Striving to bring balance to the complementary medicine debate

Is a balanced outlook on complementary medicine research even possible? BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine would like to think so, and would like your help to achieve this.

Whatever your stance on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), whether you feel that it is an important part of healthcare that should be taken more seriously, or whether you denounce it as ‘quackery’, I think we can all agree that it is a subject that generates strong opinions. To use a comparison that I’m afraid will probably only work for our British readers, it is the Marmite of the medical and scientific world: You either love it or you hate it.

Recently, two editorial/viewpoint pieces on complementary medicine have been published in ‘conventional’ medicine journals; one in The Journal of the American Medical Association, and the other in The American Journal of Medicine. While written in a generally balanced manner, both of these pieces clearly come from CAM advocates and are therefore positive in nature. Both have also provoked negative reactions from the anti-CAM ‘blogosphere’ and much debate in comments sections.

In a contentious environment such as this, the most difficult thing to do is to remain neutral, but this is exactly what we at BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine strive towards. We fervently believe that research into alternative therapies is important and necessary, with regards to both positive and negative results (see this previous blog for more on our position on negative studies). We feel that it is only with this balance that any truly beneficial CAM therapies will make their way into common practice. However, to do this requires a circus-worthy tightrope walk between open-mindedness and scepticism which can sometimes be difficult to maintain.

We do this by always keeping in mind that we are, before everything else, a scientific journal. This is why we are generally unwilling to consider any manuscript on therapies that do not have a clear underlying scientific rationale. It is also the reason that you will very rarely see any studies dealing with energy therapies or homeopathy within the pages of BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

What we are interested in finding out, and what we are now asking the community is: are we doing enough? Would you consider BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine to be a balanced and neutral journal, or do you feel that we come down too heavily on one side of the debate? More importantly, what can we do to improve?

Please let us know your thoughts using the comments box below.


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