As of 2018, according to The International Association of Scientific, Technical, and Medical Publishers, more than 42,000 scholarly peer-reviewed journals had collectively published more than three million articles annually. In recent years, growth has accelerated to a staggering 4% increase per year for articles and more than 5% for journals.
Explore This IssueDecember 2019
“There has been an explosion of medical knowledge over the last decade,” said Andrew M. Ibrahim, MD, MSc, resident surgeon in the department of surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and chief medical officer of HOK, a global design and architectural firm in Ann Arbor. “There is so much more information to follow in order to stay abreast and current. Therefore, we need faster ways to digest material.”
Jennifer A. Villwock, MD, assistant professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City and associate editor of ENTtoday, added that it’s no longer reasonable or feasible to consume everything with one mechanism. “When comparing how many scientific studies are published today versus years ago, it’s obvious that we’re facing a time of information overload. We need better ways to relay information, so that consumers can get the content that is most useful to them.”
In addition to this “information overload,” consumers are changing how they digest scientific data, and the scientific and scholarly communities need novel ways to convey this information. “This is evident in business and marketing—where everything is very visual,” Dr. Villwock said. “The same goes for social media trends.”
Technology plays a key role in filling the gap left by traditional paper journals and lectures at medical society meetings. With many different devices and formats available, technology can cater to different learning styles. “If we only offer traditional methods of relaying scientific information, we will miss people, because that may not be their learning preference or how they taught themselves to consume that information,” Dr. Villwock said.
Michael M. Johns, MD, director of the USC Voice Center, division director of laryngology, and professor at the USC Caruso department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in Los Angeles, agreed. “People digest information differently these days with an exponential increase in digital communication,” he said. “There are many different and easy ways to quickly share information online. Seemingly, everyone has a high-powered computer in their hands all the time.”
Furthermore, technology has become better and cheaper; many sources of information are now free or open sourced. “This has made it even more accessible,” Dr. Villwock said.
The bottom line, Dr. Ibrahim said, is that to stay relevant to readers, journals needed to innovate. This happened first with a move from paper to online. The next evolution will be to move from purely text to a journal that is highly visual and purposefully designed. “Reading something from two weeks ago may already be old news,” he said. “Our ability to share informational digitally in real time in formats that can be seen on mobile devices is a game changer.”
Here’s a look at 10 newer ways to disseminate scientific information that have emerged in recent years.