VAM: How abstracts are selected

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VAM 2021 in San Diego

The abstracts presented at the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM) are the result not just of thorough research, but also a meticulous—and blind—selection process. 

The procedure starts months ahead of the yearly annual meeting, with the posting of guidelines and policies just prior to abstract submissions opening in mid-November. The submission period runs for eight weeks. The 25-member SVS Program Committee reviews all abstracts. Each member first expresses preferences for three of the 13 or so abstract topic categories and the chair, currently Andres Schanzer, MD, assigns four to five people to one of five groups. One of the five reviews all submissions in the “aortic” category, which is typically the largest. The other four groups tackle several categories—such as vascular medicine, trauma or carotid—each.

Each group also includes one to two members each from the Vascular and Endovascular Surgical Society (VESS), the SVS’ longtime VAM collaborator. VESS holds its spring meeting in conjunction with VAM and sponsors several hours of abstract presentations on the Wednesday of the meeting. 

Members of these small groups perform blinded reviews, assigning each abstract a score from 1–5. The final score report for all abstracts includes the average score, standard deviation, any conflicts of interest and comments. 

“It is an important—even vital—part of the selection process that reviewers don’t have any idea who is part of the research team,” said Schanzer. “We select abstracts based on the science presented, not the researchers’ names.”

On separate conference calls, each group uses the score report and notes to select the top 10 to 15 abstracts from each category to put forward for the VAM program. After the small groups make their selection, volunteers search on PubMed and other search engines to determine if the work has been published or presented before, which is against the clearly stated policies. 

Finally, all abstracts are presented to the entire Program Committee for selection for VAM presentation. At the selection meeting, members involved with a paper as an author, or even part of the institution where the researchers are affiliated, leave the room, explained Schanzer. 

Submitting authors may choose which sessions where they do, or do not, want their work presented. Selecting to speak only at a plenary session is perhaps the biggest obstacle to an author’s chances of making the program, he added. “It behooves an author to select
all categories.”

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