I have been posting Lab Soft News blog notes for more than nine years. I have always thought that blogging is an ideal medium for academics, including pathologists, for communicating new ideas. However, I can't say that pathology blogging has evolved into anything resembling a trend during my time publishing on the web. What I have in mind here is what I have called "professional blogging" by which I mean blog notes by academic physicians writing in their area of expertise (see: Professional Blogs as Publication Vehicles for Physicians in Academic Clinical Tracks). Part of the problem is that this type of communication by academics is not yet viewed with any seriousness by their peers. With this in mind, a recent article suggesting that academic medicine should embrace social media caught my attention (see: The time for academic medicine to embrace social media is now). Below is an excerpt from it:
The integration of social media and medicine is still in its infancy and, as a result, there is no impact factor for social media contributions, which may largely go unrecognized. Nonetheless, social media might relieve the anxiety of publishing to stay relevant. While the peer-review process is the cornerstone of scientific validation, social media offers professors, physicians and academic institutions the opportunity to publish from their own user handles in a way that is unconstrained from “pleasing” a top journal with sexy yet potentially mediocre research. In fact, social media offers many distinct advantages. By its very nature, social media can be used as a more effective tool to disseminate medical information to larger audiences than traditional methods. While a top journal such as the New England Journal of Medicine reaches as many as 600,000 readers weekly, a social media publication may easily reach millions and is accessible anywhere in the world. Moreover, unlike journals, social media is not shackled by membership fees, which narrows the subscriber audience.... [P]ublishing on social media may improve the public’s understanding of science. While most journals are read by professionals of that particular field, social media publications have the potential of reaching a larger audience of laypeople who may not entirely understand the language within a professional manuscript but are nonetheless interested in the topic. In addition, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube can connect with the general patient population to promote communication and overall public health more so than traditional methods of publication.
This articles touches on most of the major arguments that I could personally drag out in favor of blogging by academics compared to publishing articles in peer-reviewed journals: (1) usually a larger audience; (2) avoidance of the need to "please" the editors and reviewers of journals; (3) the ability to reach out to a sophisticated lay audience as well as physician colleagues due to the absence of subscription fees; (4) the ability to quantify the number of readers-per-day which is not possible with hardcopy journal articles. This allows the easy quantification of the potential impact of written communications. I don't mean to imply that blogging is a substitute for journal publications for academics -- it's an extension of a supplement to it. Economics is one academic field where the most esteemed practitioners all have blogs (see: The Best Economics Blogs).
Twitter has evolved into a pillar of social media for major teaching hospitals such as Johns Hopkins and Sloan Kettering, governmental bodies such as the CDC, professional societies such as ASCO, ACR, and ASCP, reference labs such as ARUP, and consulting firms such as Deloitte Health Care. The tweets posted by these organizations, which I personally follow, are oriented to sophisticated readers. These organizations take care that their tweets are "newsy" and informative and lack a too-obvious marketing slant. Many are so informative that I commonly use them as the basis for new notes for Lab Soft News.