• 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.

    • “Online First” and “Early Release” commentary is commonplace in peer reviewed journals nowadays, and I find the text resembles thoughtful blogging if not closely, sometime identically.

      II beg to differ gents, the meta servcie you provide, ie, assembling relevant data and offereing unique commentary is not a trifle. The readership pushes and prods, and that is only something a devote of the site would know, but you are not likely casually scribe nonsense. Some of what passes for first class stuff in the top tier journals would not survive a blog like this frankly, I have been particulary disappointed in some of JAMAs output (Detsky for one), peer review or not.

      The key I think, and its obvious, is know your sites and sources. I dont know if Aaron is being modest, but his graphs and spins are one of a kind. Trust me, people read, people “steal,” and for that alone, it is influential and moving the conversation forward.

      My bet: in 5-10 years, the playing field will be altered. PLoS is just one example.

      Let me know one TIE is having its IPO! 🙂

      • Hmmm … maybe we’re reading different things, but I see quite a difference between “online first” and “early release” material and blog posts. From my perspective, those ways of releasing journal articles don’t change the content of those articles. It just gets them out ahead of print, which is slower due to the physical constraints of the world that don’t exist in cyberspace.

        The closest thing to blogging I see from health policy journals is at Health Affairs. But it is still quite different from blogging as I define it.

        I have turned a few things I’ve done on this blog into journal articles, but it took several orders of magnitude more work. It’s just a different type of writing with far different standards.

        Columns are similar to blog posts. Not a lot of space between them, actually.

    • I wish I could find her post, but Marion Nestle posted up last year re: the time it took her to write a commentary and then get it in one of the top flight journals–JAMA or NEJM I think.


      It was lightning fast, and the point of the post was the changing landscape of publishing and turnaround times of disseminating material.

      There are similarities.

      Anyway, wish i could find the post, but could not.


      • Commentary/Perspectives are more column-like. Yes, fast. But they’re not original research. That’s the difference. Plus, it takes a big name to get one of those reliably. Don’t kid yourself, we’re not there yet.

    • All fair points, but we will just have to split the difference. The blogosphere is too big, too much variation.


      I still know how to win this debate.

      Takes a “big name,” huh? “Not there yet.” Really?

      (File under: send to mom)

      Blogging has done you well Dr. Frakt.
      Oh, did I mention NEJM 🙂

      • But you don’t observe the failures! As I said, I we cannot rely on consistent access to the outlets worthy of bragging to mom. See also my co-authors on the NEJM piece. They matter. A lot.

        We need not consider the entire blogosphere. I think there are a few dozen blogs and other outlets that matter in what we do here. I know them very, very well. You don’t think this blog has built its success without some deep understanding of the link economy? Trust me, there has been a lot of background work. 🙂

    • We hear a lot in academia about TRIP (translating research into practice). There still aren’t reliable measures and reward systems for success in that arena (unless, of course, you directly commercialize your research for profit). Even there, we’re more accurately talking about TRYOIP (translating your own research into practice). Until we figure out how to measure and reward TRIYOP as a meaningful adjunct to peer-reviewed publications and grants, we’re still a long way from rewarding the huge contributions of a high quality blog like this that aggregates and comments on a large body of work beyond that of the blog author. There is an indirect reward in terms of name recognition that will have some influence on those who write external promotion review letters, provided of course that those letter writers see value in the activity. The good thing is that if they didn’t see such value, they wouldn’t likely be aware of the blog in the first place!

      • One of the huge benefits of this blog is name recognition, as you point out, and the accompanying access to practitioners in my field. I get a lot of response from fellow health economists, all positive. My two most recent publications would not have happened had it not been for this blog. It’s been professionally valuable. I hope it has benefited more than just me! I started it for the fun of writing and explaining. That it has delivered more is a bonus. But it is also proof of concept that a good blog in one’s field can really matter in one’s career.

        • Maybe noting how many health economists have used the blog in their classes would be a tangible measure of value.