Re: Self-Archiving Refereed Research vs. Self-Publishing Unrefereed Research

From: Jim Till <till_at_UHNRES.UTORONTO.CA>
Date: Thu, 16 Aug 2001 02:42:15 -0400

On Fri, 10 Aug 2001, Arthur Smith wrote [in part, in response to a message
from Stevan Harnad]:

[sh]> [...]
[sh]> Self-archived eprints can be designed to carry "health
[sh]> warnings" that are as shrill as we like a priori (or, more sensibly,
[sh]> a posteriori, once we get an idea of the size of the bogus paper
[sh]> problem -- if there is any).
[as]> With medicine we are talking about lives that can be lost; I don't
[as]> think a posteriori is good enough if we're seriously hoping that
[as]> self-archives will be an appropriate means of distributing
[as]> information to the final practitioners. And if it ISN'T an
[as]> appropriate means of distributing the information, and the final
[as]> end-users of the information ignore it in favor of traditional
[as]> distribution of articles through journals, then where is the
[as]> motivation for the authors to self-archive (i.e. if they are not
[as]> reaching any more readers than they otherwise would)?

I suspect that an informed discussion of the rather complex issues of
'E-Health' (including open online access to good-quality health-related
information), is well beyond the intended scope of this particular forum.

A "consumer-oriented" perspective: censorship on the grounds of protecting
gullible patients and their families from untrustworthy health-related
information is increasingly less easy to justify. We're well into an era
where patients often bring long lists of questions and comments to
consultations with health care professionals, based on information
obtained online. Some of this information should be regarded as "jewels",
and some as "junk". But, how to be sure which is which?

In this new era, some well-informed patients and their families may know
more about their own particular health problems, and about the
currently-available interventions for managing them, than do many
primary-care physicians (and especially, physicians who haven't been
diligent about their continuing medical education).

We're also well into an era of shared decision-making, where patients and
families (if they wish to) may decide which option to choose, from among
several options offered to them by suitably-qualified health care

In addition to physicians, there are many other "end-users" of
health-related information. Examples are patients and their families,
people at higher-risk of particular health problems, opinion-leaders in
the media and those involved in health-related advocacy roles, etc., etc.
How best to meet the diverse needs of these various end-users?

Medical journals will, I predict, continue to play an important role in
adding value to the primary research literature, e.g. by helping to
convert data and information into knowledge, in various forms appropriate
for the various end-users.

But, we've definitely entered a new era. Which parts of the old
(pre-E-Health) models for health care will be retained, and which will be
abandoned? My crystal ball is no clearer than that of anyone else. But,
it does seem certain that the models will continue to change - including
the models for the translation of new data and information into
practically-useful knowledge. The issue of freedom of access to the
primary research literature is, I believe, just one important aspect of
this much bigger (and rapidly-evolving) picture.

Jim Till
University of Toronto
Received on Wed Jan 03 2001 - 19:17:43 GMT

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