I’m sooo ready to stick my head through my office door. Which door is 1.5"-thick maple. But I bet, if I beat my head against it as hard as I want to, I can get my head right through it. Maybe in a single go, even.
I’m a clinical publisher… that means I take scientific reports on medications, investigational and approved both, and assemble them for submission to, and use by, various regulatory agencies around the world. These reports have to be perfect, or so nearly perfect that no nit-picky scientist or statistician at an agency can find fault with the report’s assembly. These reviewers are busy people, and can’t be bothered with figuring out where something in a report is - either they can find it, right away, or they send the report back, along with a nastygram, and put that drug’s review at the back of the queue. This is legitimate - They’ve got MASSIVE reports to read, and LOTS of them… All are complex and incredibly detailed - So they don’t have time to play “Where’s Waldo” with data, listings, and tables.
In addition to the careful detail on the assembly, these reports have to be COMPLETE - no missing parts, no “we’ll get it to you later,” unless specifically agreed in advance with the reviewer. They agency needs final reports on all studies, even if a drug fails or is withdrawn - If you get a bad safety profile, for instance, in trials, the agency still wants to hear about it, even if you’ve zero intention of doing anything else with that drug, ever again. If you find that the drug is no better than existing products, and whilst safe, is simply uneconomical to market, the agency still wants to know about the trials that convinced the pharma of this. So on, so forth, yadda, yadda, yadda.
So, I assemble reports. Big ones, little ones, and honkin’ great giant ones. Like this one I’m working on right now - a size-mongo trial on a drug that ultimately failed late in development. In excess of 68 thousand pages. Not a typo: 68 kilopages. The trial report has been written by at least three people. I can tell - there are distinct differences in styles when referring to tables and appendices. None of those people are currently assigned to this project, because, well… it’s dead, Jim.
There are problems with the report. Typos that alter scientific meaning. Missing documentation. Mis-labeled tables. Due to the nature of how the material is gathered and assembled, many of these problems don’t show up until a LOT of work has already been done. Some can be corrected on the fly, or without huge rework. But sometimes, the pagination changes, or the entire content shifts by a line or two. When that happens, literally thousands of links and bookmarks are thrown off, and the navigation that the reviewers need, rely upon, demand, is lost. Gone. Wasted. Thrown out the window. Along with those navigational aids, goes my work. Hours and days of it. 10-, 12-, even 15-hour days trying to close this report out… Shot to shit.
Three times, now, this has happened with this report. And the people I need to contact, so I can begin, once again? They are all on vacation, goddamit.
Where’s the aspirin? My door is going to need some when I’m done with it.