Commentary
Open Access

A new outlet for medical education scholarship

Richard Hays[1]

Institution: 1. University of Tasmania,
Corresponding Author: Prof Richard Hays [email protected]
Categories: Medical Education (General)

Abstract

Not needed for editorial

Main body

As medical education research grows in popularity and relevance, the number of submissions to the relatively small number of medical education journals increases steadily.  As an example, Medical Teacher has recorded a 350% growth in annual submissions over the last 10 years.  Even with growth in publishing space in the on-line format, the acceptance rate has decreased over the same time to about 8%.  For optimists like me, this is good news, because it highlights the strength of our academic discipline.  Hence there is room for another publishing venue.

It may also be time for a fresh way of publishing medical education articles.  Hard copy journals are becoming less prominent, as digital media creates opportunities for increased and speedier publication that is both less expensive and more likely to be current at publication.  Many journals are now either entirely on-line, or at least inclusive of substantial on-line sections and refereeing systems.  Editorial Boards no longer need to meet face to face, and reviewers can contribute to decisions from any corner of the globe.  Open review is becoming more common, as the academic community recognises and tries to minimise bias in editorial decisions and make the editorial process a more valuable learning experience for contributors.  For 20 years or more there have been calls to reform academic publishing (Mahoney, 1977), based on continuing debates about the potential for publication bias from using a relatively small group of experts, some of whom may have vested interests.  There is also the concern about ‘confirmatory bias’, where reviewers may support publication of results that support their own beliefs or what is already known, when results that are unexpected or prove that some initiatives do NOT work can be helpful and should be widely accessible (Smith, 2006).  Reviewers’ reports may also reflect bias based on personal opinions and have been shown to be inconsistent (Texeira and Dobranski, 2014).

MedEdPublish represents a further stage of innovation in this rapid evolution of publishing.  The entire platform is web-based.  Contributions may be in any of several categories – original research, case studies, practical tips and guidelines, personal commentaries, systematic reviews, book reviews or letters – from undergraduate, postgraduate or continuing education in any context.  Negative findings are welcome.  The genuine innovation is where contemporary social media meets traditional academic processes – the Editorial Board will apply only a ‘light touch’ review prior to publishing.  This is a key step, because there will have to be some filter for relevance, methodological quality and readability, but the intention is to publish all articles that are potentially credible.  All reviews will be post-publication and will be available almost immediately on-line, potentially creating a rapid-response discussion thread around each contribution.  Articles will receive a rating of from 1 to 5 stars, one by the formal reviewers and one by the general readership.  Authors will find out what both groups think of their work, providing opportunities to learn from a wide variety of sources.  MedEdPublish aims to have articles that receive strongly positive reviews and recommendations by the formal reviewers - achieving 5 or perhaps 4 stars, listed by indexing and abstracting services including PubMed, making this an attractive proposition for contributors with academic appointments.  All authors may receive helpful guidance to improve their work, with the possibility that improved versions may be submitted after responding to reviewers’ comments.    

Is there a risk that the platform will not achieve the reputation for quality developed by more established journals?  Perhaps there will be some initial resistance to change, as we have become used to ‘hidden’ review processes giving a stamp of approval.  On the other hand, many articles being declined are of high quality, but just not far enough up the rankings to pass the increasingly difficult acceptance point.  This approach offers potential to get more of those good articles into circulation.  Those articles with high star ratings and good reviews should achieve the same citation potential as those published in the more established journals.   Our aim is to maintain or improve the quality of academic publishing through a different editorial process.  

Is there a risk in submitting a paper that is judged to have serious methodological flaws or errors in interpretation?  Well, perhaps there is.  A low rating by experts and peers in such an open system might be embarrassing and even unlikely to facilitate academic career progress.  As with any academic journal submission process, contributors should ask colleagues to read their articles and provide feedback before submission, to make sure that the initial submission is sound.  It is important that all reviews are framed constructively.  Our reviewers will take this educational approach, and all readers should follow normal social media etiquette: politeness, authenticity, consistency, generosity, ‘observing the ‘rules’ and thinking before posting are important (Minocha and Petrie, 2012).  There are safeguards to reduce the risk of inappropriate wording in reviews from the wider readership, with a prominent ‘Report Abuse’ button on each page. 

I am really excited by the opportunity to not just expand publishing in academic medicine, but also to steer publishing down a slightly different path.  I look forward to receiving your contributions.

Take Home Messages

Notes On Contributors

Richard hays is Professor of Medical Education at the University of Tasmania and The Editor of MedEdPublish.

Acknowledgements

Bibliography/References

Mahoney MJ 1977). Publication prejudices: an experimental study of confirmatory bias in the peer review system. Cognitive Therapy and Research 1: 161-175

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF01173636

Minocha S and Petre M (2012). Handbook of Social Media for Researchers and Supervisors. The Open University pp 55-57

Smith R (2006). Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine 99: 178-182

http://dx.doi.org/10.1258/jrsm.99.4.178

Teixera JA and Dobranski J (2014). Problems with traditional science publishing and finding a wider niche for post-publication peer review. Accountability in Research 22: 22-40

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08989621.2014.899909

Appendices

There are some conflicts of interest:
I am the Editor of this journal

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Reviews

Mohamed Al-Eraky - (05/07/2016) Panel Member Icon
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As usual, AMEE is leading in innovation by shaping the future of publication. The new MedEdPublish post-publication review platform meets the expectations of the new generation of authors who value transverse and open communication among scholars, as they do with ‘friends’. The platform has all features of social media such as: threads, discussions and rating/likes, yet it also preserves the quality of academic publishing with a ‘gentle review’ prior to publication.

I am greatly pleased to contribute as a member of the Editorial Board of MedEdPublish. As Professor Hays indicated, MedEdPublish is expected to be “a valuable learning experience for contributors”. I strongly agree and interpret ‘contributors’ to encompass not only authors and reviewers in that classical closed circuit, but also YOU as a reader. MedEdPublish empowers readers to rate and comment on articles. Readers, therefore, are actually in the heart of the process of the post-review publication.

Welcome to the era of ‘active readership’!
Pat Lilley - (09/06/2016) Panel Member Icon
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I enjoyed reading Richard Hays' commentary and am pleased to be involved with this exciting and innovative initiative, which provides another outlet for those working in medical and health professions education to publish their work. As stated by Richard, it is becoming increasingly difficult to publish in the mainstream journals. Paradoxically this comes at a time when it is increasingly necessary to publish to demonstrate scholarship. Papers reporting negative findings, replicating previous studies or with small sample sizes may not be regarded as a high priority for publication in some journals, but may still be valuable additions to the literature. AMEE MedEdPublish welcomes submissions from the international community – both from those new to the discipline and from the more experienced, and these will be published rapidly. As stated by Richard: “Our aim is to maintain or improve the quality of academic publishing through a different editorial process.” For this to happen it is important that the medical education community comes forward to review papers published, to share its experience and to give constructive feedback to authors. We really hope readers will engage with the process.
Ronald M Harden - (06/06/2016) Panel Member Icon
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I was pleased to read Richard Hays’ commentary in this first issue of the newly-launched AMEE MedEdPublish. As Editor of Medical Teacher, I receive about 30-35 new manuscripts each week, of which we can accept for publication only 3 or 4. This means that we reject many good manuscripts that merit publication and which readers could find valuable. AMEE MedEdPublish provides a vehicle for publication of such articles.

There have been many criticisms of the current peer review system in academic journals and I think it is very appropriate that AMEE is exploring post-publication review by readers and a review panel as an alternative. Contributors to MedEdPublish should be aware, however, that papers published are subject to scrutiny and comment by readers. Richard Hays makes a number of useful observations on the process and his commentary is well worth reading by all those working in the field of education in the healthcare professions.