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ACEM & EMA – Showing a progressive attitude to Emergency Medicine Research, Publishing and Education

Based on my efforts with this site and my editorial in EMA earlier this year on medical journals and Web 2.0, I was very privileged to be invited to the Emergency Medicine Australasia strategic planning day at ACEM headquarters in Melbourne, held yesterday.  Present were several esteemed members of the Editorial team, the ACEM CEO Alana Killen, Dr Andrew Gosbell (director of policy and research at ACEM), several members of the EMA section of Wiley Blackwell, as well as myself and Dr Mike Cadogan of LifeInTheFastLane fame.  Mike and I were invited to provide perspective on the booming free online Emergency Medical Education scene, and how this can tie in with the future of EMA.

Rather than go into the details of what was discussed, I’d like to summarise some of the overall themes of the meeting. Based on recent surveys of Editors, authors and readers, there was a strong push from the EMA Editors to increase the quality of research in the journal, a broader international perspective and “more clinical relevance” of the content were also big themes.  More educational content and trainee input were also discussed at length. Of course, online access was a hot topic. Several options for improvement in online access were tabled, as well as a lengthy discussion about the utility of social media in this process. 

The elephant in the room was (and still is) free open access to journal content.  Without going into too much detail, this is a conundrum being faced by all in the scientific community at the moment.  The inescapable fact is: research costs money, publishing and distribution (even online) costs money.  I don’t want to start a debate about this, as I know people have strong opinions about it, but let me assure you that the Editors of EMA are thinking very progressively in the area, and are strongly in favour of free, open online access.  How this pans out in the real world is anyone’s guess, but the fact that it was able to be discussed at length with the publishers shows that at least they are open to discussion about it.

Believe it or not, EMA is struggling to find section editors.  There are at least 4 or 5 sections without editors at present, which places a huge burden on those who volunteer to edit or review for the journal.  For those with any interest in getting involved, watch for expressions of interest offers coming from ACEM/EMA, and I’d strongly encourage anyone with an interest in research to get involved.  Having never met the editorial members before, I found them to be very positive, highly motivated, altruistic individuals with very high academic standards. 

Interestingly, for those of you who hate getting the print version of the journal, the option to receive it only in digitial format is coming. I was surprised to hear that ACEM went “digital only” with Your Directions (the College newsletter for FACEMs), only to face a barrage of complaints – to the point where they have to start sending print copies again! A lot of people still want paper.  Amazingly it seems that despite a lot of the currently available media technology, and the obvious environemental issues, medical people are still very slow to get onboard with paperless communication, which is frustrating for the early adopters, but is in fact the reality we are dealing with.

I was fortunate enough to be able to speak to some of the team from Wiley, and they reiterated to me that compared to some of the other Australian medical specialty colleges they deal with, ACEM is seen as very progressive, positive and forward thinking organisation.  So for those who have any animosity toward the College, or feel at times disgruntled with or distanced from EMA, the openness to change, and willingness to get on board with things like social media and free open access content shows a degree of modernity lacking in many other specialties and their journals.  Most of the issues people have with the journal are known about, and there are many behind the scenes issues that restrict change, many related to the relatively small size of our specialty membership, and small population, and therefore our research base. 

Wheels turn slowly in big organisations, so progress may be slow, but it is happening, and before you have your next whinge about EMA, drop me a line, or tweet Andrew Gosbell at @acemonline, get engaged and find out what’s happening, because it’s likely they know what your whingeing about already and have already developed a strategy to fix it!

I hope this clarifies some of the mystique around EMA and medical journal publsihing in general.  The team at EMA are aware of the sense many of us have that it is an exclusive club that only the “usual suspects” are involved in, and are working hard to dispel this myth, thanks largely to Editor in Chief, Tony Brown, and Andrew Gosbell who are putting a huge amount of energy, time, work and enhtusiasm into making EMA a progressive, modern, high-quality journal that strives to meet the needs of its readers. 

We’ll wait to see what comes from the meeting yesterday, but an over-arching theme was to try and bring the standard of EMA into alignment with the very high clinical reputation of Australian (and NZ) Emergency Physicians and educators.  If you are a trainee or FACEM, and are in any way interested in getting invoved in EMA, they’d be more than happy to hear from you.


Me (Andy Buck), Mike Cadogan, George Jelenik, Tony Brown and Andrew Gosbell – group hug after the EMA Strategic Planning Day. 

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