Let me tell you a story … journal clubs as literary criticism

From the worlds greatest comic



Have you ever been to a journal club and had the slight suspicion that what you are addressing isn’t quite on-target? (Ever been part of #ADC-JC and realised that most of Twitter appears to be whispering at the back and passing notes to each other?) Ever considered if journal club really is a scientific pursuit?
I might be going off on a wild tangent here, but based on some work as an editor, a commentator, a researcher, a reader and a user of medical literature, I do wonder if we think straight about studies in journals.

#1 The journal article is a summary of a (scientific) study crushed into 2500 – 3000 words

#2 There may be a longer report that sits beneath this with more of the data and further analysis

#3 There are then the case report forms which sit below this

#4 And the patients actual experiences underpin it all.

As journal club attenders, I think we often fall into the habit of making a critique of the way the ‘story’ is being told, the phraseology or descriptors, or the presence of absence of certain reported elements. We may be more accepting of a well crafted paper than one with jags, admissions of error and clumsy English. Do our negative reflections of a study really focus on things that have been reported and are wrong / disagreed with, or on the absence of enough data to get to the answer?

Is ‘journal club’ criticism really any more than literary criticism with a scientific shrink-wrapper?

– Bob Phillips

(And I now need to acknowledge that one of the many brilliant things about #ADC_JC is that for loads of them we have had authors bravely take part to unpack and explore some of the Things Left Unwritten.)

(And also that another thing that we often do in journal clubs is complain that it’s not the study we wanted to be done, rather than address the study that has been done. Twitter / Bronchiolitis study – I am looking at you.)

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