Blogging vs. journal publication

To follow-up on Aaron’s post, there’s another crucial difference between what we do on this blog and what we might do in a journal article (and, more generally, what the full stream of journal articles is).

Much of what we do here is not our own work. Sure, we repackage things in a novel way. But, largely (though not exclusively), we’re taking other people’s published work and making it accessible in a different form. We could not do this without the good work of others. Moreover, we could not publish such repackaging in a journal. It isn’t new enough.

Even more importantly, we bring previously published work to the health policy debate at the time it is needed. That’s a very different motivation for timing than journals have. Most journals publish things as they are ready (with some slight variations and occasional exceptions). Usually, when a paper is ready for publication its focus is not the topic of debate of the day. When article publication and the debate coincide, it is usually by luck. And it is rare.

Journals and other institutions that support research send out press releases when new work is published. Though those are not universally ignored — far from it — they do not get the attention they might if such information were released just when the topic is hot. In other words, despite the best efforts by organizations with a mission to disseminate research, there’s a timing mismatch.

What we do here is resurrect prior work just when it might be relevant. Most academic publication media would be too slow to do this. There are exceptions, things that come close to real time, but nothing that is real time. This blog is as close to real time health policy-relevant research dissemination as anything I’ve seen. There’s nothing else quite like it. That’s what makes us different. That’s what makes us unique. It’s something to be proud of. It’s something to promote and cherish.

Research matters and original research and publication thereof is crucial. We know that. We do that. But it only makes a difference to the extent it is accessible to the right people at the right time. That’s not happening enough in health policy. We’re doing our best to change that.

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