Papyrus to PowerPoint (P 2 P): metamorphosis of scientific communication

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.325.7378.1478 (Published 21 December 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:1478
  1. Ronald E LaPorte, professor (Ronlaporte@aol.com),
  2. Faina Linkov, research fellow,
  3. Tony Villasenor, consultant,
  4. Francois Sauer, position,
  5. Carlos Gamboa, consultant,
  6. Mita Lovalekar, research fellow,
  7. Eugene Shubnikov, FSU coordinator,
  8. Akira Sekikawa, assistant professor,
  9. Eun Ryoung Sa, research fellow
  1. Global Health Network, Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh, 3512 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213, USA
  1. Correspondence to: R E LaPorte

    Scientific communication is in the process of metamorphosis. Will it change into a dung beetle or into a beautiful butterfly? Here is one possibility that some might argue is as frightening as Kafka's story

    “As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous bug.”

    Kafka, Metamorphosis

    In 1995 we questioned the hallowed tenets of paper journals. We wrote a series of articles, beginning with “The death of biomedical journals,” suggesting the death knell for paper journals.13 Delamothe echoed our conclusions that “The burgeoning world wide web … makes it inevitable that new systems of disseminating research will replace or at least supplement journals.”4

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    Summary points

    Traditional peer reviewed journals are becoming obsolete

    We are experiencing a dramatic metamorphosis of the tools of scientific communication

    The prima lingua of scientific communication is PowerPoint

    Our search for the optimal information exchange method in science leads to P2P

    The response was Kafkaesque, reminding us of the quote from Penal Colony “It is an exceptional apparatus” so do not question it. The “journal” apparatus shows that little of the fibre of journals has been scientifically evaluated. Are journals an efficient, scientific, “just in time” process? It is impossible to answer. For 300 years there has been no evidence based evaluation of the journal process. For example, there is virtually no research on the quality of learning from journals, whether IMRD (introduction, methods, results, discussion) optimises learning, or if traditional peer review is the best system. To quote Goldbeck-Wood, “But if peer review is so central to the process by which scientific knowledge become canonised, it is ironic that science has little to say as to whether it works.”5 This applies to all phases of the journal process.

    Is a metamorphosis in …

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