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What future for medical journals? Richard Smith Editor, BMJ

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Presentation on theme: "What future for medical journals? Richard Smith Editor, BMJ"— Presentation transcript:

1 What future for medical journals? Richard Smith Editor, BMJ

2 What I want to talk about Dangers of predicting the future What’s wrong with now Drivers of change How might general journals look in the future


4 Predictions of Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society, 1890-95 Radio has no future X rays will prove to be a hoax Heavier than air flying machines are impossible

5 What was predicted The paperless office The leisure society The death of the novel

6 What wasn’t predicted The collapse of communism The explosion of the internet September 11

7 What’s wrong with now?

8 Words used by 41 doctors to describe their information supply Impossible Impossible Impossible Overwhelming Overwhelming Overwhelming Difficult Difficult Daunting Daunting Daunting Pissed off Choked Depressed Despairing Worrisome Saturation Vast Help Exhausted Frustrated Time consuming Dreadful Awesome Struggle Mindboggling Unrealistic Stress Challenging Challenging Challenging Excited Vital importance

9 The information paradox “Doctors are overwhelmed with information but cannot find information when they need it” “Water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink”

10 What’s wrong with medical journals Don’t meet information needs Too many of them Too much rubbish Too hard work Not relevant Too boring Too expensive

11 What’s wrong with medical journals Don’t add value Slow every thing down Too biased Anti-innovatory Too awful to look at Too pompous Too establishment

12 What’s wrong with medical journals Don’t reach the developing world Can’t cope with fraud Nobody reads them Too much duplication Too concerned with authors rather than readers

13 What are the drivers of a new form of publishing? Failures of the present system A vision of something better Money Balkanisation of the literature Slowness

14 A vision of something better: for researchers "It's easy to say what would be the ideal online resource for scholars and scientists: all papers in all fields, systematically interconnected, effortlessly accessible and rationally navigable, from any researcher's desk, worldwide for free.” Stevan Harnad

15 A vision of a better information tool for clinicians Electronic Fast Easy to use Portable Able to answer highly complex questions Connected to a large valid database

16 A vision of a better information tool for clinicians Prompts doctors in a way that’s helpful not demeaning Connected to the patient record A servant of patients as well as doctors Provides psychological support

17 Future of scientific papers Will be “published” on the world wide web--perhaps Pubmed Central or an open archive They will be multimedia and include raw data and the software used to manipulate it They will be live not dead documents

18 Journals in the new world The future is not paper or electronic but paper and electronic, using the strengths of each medium Not “business as usual” but “reinventing ourselves” Probably far fewer Concentrate on meeting the needs of readers/ a community rather than authors “The long march from Brain to GQ”

19 Journals in the new world Rather than peer reviewing whatever is sent to them they would select relevant material from Pubmed Central (or whatever) and present it in an attractive way. (What the BMJ has always done). All the rest - education, debate, reviews, what’s on, obituaries Forum for debate

20 Journals in the new world “Be the glue that holds a community together” ELPS (electronic long, paper short) Online open review Copyright back to authors - each does what they want, payment to authors for reprints Benign publishers - low profit professional societies

21 ELPS (Electronic long, paper short) Paper - easier, shorter, brighter, more fun, more readable Electronic full data, software, video, sound extra material links interactive updating immediate posting

22 Problems with peer review Slow Expensive A lottery Ineffective Biased Easily abused Can’t detect fraud Works for improving studies not selecting which to publish Can’t detect fraud

23 The power of peer review Forgive me if I return it without formal review, but I am totally unqualified to comment. You need someone with a postgraduate training in epidemiology, not an unlearned professor of neurology. Having said that, the paper is clearly rubbish…

24 The power of peer review Reviewer A “I found this paper an extremely muddled paper with a large number of deficits.” Reviewer B “It is written in a clear style and would be understood by any reader.”

25 Towards online peer review Reviewers identity revealed to authors (RCT) Reviewers’ comments posted on the web of accepted papers (RCT) Reviewers’ comments posted as available Training reviewers (RCT started)

26 Vision of peer review “Peer review is changed from being an arbitrary decision made in a closed box to an open scientific discourse.”

27 Conclusions We get the future wrong all the time There are many problems currently with the information supply to doctors There are many problems with journals Original articles will be posted on the internet

28 Conclusions Clinicians will have their information needs met in other, far more effective ways The future for journals is paper and electronic, using the strength of both media But we need to reinvent ourselves, becoming more like GQ than Brain

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