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No joke: CMAJ editorial policy changed after spoof articles taken seriously

"Acquired growth hormone deficiency and hypogonadotropic hypogonadism in a subject with repeated head trauma, or Tintin goes to the neurologist"
(CMAJ, December 7, 2004)

"The impact of hissy fits in primary care"
(CMAJ, December, 1998)
"Bubble bubble, abdominal trouble: a new test to chew on"
(CMAJ, December 14, 1999)

"The efficacy of stethoscope placement when not in use: traditional versus 'cool'" (CMAJ, December 12, 2000)
If you didn't realize those four articles were spoofs, then you're not alone -- although that doesn't absolve you of the guilt you should feel for being so oblivious. Those four Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) spoofs have all been cited in serious medical research articles in reputable journals, writes Nova Scotian physician Christopher Naugler in the latest issue of the CMAJ.
"For the past decade CMAJ has published a series of articles inspired by the holiday season in a section called the Holiday Review. Some of these articles consist of quirky questions addressed with real data whereas others are, in the words of CMAJ's editors, "evidence-free exaggeration and premeditated preposterousness." Although these articles are a welcome holiday diversion for many physicians, confusion has sometimes arisen because these articles are indexed in MEDLINE as if they were real research articles.

"To see if these articles have been mistaken for evidence-based articles, I searched Google Scholar for citations of Holiday Review articles published in 1999–2006 and then reviewed these citations... If CMAJ's Holiday Review articles are to continue being indexed in MEDLINE, perhaps it would be prudent to insert a note at the end of each evidence-free abstract stating that the article is for entertainment purposes only and is not a real study."
Dr Naugler's letter prompted a response from deputy editor Barbara Sibbald, who has promised a change in the journal's policy. "In the future," she writes, "we will include a disclaimer in the titles of our Holiday Review science articles."

This situation makes one wonder what's more ridiculous: researchers who can't tell a spoof from the real thing, doctors studying the frequency of that phenomenon, or editors expressing grave concern about that frequency. Unless, of course, we've all been duped and this latest exchange of letters between Dr Naugler and Ms Sibbald is itself a spoof -- a late April Fool's joke. Somehow, however, I doubt it.

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Grand Rounds 4.31 is online

The latest edition of Grand Rounds, the weekly collection of the best medical blogging, is at Dr Val and the Voice of Reason.

Canadian Medicine's entry, "Putting clinical depression under the microscope and on the blogosphere," falls into a category on "health 2.0." (We were one of only three blogs to be awarded the [{] symbol by Dr Val, apparently denoting our "early bird" submissions. I appreciate the gesture, but what the heck is [{] supposed to mean?)

Also of interest (verbatim from Dr Val):

  • A Canadian Medical Student and author of Vitum Medicinus tells the story of how a patient asked her doctor a question that she already knew the answer to, just to see if he was current in his knowledge of recent health news. The post is ""
  • John Crippen from NHS Blog Doctor explores the difference between a young doctor's "gallows humor" and a senior physician's deep and abiding concern for patients in this reflection on death certificates in Britain. The post is called "."
  • Allen Roberts of GruntDoc describes how can result in unexpected innuendo.
  • Mic Agbayani at GeekyDoc, suggests that patient privacy is violated by YouTube when a video is posted of healthcare professionals laughing during a surgical procedure to remove a foreign body from the rectum. His post is called, "."
  • Bob Coffield at Health Care Law Blog writes that some argue that preventing disease does not decrease health costs. Bob disagrees, but isn't sure if he can prove his case. His post: ""

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We're hosting the Medicine 2.0 blog carnival

Canadian Medicine is proud to announce that we will be the editors of the 23rd edition of , an anthology of blog posts about the intersection of medicine and interactive web technologies, also called web 2.0.

The is available at the Dutch medical technology blog

You can submit using a browser-based form on , or email submissions to us at editors at nationalreviewofmedicine dot com (or just click ).

The deadline for submissions is Saturday, May 3 at midnight.

Our Medicine 2.0 installment will be published on Monday, May 5. Don't want to miss it? Sign up to receive Canadian Medicine by .

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