A way forward for quality peer review


Writing in BMC Medicine last week, one of our Medical Editors, Jigisha Patel, made a case for training and specialization in peer review. With kind permission from The BMJ, here we republish a piece by Jane Feinmann which takes a look at the article’s recommendations.

This article first appeared on The BMJ blogs.

Blind faith that the publication of medical research in peer reviewed journals elevates a study to the status of “the evidence,” and therefore “the truth,” may be on the wane among those in the know. But for the public, and a vast number of doctors, this “naïve and misplaced” credulousness persists.

According to Dr Jigisha Patel, medical editor of BioMed Central, this idea must be challenged. Writing in

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Tackling neglected tropical diseases with the power of community

The beginnings of schistosomiasis in the body. (Image courtesy of Yale Rosen.)

It is one of the great success stories of the last 25 years that research has developed effective and simple treatments for patients suffering from many of the infectious diseases associated with poverty. However, if the late 20th century was about developing treatments, the early 21st has become about how to deliver them efficiently.

Public health systems around the world are notoriously weak, and developing a simple community intervention lacks the glamour of discovering a groundbreaking new vaccine. In his recent interview in Biome, José Belizán, Editor-in-Chief of Reproductive Health, pointed out that only six percent of the biomedical research budget in his native Argentina is dedicated to public health research.

However, awareness is growing, and with it comes the …

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Making predictions: The future of biology


It’s hard to make predictions, especially about the Future.

Yogi Berra (via Titus Brown)


What will biology look like in the year 2039? In July I attended the Bioinformatics Open Source Conference (BOSC), a friendly community of open source advocates, where I heard bioinformatician Titus Brown deliver his thoughts on this in his talk, “A History of Bioinformatics (in the Year 2039)”.

Good for my jet lag and a great start to BOSC. Talks about the future often focus on data size. Titus pointed to one such talk by Mike Schatz of Cold Spring Harbor: “The next 10 years of quantitative biology”. (Also check out the latest big data  Cold Spring Harbor meeting, whose abstract deadline is August 22nd.) Sequencing …

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Neglected tropical diseases – not just a danger for the tropics

Leishmania donovani - credit CDC

Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) are a group of 17 infectious diseases caused by pathogenic viruses, protozoa, helminths and bacteria. As a group, the socio-economic impact of NTDs on countries where they are endemic is comparable to malaria, AIDS or tuberculosis but, as you might guess from the term ‘neglected’, research into them doesn’t receive as much funding or attention.

We tend to consider NTDs as a problem for tropical areas of Asia, Africa and the Americas, but just because they are traditionally a burden to these regions, doesn’t mean that they can’t be a real issue for people from outside the tropics.

With climate change we are seeing (and will continue to see) the migration of parasite vectors from tropical regions to more …

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Commonality and what is the hydrogen atom equivalent for cell shape?

Stentor image 2 for cell geometry

The design principles of cell shape are the main focus of Wallace Marshall’s lab at the Department of Biochemistry & Biophysics, UCSF. As the inaugural contributor to our series on Cell geometry  (see: “Origins of cellular geometry”) he discusses in this guest post the role of mathematical modelling and the lessons of physics in the context of a new review article by Fred Chang and Kerwyn Casey Huang “How and why cells grow as rods”, just published in the series.


Predictive models are the difference between alchemy and chemistry. Everyone seems to agree that simple, quantitatively predictive models, of the type seen in physics, are something we should strive for in cell biology.

Just collecting lists of …

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Impact Factors demonstrate Open Access quality


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single journal in possession of a good impact factor must not be in want of good papers. In fact, we know that the impact factor does not tell the whole story about quality and that many scientists and institutions would like to find better ways to evaluate the quality of research output.

Nevertheless, it is an inescapable fact that around the world, the Journal Impact Factor (JIF) continues to be used as a proxy for quality, and the JIF continues to influence decisions on funding, promotions, and where to publish.

So it is no wonder that publishers, including BioMed Central, are  interested to see where our journals sit within the most recent Journal …

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July blogs digest: Impact Factors, swimmer’s itch, dodos, and more

Impact factors planet

It’s been a bumper month on the BioMed Central blogs, so we wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve missed a few posts. Not to worry though, as we’ve pulled together all the highlights right here.

The new Impact Factors are coming…

(Or rather, they’ve now arrived!) Now is the time of year when journal editors all over the world sit repeatedly clicking ‘refresh’ on their browsers. Up? Down? Staying the same? What will happen to their journal’s Impact Factor when the Journal Citation Report is published? Diana Marshall, Senior Managing Editor of the BMC series, wrote about how the new Impact Factors will affect her journals, and the publishing world as a whole.

Swimmer’s itch: sailors, fishermen and swimmers beware

For those in the …

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10 things you might not know about breastfeeding

BF pic

Welcome to the start of World Breastfeeding Week! Breastfeeding is the natural way for mothers to provide their babies with the key nutrients they require for healthy growth and development.

To mark this week, we’ve put together a list of 10 things you might not know about breastfeeding taken from International Breastfeeding Journal.


10 things you might not know about breastfeeding

1. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life reduces infant deaths and is cost effective

A recently published study by Nemat Hajeebhoy and colleagues into breastfeeding practices and infant illness in Vietnam found early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding has a protective effect against diarrhea and acute respiratory syndrome (ARI), with the effect for ARI appearing to remain constant as …

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SASA! Trial: the community intervention that is reducing violence against women


Findings from the SASA! Study, a trial assessing the impact of a community intervention in preventing violence against women in Uganda, were published today in BMC Medicine. In this guest post, Tina Musuya, one of the activists implementing the intervention in local communities writes about her personal experience of being involved in the study.

Since 2004, I’ve worked as a grass roots activist for women’s rights, working with both men and women to prevent violence against women in Uganda. I have come face to face with women who experience violence from their partners and many men who thought that controlling their partners and disciplining them whenever necessary, was normal. Shockingly, I heard many community members say that violence was …

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Data Notes: Dissecting the most boring buzzword ever

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By far one of the biggest concerns around Open Data is not whether we have the technology to enable researchers to make their data open but whether the cultural incentives are in place to make researchers freely share their data. Several publishers have recently started publishing ‘data journals’ or ‘data notes’. Is this latest publishing buzzword the answer to incentivising Open Data?

I try not to write in the first person (partly to avoid flashbacks of big red X’s from my high school essays) but this post—about something I myself have debated quite a bit—seems to demand it. As head of open data initiatives and policy here at BioMed Central, I’ve spent the last year questioning the need for ‘data notes’. …

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