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Despite Reservations, Open Access to Case Data Can Dramatically Improve the Accessibility of Medical Knowledge

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Operation Open Heart surgical visit, Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua New Guinea, July 5, 2010 | © Courtesy of Rocky Roe, AusAID and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.

An Open Access medical journal that has sidestepped conventional peer-review procedures gains traction as an information source among doctors.

A Blog Article By Pablo Markin.

In her recent review, Megan Molteni, writing for Wired, has zeroed in on the usefulness of the Cureus Journal of Medical Science for practising physicians, especially if they work in specialized fields where access to medical case knowledge can be critical for operating room decision-making. Launched as recently as in 2012, this Open Access journal already rivals established, paywall-protected scientific journals as a trusted source of medical information. Launched by John Adler, a neurosurgeon from Stanford University, this journal has embraced the Open Access model, due to its mission to serve as a largest repository for medical case study information. To achieve this end, this journal deploys step-by-step article submission templates and streamlined review procedures that reduce the time gap from manuscript submission to publication to weeks.

This Open Access approach is particularly suited to the case study methodology that does not necessarily follows the representative sampling logic that characterises quantitative methodologies, which makes it necessary to consider individual cases as irreducible entities. In the field of clinical surgery, to learn from individual patient differences practising physicians are likely to need access to in-depth information on multiple similar and different medical cases that are given low priority by prestigious medical journals that put a premium on scientific research results that need to prove their originality to be accepted for publication. This de-facto exclusivity of traditional medical journals in conjunction with peer review procedures that apply the standards of scientific inquiry have created an opportunity for digital case study-oriented journals the number of which has grown by over 300% in recent years. While this significant journal industry growth has also attracted predatory journals, as most of these follow the Open Access model and levy article processing charges (APCs), close to 50% of medical case report journals apply rigorous peer review standards. In this respect, Cureus belongs to Open Access journals that do not involve APCs, which contributes to its credibility, as is also reflected in its indexing in PubMed Central, a widely recognized search engine for biomedical literature hosted by the United States’ National Institute of Health.

In this case, this journal utilizes to the fullest the disruptive potential of Open Access to capture for scientific purposes medical case report information that would be unavailable otherwise to the medical practice and research community around the world. This is further facilitated by the blurring of the boundaries between academic journals and blogs, since this journal also acts as a platform for article-level quality and significance ratings and evaluations, which add an element of crowd-sourcing to its peer review model. This adds to the growing popularity of this journal that currently publishes close to 25 articles per week.

While the take-up of this de-facto open access, post-publication peer review approach has been relatively modest, this disruptive model of scientific journal publishing has been aiding medical practitioners in making more informed patient-related decisions than were possible before.

By Pablo Markin

Featured Image Credits: Operation Open Heart surgical visit, Port Moresby General Hospital, Papua New Guinea, July 5, 2010 | © Courtesy of Rocky Roe, AusAID and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia.

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