I have come to view Lab Soft News as a professional blog, by which I mean a blog focusing on specialized and in-depth content designed to serve other professionals. Such readers use the blog as a filter to keep abreast of developments in their field. The analytic component of the blog also stimulates discussion about current topics. I thus view a professional blog as being analogous to the opinion columns published in trade publications or medical journals.
It recently occurred to me that a blog would be a very suitable publication vehicle for clinical track physicians working in academic medical centers who are under pressure to publish in print medical journals but for whom minor author status in clinical trial articles or individual case reports hold little allure. I believe that professional blogging can and should be added to the list of suitable publishing activities for such physicians.
In general, tenured-track slots in medical school are now reserved for bench researchers with grant support. Physicians engaged in the delivery of clinical care in academic teaching hospitals are also responsible for the training of medical students, house officers, and fellows. They are required to publish articles in their specialty areas. I believe that launching professional blogs would be a very suitable way for such faculty to both develop a regional/national reputation, a requirement for promotion. as well as provide useful information for colleagues and healthcare consumers seeking high quality medical advice.
I suspect that the major opposition to blogging as an accepted form of "academic publishing" will come from departmental chairpersons and medical school promotion committees. I have a hunch that their opposition to the idea will relate to the belief that blogging does not meet the gravitas test for academic publication. I would respond in the following way.
- What is the raison d'etre behind academic medical publications? To my mind, it is to generate new ideas and improve various aspects of healthcare delivery. In this way, the faculty member achieves a national reputation as a teacher, researcher, and clinician and enhances the prestige of his/her medical school and teaching hospital. I believe that creating and supporting a successful medical blog is another way to achieve these same goals.
- As to documenting whether these goals have, in fact, been achieved by the author of a medical blog, the daily readership of such a blog can be quantified with far more precision than can be achieved by a print journal article.
- In addition, a professional blog allows the circulation of new ideas and methods within hours of when they are conceived, as compared to the latency period of many months or even years for print publications.
- Increasingly, I believe that journal articles will cite web and blog references using the permalink system, creating an indelible link between ideas generated in the electronic media and the [currently] more prestigious medical journals. This, in turn, will add to the prestige of blogging and web publication in academic medicine.