‘The importance of comprehensive and transparent reporting’ In Conversation with Professor Henrik Larsson

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In this podcast we speak to Professor Henrik Larsson, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Orebro University and Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and Editor in Chief of ACAMH’s new journal, JCPP Advances.

Henrik talks about his vast experience in authoring, and peer-reviewing papers, what he will bring to the role of Editor in Chief of JCCP Advances, and the importance of comprehensive and transparent reporting.

Henrik notes that JCPP Advances will build on the values of its sister publication, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, has a commitment to open science and discusses its main aims including alleviating the frustrating aspects of the publishing process for authors

We also hear his thoughts on what more can be done to promote evidence-based science, the upcoming topics that are coming up that particularly excite him, and what readers can look forward to.

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Professor Henrik Larsson
Professor Henrik Larsson

Henrik Larsson is Editor in Chief of JCPP Advances, and Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Örebro University and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden. The overall objective of his research team’s work is to understand how genes and environment influence mental health problems across the life span, to understand the interplay between mental and physical health, to map developmental trajectories and consequences of mental health across the lifespan and to identify the benefits and risks associated with pharmacological treatment interventions.

His team use large cohorts identified from national health registers, the Swedish twin register and clinical cohorts. Henrik has (co-) authored about 300 original peer-reviewed papers and has a broad international research and clinical network. He is committed to JCPP Advances‘ ambition to change the way that authors experience the publishing process by maintaining rigorous evaluation of the science whilst removing unnecessary steps in the process, such as formatting and reformatting articles, and by reusing peer review feedback. Henrik is highly motivated to work closely with the editorial team to identify and shape critical research findings, support open science (including open access) and also to meet a real need for researchers of child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry.

Interviewer: Hello, welcome to the In Conversation Podcast Series for the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health or ACAMH for short. I’m Jo Carlowe, a freelance journalist with a specialism in psychology. Today I’m interviewing Henrik Larsson, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Orebro University and Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Henrik is Editor in Chief of ACAMH’s new journal, JCPP Advances. If you’re a fan of our Conversation series, please subscribe on iTunes or your preferred streaming platform. Let us know how we did a rating or review and do share with friends and colleagues. Henrik, thank you for joining me and congratulations on your position as Editor and Chief of JCPP Advances. Can you start by introducing yourself?

Professor Henrik Larsson: Of course. Thanks a lot for inviting me. It’s great being here and it also is great taking on the role as Editor and Chief for JCPP Advances. I have to say I’m very proud of what we have accomplished this far and I’m also very excited about future important achievements. So for those of you who don’t know me, I’m Henrik Larsson from Sweden. I actually have the same name as the famous football player from Sweden, played many years in Celtic, but also shortly in Manchester United and Barcelona.

And when I was younger, I was a quite good football player, semi- professional, but I didn’t really make it to the full professional level. In academia I have a background in psychology. I did my PhD training at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and I focussed on behaviour and ethics and epidemiology of child and adolescent mental health. I did a postdoc training in London at SGDP, King’s College London, and I worked with people that I think is familiar to the ACAMH family.

I work with Essi Viding and Robert Plomin in particular. After one year in London I moved back to Sweden and I started to build up my own group at Karolinska Institute and I am now many years late, Professor of Psychiatric Epidemiology at Orebro university and I’m also affiliated with Karolinska Institute. I would say that the overall objective of my research is to understand how genes and environment influence mental health problems across the lifespan and understand the developmental course over time and understand sort of what are the consequences of having mental health problems in childhood and adolescence.

Interviewer: Henrik, can I ask you how you came to be interested in child and adolescent mental health?

Professor Henrik Larsson: I have to say I was introduced quite early to key concepts of developmental psychopathology, which is sort of central for child and adolescent mental health. So I was introduced to it during my undergraduate studies in psychology, and I think I earned a more in-depth understanding during my PhD training and also during my PhD studies I focussed on the impact of genetic and environmental influences on children and adolescent mental health and I had a particular focus on ADHD during my PhD studies.

Since then I’ve done a lot of research not only on ADHD but also other neurodevelopmental conditions. I would say I’ve done research with a focus on child adolescent mental health for the past 15 years or so.

Interviewer: We’re going to talk about JCPP Advances, before we go into detail as you’ve just outlined you’ve authored a lot of papers, over 300 peer reviewed papers. What, in your experience, are the frustrating aspects of the publishing process for authors?

Professor Henrik Larsson: A good question. This is the first time I get this question. I guess probably the most frustrating aspect is getting a react which you get a lot in academia when you tried to publish. I mean, we can’t do much about it. It’s part of life in academia and I think as a researcher you need to learn how to cope with it. I think waiting is another frustrating aspect. Waiting for review or comments can be frustrating, as well as waiting for editorial decisions, waiting for accepted manuscripts to get published.

It’s another frustrating component, and I want to take the opportunity to point out that we work hard in JCPP Advances to, sort of, keep the process short and I’m quite pleased that we use approaches that hopefully should reduce several of these aspects of waiting. So one example is that when peer reviews are available we use them and we also use continuous publication for a month. So as soon as the submission is ready for publication, it’s published.

Interviewer: What have you started to bring to your role as Editor and Chief of JCCP Advances?

Professor Henrik Larsson: I mean, I use my past experiences and my expertise a lot. I have published a lot in many different journals, both general and more specialist journals. I have published with many different authors with different expertise and experience. I also have a lot of experience from international collaborative research effort, and I think these past experiences will help me a lot in my role as Editor and Chief and I guess as a consequence of being a quite active researcher when it comes to publications and projects, I have been able to establish a broad international network which I also think is helpful.

I have many mentors, many colleagues to turn to for input on things, and I think that is really essential both for me and for the journal. Other things, if I reflect on my career in academia, I think I can say that I really enjoy building strong teams. This is according to me a critical aspect of leading a successful research group and I think it’s also essential when reading the development of a new journal. I’m very pleased and proud of our team of editors that we have recruited, identified.

They bring in lots of expertise to the Journal from various different areas of child and adolescent mental health. They bring an energy, forward-looking perspective, which is essential both for the journal. Also hope that my past experiences and expertise that I have will influence, at least to some extent, the focus of the publications, designated policies [s.l. 00:07:08]. I think I would characterise myself as quite a careful researcher. I like clarity a lot. Having a concrete and well-defined and important research question is very important to me in my own research, and I hope that myself and the team of editors can influence authors in JCPP Advances, take a similar direction.

I have also been thinking quite a lot about study designs, strengths and limitations. How to interpret them in a balanced way, and I hope JCPP Advances can have a positive impact on the field when it comes to these aspects. I mean, it would be really fantastic if JCPP Advances could help to move towards clarity around pros and cons of different study designs and how findings from different study designs can be integrated, can sort of have a real world impact on important matters.

Interviewer: Henrik, can you tell me more about the importance of comprehensive and transparent reporting?

Professor Henrik Larsson: Yeah, yeah, of course. So I think that comprehensive and transparent reporting is another aspect that I care a lot about. It’s essential. It’s an essential component of hope and reproducible science, and given that I value meta-analysis and systematic reviews, I think comprehensive and transparent reporting is an important factor to help facilitate that. So we need comprehensive and transparent reporting in order to be able to conduct high quality, systematic reviews and meta-analysis.

Interviewer: JCPP Advances builds on the values of its sister publication, the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, and has a commitment to open science, but what are its main aims? You’ve probably touched on this a bit already.

Professor Henrik Larsson: I think the overarching goal is that the work published in JCPP Advances should lead to a better understanding and better outcomes for children and adolescents out there in society. I mean, the ambition of JCPP Advances is that it should be a home for high quality, high impact research industry or child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry. Being an open science journal and implementing critical fundamental open science principles is also very important for us. That could include pre-registration, open data, open code, open material, etc.

As I pointed out earlier, I also hope that we can push the field towards more comprehensive and transparent reporting, which is very critical for reproducible research.

Interviewer: What challenges do you anticipate will arise in achieving those aims?

Professor Henrik Larsson: To start with, as I said, JCPP Advances have high ambitions and we are in a good position. We benefit a lot from the available critical mass within ACAMH, for instance. I’m very impressed about the expertise available within the editorial office and JCPP has for many years led the way in publishing state of the art, forward looking research in child and adolescent psychology and psychiatry.

Personally, I also have benefited a lot from having the JCPP Editor and Chief, [inaudible 00:10:51] as a mentor. So to sum up, I mean, we are in a good position. We have a lot already, but we also need to realise that it takes time to develop trust from authors in particular. It also takes time to set the standards needed to become a high impact open access journal.

Interviewer: Henrik, in an age where so much unregulated material can be accessed, what more can be done to promote evidence based science?

Professor Henrik Larsson: Good, good question. Important question. I think reward and dissemination of research finding is key and I think the ACAMH families is doing a great job here with, for instance, the research digest. The breach, its protocols, blogs, Twitter, etc. Also I think many researchers need to step up a bit and take on an increased responsibility, and there is actually a strong push for this from  society and also from several different funders, and I guess also on the more general level, I think we need to work harder to implement open science principles.

Open access publications is, of course, one important component so that everybody can read and access reports and publications, but I also think it would be good if we involve society in the research to a greater extent.

Interviewer: Can you say how it could be done?

Professor Henrik Larsson: Actually early on in the research process, in all various stakeholders ask what are the relevant questions for you to get society’s perspective on what research should focus on is one example of how society can be involved to a greater extent when it comes to the actual research.

Interviewer: You mentioned before that researchers should step up. What stops them? Is it a matter of lack of confidence?

Professor Henrik Larsson: I think there are several different explanations to that. Many researchers maybe not feel comfortable in the situation. They’re not trained for. It doesn’t come natural at this one aspect. The other thing is that lots of researchers are overwhelmed with tasks. So it’s a matter of time, as priority.

Interviewer: So what can be done then to remove some of those barriers?

Professor Henrik Larsson: I think it’s a very difficult question. I don’t know what could be done on the higher level to secure time. I guess there is… I mean, given that there is a push, it comes from funders now. So nowadays the dissemination and open access activities is becoming a natural part in the research projects, thanks to funders focussing more on it. There are also now to a greater extent than before funding available to focus on these issues.

Interviewer: Let’s return to JCPP Advances. Are there any particular topics that are coming up that particularly excite you? What can your readers look forward to?

Professor Henrik Larsson: On the general level I can tell that we see a lot of submissions based on available high quality data, submissions that use clever designs and sophisticated analysis to address important knowledge gaps, and I have to say, it is fantastic that authors of such high quality studies already now, it’s is early days, see JCPP Advances as an alternative. So I’m very much looking forward to seeing some of these submissions published.

Interviewer: Henrik, what else is in the pipeline that you’d like to mention?

Professor Henrik Larsson: We are now working hard to pull together 2021 special issue on the physical health of children and adolescents with mental health disorders. It’s a very important and under-studied topic. We need to learn more about this and we are also working hard on a special issue for 2022, which will focus on sex and gender differences in developmental and psychiatric gene types.

Interviewer: And finally, what is your takeaway message for those listening to our conversation?

Professor Henrik Larsson: I hope it’s clear that JCPP Advances have very high conditions. We have had a good start, but we will work hard to become better on all relevant aspects. And finally, I would like to thank everybody for listening.

Interviewer: Henrik, thank you so much. For more details on Professor Henrik Larsson, please visit the ACAMH website www.acamh.org and Twitter at ACAMH. ACAMH in spelt ACAMH and don’t forget to follow us on iTunes or your preferred streaming platform and let us know if you enjoyed the podcast with a rating or overview and do share with friends and colleagues.


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