Soft networks for bridging the gap between research and practice: illuminative evaluation of CHAINBMJ 2004; 328 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.328.7449.1174 (Published 13 May 2004) Cite this as: BMJ 2004;328:1174
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This article highlights the importance of developing, and sustaining,
on-line opportunities for healthcare professionals to share knowledge,
especially the tacit aspects, and the value of an on-line medium that
allows communication to occur "any time and any place".
The number of messages that were posted is small (102) compared with
the total membership (2800) and although the importance of "lurkers" is
noted there is no indication of the extent to which this occurs. It seems
that the main value of CHAIN has been responding to "cries for help". This
is undoubtedly useful but there is little evidence to suggest that
interactive discussion related to the topic has occurred.
The concept of knowledge management recognises the importance of
integrating tacit and explicit knowledge but it also emphasises that this
needs to be an active process if the result is to be a change in practice.
The real challenge is to create an on-line opportunity that replicates a
good group discussion, accompanied by on-lookers (lurkers).
Unfortunately, e-mail or bulletin boards are a poor medium to allow such
meaningful discussions since it is difficult to follow the thread of the
discussion when at least 100 messages can be posted related to one topic.
The ideal medium is the use of a discussion board.
Our experience has been in the development and evaluation of four on-
line discussion boards for a variety of busy healthcare professionals. We
have found that there is a high reluctance for people to engage in on-line
discussions, although happy to exchange anecdote and basic information.
Currently, many on-line opportunities are being created with the
vision of allowing professionals to share knowledge in an attempt to
increase learning and change in practice. Examples, include communities
being developed on the National Electronic Library for Health (NELH) site
and the National Health Service University (NHSU) site, in addition to
continuing professional development sites, such as BMJLearning. An
understanding of how we can maximise meaningful on-line discussions is
essential if the potential is to be achieved.
We would be delighted to hear from others interested in this aspect
of research and development.
We are involved in the development and evaluation of several on-line networks for various health care providers for which we have received funding
Competing interests: No competing interests