This is not your father’s JAMA

As any reader of this blog knows, we are completely in favor of trying to drag the medical research establishment into the twenty-first century. There have been any number of posts here on how journals are not sufficient, research needs further translation, and how academics need new ways to reach decision makers. Knowing that, I was particularly pleased to see this piece in Kaiser Health News on changes to JAMA:

In October, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) began incorporating the two-dimensional scannable code on at least one study every issue. When scanned with a smart phone camera, the “quick response” code directs the reader to a video of the study’s author discussing his or her research in detail.

I am absolutely thrilled to see a journal with the reach of JAMA embrace technology such as this. Journal articles, in general, are often inaccessible to the lay public. Videos explaining the research, though, likely have a much further reach. And there’s more:

JAMA, which has the highest circulation among medical journals in the U.S. at 300,000, will also connect their QR codes to podcast content starting in January. In addition, Bauchner says JAMA along with the other Archive journals will launch a Web app tailored for tablets in that same month. “So in addition to QR codes we are going to have more modern technology of tablet-ready materials.”  The editor-in-chief says that publishing for the iPad and other tablets will be a huge leap for medical journals, because it will merge print and Web readers closer together. The journal is making other changes including new cover art, which Bauchner says can drive more readers to the site and eventually to the QR code. “As one reader told me, I guess this is not your father’s JAMA anymore.”

One thing to note, though: Many readers of JAMA content — including academics and journalists — probably don’t see the print edition and won’t see an iPad edition either. They may only pluck out an article here and there when a search engine directs them to it. The next step for JAMA and other journals is to find ways of making their content more accessible to those audiences, especially when it is policy relevant. Naturally, we have a few ideas about that (see links in first paragraph).

Nevertheless, JAMA’s ambition is like music to our ears. We’ve spent years trying to find ways to bring research and evidence into mainstream discussions of health policy. It’s heartening to see that a major journal with the reach of JAMA is making such efforts to do the same. We look forward to seeing how these changes fare.

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