Medical Blogging Matters: A Carnival of Ideas, November 2010
It’s my great honour to be this month’s host for Medical Information Matters — the official name for the medical blog carnival (formerly MedLibs Round) where the “best blog posts in the field of medical information” are shared by prominent bloggers. I am very proud to consider many of these bloggers to be my colleagues and friends.
With the rise of Twitter, and the emphasis placed on ‘real time’ idea-sharing and here-I-am visibility on the social web, I often wonder where blogging (all kinds) will be in five years. Perhaps it’s a dying art form.
However, this month, the ‘art of blogging’ seems to be in ample evidence throughout the medical blogosphere and the array of postings illustrates a vast diversity of approaches and opinions. In the posts mentioned, you’ll recognize many of the top names in medical blogging – these dedicated, talented professionals continue to work hard at updating their blogs regularly while carrying on with their work as medical librarians, informaticists and physicians.
I have a real soft spot for many of my European medical librarian friends, and it never ceases to amaze me just how dedicated they are at blogging. Many of you know Guus van den Brekel who is, I think, quite simply one of the technical virtuosos of our field. His blog DigiCMB is a showcase of his interest in social technologies and his recent post entitled “Push Library search into Google: licenced database results in major search engines for “discovery” takes us through a real journey. Guus asks us to ponder the further integration of Google and our licensed proprietary databases at a time when many librarians are worried about the power of the top search engines.
Another European medical librarian who deserves our attention is the delightful and, I daresay, prolific Laika Spoetnik (a pseudonym) who blogs at Laika’s MedLibLog. Jacqueline, as she is called, is quite simply one of the original voices in our field. Her posts are considered, intelligent and ‘must-reads’ on the medical blogosphere; what impresses me most is that she is undaunted by controversial topics such as those she takes on in “Breast Cancer is not a Pink Ribbon”. She says,
“I have always had mixed feelings in case of large happenings like marches and ribbon activities and cancer months. September is …ovarian cancer month (and also US Prostate Cancer Month and childhood cancer month) and October breast cancer month…. We have only 12 months in a year!”
So many of us have been touched by breast cancer, the terrible disease that changes the lives of our sisters, aunts and mothers — many of us desperately want to help find a cure. I think telling our personal stories is an important part of that journey, and one thing I learned from reading Laika’s recent blogpost is that her mother is a breast cancer survivor — may she live a long, healthy life Laika!
Laika also takes on larger information issues in biomedical research. She is incredibly analytical and has the requisite background to interrogate scientific papers as she does in “How will we ever keep up with 75 Trials and 11 Systematic Reviews a Day?” The paper she examines is published in PLOS Medicine and written by some top names in EBM: Hilda Bastian, Paul Glasziou and Iain Chalmers. Laika tells us that “…their article [is] a good overview of the rise in number of trials, systematic reviews (SR’s) of interventions and of medical papers in general …but the message is not as sharp and clear as usual.”
Over on this side of the Atlantic there are some very impressive medical bloggers, and some of the top names in medical librarianship. However, I am always on the lookout for new names and fresh faces, particularly those who are in the first half of their careers. To wit, the incisive, playful writing of Nikki Dettmar who makes Eagledawg.net an important regular read on the medical blogosphere. But don’t let Nikki’s fun-loving nature fool you into thinking that she is afraid to take on real issues. This month’s post entitled Questionable research: Don’t genuflect at Cochrane is a case in point. Nikki uses her blog as it should be used: for reflection and as a learning space. She is always sharing her learning with us, her readers.
Those of you who have read any of my articles about web 2.0 will know that I rarely talk about medical blogging without mentioning one of the early physician blog pioneers: Dr. Ves Dimov. While it may be true that other medical bloggers have risen to the top of the social media heap, what seems equally true is that there is no one quite like Ves and his very special way of writing. In a post entitled the “First official antismoking campaign was launched in 1604 by James I of England” he riffs on a recent BMJ article about James VI of Scotland who became James I of England in 1603. It won’t surprise any of you who read Ves’s blog that he is just as comfortable quoting from historic documents such as “A Counterblaste to Tobacco” as he is highlighting medical knowledge on his Clinical Cases and Images Blog.
One of the names in the medical blogosphere that I have come to know (despite not having had any interactions with him) is Walter Jessen. Jessen is the founder, editor and head writer of Highlight HEALTH 2.0 and is a PhD-trained computational biologist. His recent post entitled A Vaccine for Breast Cancer – Deadline 2020 describes the call for action for policymakers, researchers, breast cancer advocates and other stakeholders to end the disease by January 1st, 2020. Can there be a more noble goal?
Another recent post by Jessen worth mentioning is his interview with Bertalan Mesko. Everyone seems to know “Berci”, the Hungarian-trained physician and web 2.0 advocate, who is also an indefatigable blogger and CEO of Webicina. In 2006, Berci created Scienceroll, a blog about genetics and popular medicine which quickly evolved into a leading source of information about web 2.0 in healthcare. He posts regularly on Twitter (@Berci) about health 2.0, medicine 2.0 and personalized medicine (top five words: rt, ff, medicine, medical, health), and maintains two “microcarnivals” on FriendFeed: Gene Genie and Medicine 2.0.
I would be remiss if I did not take this opportunity to mention some of the other stars of the medical blogosphere who have been in the game for many years. Without question, one of the most important names in medical librarianship is Michelle Kraft who blogs at Krafty Librarian. For me, Michelle is a blogger’s blogger. Although we’ve never met, I appreciate her steady-as-we-go approach and her deeply personal way of sharing her expertise — her intelligence shines through each and every post.
Another blog to watch for in the area of medical informatics is called the health informaticist <http://healthinformaticist.wordpress.com/about/> which seems to have a number of bloggers associated with it.
Finally, AnneMarie Cunningham deserves special mention for her blog Wishful thinking in medical education. She is a consistently interesting, cogent writer and I find her tweets and blogposts extremely valuable. She is a Clinical Lecturer at Cardiff University and interested in using new technologies to further medical education. If you haven’t encountered her blog to date, you should really check it out.