The InterPsych Newsletter 2(6)



IPN 2(6) Section A: Editorial


                    SECTION A: EDITORIAL

| The following is an invited editorial written by Ivan     |
| Goldberg, M.D., member of InterPsych's Board of Directors |
| and coordinator of five InterPsych forums.                |
|                                                           |
| Editorials published in the Newsletter do not represent   |
| the position or opinion of the Newsletter or its staff    |
| unless stated otherwise.                                  |
|                                                           |
| Opinions and comments are invited. Please send them       |
| to the IPN Mailbox:              |

                   by Ivan Goldberg, M.D.

     The June 22, 1995 issue of the New England Journal
     of  Medicine  (NEJM),  contains  an  editorial  by
     Jerome Kassirer, and Marcia Angell  (the Editor-in
     Chief,  and Executive Editor of the NEJM) entitled
     "The Internet and the Journal."    Their 
     editorial  is  used to  announce  that the  NEJM's 
     policy   regarding   not   publishing   previously 
     announced material (the Ingelfinger  rule)    will  
     treat the publication of material in an electronic 
     journal (e-journal) as it would treat  publication 
     in a hard-copy journal.

     The  editorial also also comments unfavorably upon
     the  legitimacy  of  the  publication  of  medical
     articles  in e-journals.  The authors warn is that
     "direct electronic publishing of   scientific
     studies   threatens   to   undermine   time-tested
     traditions  that help to ensure the quality of the
     medical literature." Their objection to  such
     publishing  is  based  on  a  number  of  factors,
     including  the absence of peer-review and revision
     of the manuscript following such review.

     Another  objection is the uncertain authorship  of
     much  of  the  medical  material that  appears  on
     Internet.    They   also   object  to   the   easy
     availability  by patients to material published in
     e-journals,  fearing  that such availability  will
     lead  patients  to  alter their  medications  with
     unfortunate results.

     The  time-tested  tradition  to which the  authors
     make  reference is that of peer-review.  A process
     that  mistakenly  is  thought to provide  unbiased
     evaluations of submitted manuscripts.  When looked
     at  objectively, non-blinded peer review has  been
     publication  is accepted when the only change  has
     been the  institutional affiliation of the author.
     When the affiliation is a little known mid-western
     college   the  manuscript  is  rejected, when  the
     affiliation  is Harvard  it is found suitable  for

     Immediate  peer-review  is one of the features  of
     Internet.   When  a  notice  is posted to  one  of
     Interpsych's forms, within an hour there are often
     comments posted about it.   No lengthy delays, and
     no anonymous reviewers.

     The  editors of the NEJM seem to be acting out  of
     unenlightened  self-interest when they oppose  the
     development of a system by which research communi-
     cations would be stored electronically  and titles
     and  abstracts distributed via Internet on a daily
     basis.    Such   a   system   would   allow   such
     communications  to be revised from time to time as
     additional   data became available.  The articles,
     always signed, would be accompanied,  when distri-
     buted  by  the  comments  of those  who  choose to
     critique them.  I would not be surprised if within
     the  next  ten  years  I  receive  a  subscription
     renewal form from the NEJM  that will allow me  to
     choose  between  receiving the journal either in a
     hard copy version, or as an e-journal.

     As  InterPsych  moves  closer  to having  its  own
     computers and customized software, we will soon be
     able  to produce and offer such  electronic publi-
     cations. Hopefully, each of our forums will choose
     to produce one or more such e-journals.  With such
     a  program  of  electronic  publishing, InterPsych
     will continue to operate  on   the   forefront  of
     electronic communications.  A  system such as this
     will  insure that  the dissemination of  important
     mental health  information will not be  delayed by
     the slow moving  process that  culminates  in  the
     snail mailing  of print journals to their subscri-