Two not so separate worlds: Peer-reviewed journals and social media

Social media and peer-reviewed journals. Some people would regard this as two separate worlds and perhaps they were once upon a time, but times change and more and more journals are embracing, exploring new uses and expanding their traditional journal universe with blogs, Twitter accounts etc.

An editorial retreat at The British Medical Journal focusing on social media shows that journals and social media are definitely not worlds apart. As I have been on a pre-Easter break I was unfortunately not able to follow the Twitter stream from the meeting, but in the spirit of social media a Storify (a collection of tweets #BMJseminar) from the meeting has been put together. It gives a small peak into the highlights of the meeting.

Blogging journals

I have previously blogged about the BMJ and PLoS blogs and recently the blog of the International Journal of Public Health. Lately, I have also been following Richard Horton, Editor of the Lancet, on Twitter (@richardhorton1) where he actively tweets about the numerous meetings he attends. At times very entertain and very opinion born.

In addition, I just discovered The Lancet student blog, which aims to give medical students from around the world a place to talk about their experiences of medical school life, and  their thoughts on the top health issues of the day. The use of blogs, like they are used at BMJ and PloS, is however, as far as I can tell, nothing the Lancet has engaged in. I wonder why that is….

The International Journal of Public Health blog

More and more public health related journals are expanding their online universes with blogs. Eg. BMJ and PLoS have blogs associated to their journals. Now one of the smaller journals of Public Health has also started a blog. The International Journal of Public Health’s blog is made as a joint venture with the Swiss School of Public Health +.

The blog aims to promote debate around current public health issues and articles published in IJPH and to bring together public health research and clinical practice. The idea behind it has been double:

  1. to provide a discussion platform for quick and direct exchange; and
  2. to put this discussion in an open space so that interested public health people from various fields can follow it and make contributions.

The blog seems to be populated with new posts quite regularly. Mostly the posts work as advertisement of newly published articles in International Journal of Public Health or events at the Swiss School of Public Health +. Almost all the posts end with a question, inviting the readers to comment, share ideas, thoughts and critic, such as:

“What do you think about this study? What could such results mean for Public Health policies?” or “We hope you find these articles useful! What other methodological articles would you like to see in IJPH?”

So far the comments section has not been used much. Whether this is due to lack of interest in commenting or inawareness of the blog is difficult to say as the blog is still quite new, and only was launched early in 2011.

Creating a open commenting culture is perhaps also just something that takes time…

Blogs and peer-reviewed journals

For the last couple of months I have been searching the internet for good (and bad) examples of social web media used to communicate Public Health research. And although Public Health is not the dominating topic on scholarly web 2.0 communication the variety is still great. Putting the magnifying glass on blogs it becomes clear that scholarly blogs really do come in all shapes and sizes.

Among the many different kinds of blogs, it has been interesting to see how some of the traditional peer-reviewed journals now also offer blog platforms. BMJ is one of the high-impact journals that have an elaborate blog platform. With a total of 18 blogs in categories  ranging from “Disease in Childhood” over “Tobacco control” to “Medical Ethics” several public health topics are covered. The activity level on the 18 blogs differs. For some the post frequency is higher than for others and the extend of comments varies too. Also the objective of the blogs are different, ranging from providing a platform for discussion to highlighting articles from other journals (e. the Heart Journal Scan which recommends cardiology related articles from non-cardiology journals). The blogs come with the function of regular blogs such as comments and posting it on Twitter, Facebook etc.

Other peer-reviewed journals also have blogs under their domain. This includes Nature, and PLoS who has both an official PLoS blog and PLoS blog network with more issue specific blogs. Eg. the staff of PLoS has a blog  and individual researchers have blogs related to their field.

Reading these blogs it makes me wonder what the reflection behind initiating them have been. What were the concerns and perceived benefits? How is the blog thought to relate to the “mother” peer-reviewed journal? Why does BMJ have a blog, but not the Lancet? Does the concept of the blog interfere with the fundamentals of the peer-reviewed approach? The questions are many.

Yesterday a friend of mine, and researcher herself said that she didn’t really give much for social media in research communication. But when I mentioned blogs of journals like Nature her response was  “It is funny, I do not really consider blogs as social media”. Perhaps blogs associated to journals washes out mentally some of the objections people have towards the combination of research and blogs. Perhaps the possibility of commenting is taken more and more for granted? I do not know the reasons, but it would be interesting to find out more about this…