Sunday, March 3, 2013

Promotion and Tenure: Peer Review

In the world of academic medicine, Promotion and Tenure (P&T) refers to the process where someone “applies” to rise up the ranks from Lecturer, to Assistant, to Associate, and ultimately, to “Full” Professor.  There are set criteria for this process set forth by academic institutions.  I am impressed at how the P&T process at my institution is disseminated out to faculty: complete transparency in what the expectations are.
I recently attended a session for faculty to teach us about this process.  I have been to these before, but I learn something new every time I attend these.  It allows me to understand what I need to be doing within a timeline, what data I need to collect, and how I should go about crafting my “personal statement” (akin to the same personal statement one writes for residency applications).
While hearing about the criteria at a faculty development session on P&T, I learned about different ways to apply scholarship.  I am pleased that my institution uses the word “scholarship” instead of “research”, because scholarship is more broadly defined and does not restrict it to only publishing papers in traditional medical or scientific journals (although those are still the “holy grail” of scholarship).
Given my interest in social media, and blogging, I asked a simple question: “Would describing my blog and my foray into social media through Twitter be considered scholarship?”  After all, my blog is really about Medical Education in general (it is even in the title!).  It was a simple question, as at the time, other examples of scholarship besides publications in mainstream journals were being described.  The answer came in the form of a question: “Is your blog peer reviewed?”
Apparently, having something be “peer reviewed” is a critical step to making it “count” as scholarship (in the eyes of P&T, at least).  Another step is “retrievable”.  Whew!  That one is easily attainable—but the peer reviewed part—I’m not so sure.
It got me thinking.  How can we “peer review” content disseminated via social media, with respect to medicine or medical education?  A great blog here (from earlier today!) describes a future direction of medical education, called “FOAM”.  In it, the author describes the lack of peer review, but also calls into question the “traditional peer review process”.  What I love is a reference to an article titled “Peer review: a flawed process at the heart of science and journals”, which, undoubtedly and ironically, required peer review, to get into the journal in the first place.  Another article describing a survey to chairs related to E-learning as educational scholarship concludes that chairs feel that e-learning is valuable as scholarship. 
So here is the question to ponder: how can those who blog or use other social media tools within medicine or medical education achieve the “peer review” criterion for P&T?  Or should we call into question that criterion, as demonstrated in the article?  Given the explosion of social media (including blogging) in today’s society, should we push to abandon or adapt the “it needs to be peer reviewed” component necessary for scholarship within academic P&T committees?
At this time, I am still crafting my own opinion on this, but figured “Why not crowd source the question and see what others think?”  In reality, that is a version of a “peer review process” in and of itself.  Please feel free to weigh in on this topic; I would love to know your opinion.


  1. The thing about peer review is it relieves the P&T committee from the burden of vetting your work, if it's published it has cleared a quality chasm. You can publish any shit you want on a blog and so using that in support of of academic advancement means there needs to be a mechanism for checking the quality. RTs, comments and followers are not equivalent to peer review.

    Most followers by a doctor: Dr. Oz
    My most retweeted, a salacious story of cocaine and hyperkalemia:
    Blog comments: a cesspool of seo spammers.
    Klout score: any system that ranks me higher (Klout 62) than both @DrJenGunter (Klout 60) and @RenalFellowNtwk (Klout 44) is no system I would trust.

    This is not an easy problem to crack. If the P&T wants a social media partisan to peer review your material give them my name, I'd be happy to do this.

  2. I don't know if you have seen this: Peer reviewed blog comments to the NEJM blog: