Letters to the Editor 2.0

This is a guest post by Dr Scott Weingart of EMCrit — you may have heard of him. If not… well how is life under than rock in Outer Mongolia?

The textbook is dead. Anyone who has not accepted this is probably functionally deaf owing to the auditory insulation of their rectal vault.

But what about journals?

It seems there should still be a place for journals in the new world of FOAM, especially for the publication of true research. One aspect of traditional journals that is due for a change is the Letters to the Editor section.

Most journals have them, usually towards the back of each issue. When a reader finds a mistake, a hole in a paper’s logic, or a piece of the work that offends, the next step is to write a letter to the journal. Sometimes these letters highlight new research, but often they are snarky and occasionally condemnatory.

The author of the original paper is then given a few weeks to respond in kind. There is no facilitated contact between the letter writer and the author; often, not even an email address arrives with the request for response.

A letter on one of my articles

A few weeks ago I received a letter to the editor responding to an article I had written on peri-intubation oxygenation. The authors were two Anaesthetists from the UK who had some legitimate questions about the article phrased in the typical fashion of these letters.

I began to draft my response and realized this was just plain wrong. We are in the generation of interactivity, why couldn’t I actually communicate with these folks to really understand their questions and put something useful into my response.

After a fairly extensive search, I finally located an email for one of the authors (note to readers: be easily discoverable online, otherwise you look like a laggard). I invited the two of them to chat online and asked if I could record the conversation. It was thoroughly enjoyable.

I still wrote a conventional reply which J Emerg Med will ostensibly publish at some point, but you don’t have to wait. I have placed the conversation on the EMCrit Blog. If you like the physiology of gas exchange, you may find it interesting.

Now, I don’t imagine many other article authors will be conducting a recorded podcast each time they get a letter regarding one one of their manuscripts. However, fostering interaction between the querier and the article author can only benefit the eventual response. I hope in the future, journals embrace the concepts of interactivity and provide a means for this connection.

Chris is an Intensivist and ECMO specialist at the Alfred ICU in Melbourne. He is also a Clinical Adjunct Associate Professor at Monash University. He is a co-founder of the Australia and New Zealand Clinician Educator Network (ANZCEN) and is the Lead for the ANZCEN Clinician Educator Incubator programme. He is on the Board of Directors for the Intensive Care Foundation and is a First Part Examiner for the College of Intensive Care Medicine. He is an internationally recognised Clinician Educator with a passion for helping clinicians learn and for improving the clinical performance of individuals and collectives.

After finishing his medical degree at the University of Auckland, he continued post-graduate training in New Zealand as well as Australia’s Northern Territory, Perth and Melbourne. He has completed fellowship training in both intensive care medicine and emergency medicine, as well as post-graduate training in biochemistry, clinical toxicology, clinical epidemiology, and health professional education.

He is actively involved in in using translational simulation to improve patient care and the design of processes and systems at Alfred Health. He coordinates the Alfred ICU’s education and simulation programmes and runs the unit’s education website, INTENSIVE.  He created the ‘Critically Ill Airway’ course and teaches on numerous courses around the world. He is one of the founders of the FOAM movement (Free Open-Access Medical education) and is co-creator of litfl.com, the RAGE podcast, the Resuscitology course, and the SMACC conference.

His one great achievement is being the father of three amazing children.

On Twitter, he is @precordialthump.

| INTENSIVE | RAGE | Resuscitology | SMACC

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