Abstract Length May Limit Future Publication Possibilities
In most cases, scholars and publishers alike regard redundant publication as unethical and costly. What’s more, unless both the author(s) and the publisher have agreed to make an exception, duplicate publication may also violate copyright laws.
The main objection to this standard relates to the way original research articles are counted and/or weighted. Redundant publication may result in “double counting or inappropriate weighting of the results of a single study, which distorts the available evidence.”
Generally, publishers allow printing of closely-related material that has already been presented at a conference, printed on a poster, or published as an abstract in proceedings. However, the length of that poster or abstract might prevent some future publication opportunities. One example of many journals that now limit previous abstract lengths is the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
JAVMA’s author instructions indicate that a previously published abstract over 250 words may jeopardize publication. JAVMA’s scientific editors review such abstracts and make decisions on a case-by-case basis, but the editors automatically reject every paper for which an abstract over 750 words has been presented elsewhere.
However, for the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine forum, the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Symposium, and the American Association for Cancer Research conference, abstract instructions allow at or above 350 words. Many other conferences follow similar guidelines.
While it is tempting to crunch as much information as possible into an abstract, using all the permissible space, it is responsible authorship to limit every abstract to 250 words if that abstract might be used later to publish a paper.
Nobody wants to be the person to tell several co-authors a paper cannot be published because it has been consider previously published as a long abstract.
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts submitted to Biomedical Journals: Writing and Editing for Biomedical Publication. Philadelphia, PA: ICMJE; 2006.