Corporate Blogging Survey 2005

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November 8, 2005

Growing The Medical Peer Review Process With Blogs

George D. Lundberg, MD, is the Editor in Chief of Medscape from WebMD and Medscape General Medicine; Adjunct Professor of Health Policy, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts. George recently video logged and wrote an article about his opinion on blogging, "Is There a Place for Medical Blogs in a Medical Media Company?" I was curious and so interviewed George about his thoughts on publishing a medical journal and how blogging will affect such journals.

John: How can you take the concept of peer review and use it in the world of blogging?

George: I think this awaits creative minds to figure out how to do it best, I’ve found that the most important peer review always happens after publication. Peer reviewers may number as many as ten, they are chosen for their expertise, and reviewers advise editors if something should be published. The peer review process has been going on for 300 years, sometimes the peer review process is imperfect, and the real reviews happen in the letters column, the readers tell you about anything they are concerned about very rapidly.

Yes, the letters are as least as important as the review process. I think one area where you can criticize the peer review process, is that it tends to follow a safe route, only publishing the non-controversial articles, while blogging is marvelous in that bloggers are free to publish, as a blogger can get out their piece without the editorial control.

John: Do you see and examples of authors publishing on their blogs, and articles in journals?

George: Many traditional authors, will not duplicate their articles as editors will not publish something published somewhere else. However we are just about to publish a piece from an author who has already published on their blog. I am publishing this because I think the issue will be of reader interest, and useful to republish, I will publish the article with a reference to the blog.

Blogs are about dialogue, sometimes if there is no audience to respond, they are only about uni-log, WebMD is about dialogue, and we provide responses through the letters column. The old Lancet used to publish almost every letter, I don't do that, I use my editorial judgment, a letter has to make some sense and the ideas has to be fresh.
Many people moderate your blog.

John: There is a declining readership amongst paper issues of newspapers, while the number of citizen journalist are increasing, is blogging an opportunity or threat to medical media companies?

They are both, medical media that ignores blogging is at risk, and blogging is something that obviously has to be thought about very seriously. Our journal bases our existence on trust, the downside to blogging is that you neither know, or can vouch for a blogger or comment.

Blogging challenges the whole channel of the publishing industry, with blogging publishing is no longer a hurdle, and every medical media company is threaten by the ability of people to published.

John: What’s the state of publishing and submissions for your journal?

We have more submissions than ever before, especially on surgical issues. In the industry there are more submissions, significant articles, more journals, than ever before, blogging is not threatening in that sense at all. Authors and readers want to know that some publisher stands behind the author, the way it works now, there is parallel existences between journals and blogging, regular medial literature, continues to thrives, blogging also thrives.

John’s afterward: Thinking about the interview and reviewing my notes, I asked myself the question is there really a threat to medical journals? Dr. Lundberg suggests in his article that blogging’s openness is contra to the peer review process and the trust garnered by a journal’s audience because a medical media company will put their reputation and editorial research process behind every article published, while a blogger may not be so diligent in their efforts to publish content with solid facts.

Dr. Lundberg does suggest that even in his own publication, reader response is an important and valuable part of the medical media publication process that’s been happening for 300 years. Here then is the similarity between the culture of blogging and peer reviewed journals, the ability of journals to accept reader response through letters.

According to what Dr. Lundberg suggests in this interview, I don’t really see a threat to medical media companies from blogging. The self-publishing of reader thoughts and ideas is a big change in our culture, for both commerce and for medical media companies. I can foresee that blogging will complement such medical publications and increase the number of reader letters, one, because more people are now comfortable with responding, and two, reader bloggers need a foil and it will be helpful to bloggers if they interact with other publications if they are going to be successful in attracting an audience.

As more readers see the value in publishing their own content, and have the ability to easily publish, I think in the future more articles and responses will be republished from such reader self-published media. In the new blogging society where the speed of publication is merely dependent upon writing an article and pressing the blogging publishing platform submit button, readers will increasingly want more control over such content and prefer to quickly publish thoughts and ideas. Yet readers will continue to want to be published and republished in peer reviewed publications as such publications provide added credibility when reader letters are put through the filter of editorial review.

I think the example of Macromedia’s blog aggregator, where the aggregator has been very successful in providing a valuable tool for Macromedia and customers to highlight community conversations within Macromedia, and amongst Macromedia customers, provides a model for media companies. If a similar system can be developed for medical media publications, that also combine peer review into the aggregator, such publications will have more weight and authority in their community overall. If such an event happens, maybe the issue for editor’s like Dr. Lundberg will be hiring more editors to handle the volume of content.

Posted by johncass at November 8, 2005 1:52 PM

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