A journal club is a group of individuals who meet regularly (in person, online, or both) to critically evaluate recent articles in the academic literature, such as the scientific literature, medical literature, or philosophy literature. Journal clubs are usually organized around a defined subject in basic or applied research. For example, the application of evidence-based medicine to some area of medical practice can be facilitated by a journal club. Typically, each participant can voice their view relating to several questions such as the appropriateness of the research design, the statistics employed, the appropriateness of the controls that were used, etc. There might be an attempt to synthesize together the results of several papers, even if some of these results might first appear to contradict each other. Even if the results of the study are seen as valid, there might be a discussion of how useful the results are and if these results might lead to new research or to new applications.
Journal clubs are sometimes used in the education of graduate or professional students. These help make the student(s) become more familiar with the advanced literature in their new field of study. In addition, these journal clubs help improve the students' skills of understanding and debating current topics of active interest in their field. This type of journal club may sometimes be taken for credit. Research laboratories may also organize journal clubs for all researchers in the lab to help them keep up with the literature produced by others who work in their field.
Online journal clubs
Journal clubs continue to adapt to new technology and methods of communication. Recently journal clubs have begun to take advantage of Twitter allowing geographically diverse groups to participate in a single discussion. The first Twitter Journal club was an Allergy Journal Club run by Dr. Ves Dimoz in 2008. They used Twitter to document the discussion of coverage of a traditional in-person Journal club. This journal club established the use of hashtags to organize journal club comments.
The website www.benty-fields.com provides a framework to organize journal clubs including daily paper updates. This website currently only works for arXiv based fields like physics, mathematics, statistics, and computer science, but will be extended to the medical science soon.
WikEM and emergency medicine based wiki powered by MediaWiki provides a journal club that occurs asyncronously during an entire month. Wiki Journal Club provides a similar service for all medical specialties. iForumRx.org is a community of practice for ambulatory care pharmacy specialists featuring an asynchronous journal club.
The first group to run a journal club primarily on Twitter was The Twitter Journal Club started by Natalie Silvey and Fi Douglas in May 2011. The original Twitter Journal Club appears to have gone offline. Since then there have been a number of additional Twitter journal clubs.
The earliest references to a journal club was found in a book of memoirs and letters by the late Sir James Paget, a British surgeon, who describes a group at St. Bartholomew's Hospital in London in the mid-19th century as "a kind of club ... a small room over a baker's shop near the Hospital-gate where we could sit and read the journals."
Sir William Osler established the first formalized journal club at McGill University in Montreal in 1875. The original purpose of Osler's journal club was "for the purchase and distribution of periodicals to which he could ill afford to subscribe."
Tinsley Harrison, the famous creator of Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine hosted a journal club at his house twice a month where one member of the group would present a research paper and the others would criticize it.
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