: Past publishing experience, current job duties as related to publishing, barriers and facilitators to writing and publishing, and desired training in writing and publishing were assessed through focus groups and the online assessment.

Results: Focus groups identified 4 themes: job expectations, barriers to publishing, organizational culture, and the understanding of public health practice among reviewers as issues related to writing and publishing. Most respondents (80%) expressed a desire to publish; however, only 59% had published in a peer-reviewed journal. An academic appointment (among doctoral educated respondents) was identified as a facilitator to publishing as was access to peer-reviewed literature. Time (68%) was identified as the greatest barrier to writing and publishing. Other major barriers included lack of encouragement or support (33%) within the public health agency and agency clearance processes (32%). Assistance with journal selection (62%), technical writing skills (60%), and manuscript formatting (57%) were listed as the most needed trainings.

Conclusion: Public health agencies can be facilitators for epidemiologists to contribute to the scientific literature through increasing access to the peer-reviewed literature, creating a supportive environment for writing and publishing, and investing in desired and needed training. The results have implications for modifying workplace policies surrounding writing and publishing.

Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Atlanta, Georgia (Mss Pittman and Wurster); Chronic Disease Epidemiology Unit, Office of Healthy Communities, Washington State Department of Health, Olympia, Washington (Dr Stahre); and New Mexico Department of Health, Santa Fe, New Mexico (Dr Tomedi).

Correspondence: Jessica Pittman, MPH, CHES, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists, 2872 Woodcock Blvd, Ste 250, Atlanta, GA 30341 (

This publication was supported in part by funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Cooperative Agreement No. 38U38-OT000143-01. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citation appears in the printed text and is provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Copyright © 2017 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.