Issue 48 / 16 December 2013

THIS is the last issue of MJA InSight for 2013. We hope that with one less email jostling for your attention you can start concentrating on festive cheer and relaxation.

When we return on 20 January we’ll be making some minor changes to InSight.
The InSight newsletter will continue to appear in your inbox once a week although, of course, you can visit our website at any time. We will also continue to present a mix of news stories based on the latest published research and comment articles from experts, often commissioned with the aim of interpreting and contextualising new evidence.

Putting together a medical news site can be a heady experience. Every week we scan the international medical literature for the most interesting studies, changes in clinical guidance and expert commentary. No stone remains unturned as we filter through what at time seems like a mountain of material — from short research letters to detailed government reports.

It’s a process that often feels like being a spectator at a colourful and chaotic parade. Each week we pull just a few performers from the line-up for a closer look, some evaluation and a bit of discussion.

Deciding which items to cover is based on a variety of considerations, including reader interest, novelty and relevance to Australian health care. Most importantly, we aim to put together high-quality, balanced stories that will bring something of value to our readers.

In an environment where the passing parade includes multiple studies that seem to produce conflicting results, and new findings that add complexity to patient-level decisions (consider the plethora of studies examining the non-cardiac risks and benefits of statins, for instance), we believe that high-quality medical news stories are valuable.

MJA InSight is not peer reviewed, although much of our content is drawn from peer-reviewed material published in the MJA and elsewhere.

The responsibility of upholding the excellent reputation of our “parent” (the MJA) weighs heavily on the InSight team. We ask Australian experts to comment on the studies we highlight, and seek a range of views. “Spin” is kept to a minimum, as are strident headlines.

Like most offspring of intellectual or moral heavyweights, sometimes we succeed, and now and then we miss the mark. When we do — thanks to the “feedback” section of the website — we quickly find out!

Responses from readers have grown steadily this year, and fall into four broad categories — additional information from experts, debate within and between the health care professions, patient/consumer perspectives, and feedback to the InSight team about our performance.

We value all these responses, and consider them to be a core part of InSight’s content. As former BMJ editor Richard Smith has opined, the post-publication peer review is a vital test of the publication’s legitimacy and relevance.

In recognition of the importance of your feedback, next year we will introduce a monthly prize for the best MJA InSight reader response to our articles. This will be judged by MJA Editor-In-Chief Professor Stephen Leeder on the basis of the comment’s contribution to the discussion of an issue raised by one of our articles.

As we take a break from our relentless search for clickable headlines and irresistible polls, we would like to thank our regular columnists, Jane McCredie, Dr Aniello Iannuzzi and Dr Sue Ieraci for their considered, often provocative and always relevant articles; and of course our readers, especially those of you who have posted responses.

We also thank the many other experts who have contributed Comment articles to InSight in the past 12 months, provoking debate.

We hope we have been able to highlight some star performers in the medical literature for you this year, and wish you the blessing of a clear and peaceful mind for the festive season.

And next time you feel wearied by the passing parade, consider Mark Twain’s observation on the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee: “So far as I can see, a procession has value in but two ways — as a show and as a symbol, its minor function being to delight the eye, its major one to compel thought, exalt the spirit, stir the heart, and inflame the imagination …”


Dr Ruth Armstrong is the medical editor of MJA InSight.

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