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The Medical Journal Meets the Internet

Curran, Charles. (2002). The medical journal meets the internet. First Monday. http://www.firstmonday.org/issue7_6/curran/index.html

This article examines the ways in which the internet has the potential to change the field of medical publishing. The internet offers major time and cost savings, as well as media enhancements such as video clips and hyperlinks; however, these changes are not without concerns. Curran outlines the advantages as: streamlining the various steps of manuscript review through electronic communication, as opposed to conventional mail, and cost reduction of production and distribution of journals, in addition to providing reduced journal storage volume in libraries and increasing breadth of access to new information (through e-searches). Convenience is another advantage of e-journals: convenience of being able to search articles electronically, rapid access, and downloading of articles. One disadvantage is the need of internet infrastructure, which may be not as readily available in developing countries. In addition, although savings of cost and time are important, the author argues that the tenants of rigorous peer review must be maintained to ensure scientific scrutiny of clinical studies. Time is still needed for peers to review the validity of claims made in clinical study reports prior to publication. Finally, the internet could also help balance “publication bias,� where results not found to be statistically significant are not published. Curran argues that the internet will allow for greater publication of negative or statistically insignificant findings, important information in meta-analyses and to prevent unnecessary duplication of clinical studies, as the internet is less hampered by traditional publishing costs.

Curran’s examination of the internet’s influence on medical publishing highlights three key areas identified by Gurak (2001): speed (in the reduced time in brining first submission of a report to its publication as well as reducing the time of bringing medical advances to the practicing physician), reach (bringing greater and easier access to consumers as well as those in the medical field), and interactivity (the ability to conduct electronic searches and the potential of including multi-media enhancements to journal articles). This study remains relevant today, with the NIH, the major funder of medical research, mandating more rapid communication of research findings to the medical community and to the public.