FOAM: A Market of Ideas

In Knowledge Translation by Brent Thoma7 Comments

Following my post on the FOAM peer review process (Crowdsourced Instantaneous Feedback) there were some excellent comments made on my blog and twitter that led me to consider FOAM peer-review in the context of a market of ideas. Thanks especially to Nadim Lalani (ERMentor), Simon Carley (St. Emlyns) and Elisha T (The Chart Review) who commented on my post and inspired this entry.

In particular, Simon Carley noted criticisms of the current peer review process, quoting the BMJ’s Richard Smith who stated that it was “the least worst system we have” and linking to his blog which argued for the superiority of post-publication review. In this highly recommended post, Dr. Smith describes a post-publication review process as: a “market of ideas” which has “many participants and processes and moves like an economic market to determine the value of a paper.”

Previously, I would have wondered what a post-review process would look like. How could journals afford to publish indiscriminately in the hopes that their readers would push the best to the top? And what processes would the readers use to do it?  However, if we take that statement, strike paper and insert blog/podcast/video it would sound just like the FOAM peer review process to me!

The many participants? The entirety of the massive and expanding FOAM community! It is astounding to me to see diverse participants respond in real-time to ideas presented by people on the other side of the planet. I certainly credit my interactions with this community for enhancing my learning and love seeing new ideas presented, considered, discussed and expanded upon.

The many processes? In my initial post, I discussed only the significance that the comments had in serving as peer review, but there is so much more. While negative comments would discredit an idea, even those that do not make a comment can passively demonstrate their negative review by not linking to the post and not retweeting. I suspect that actively ignoring content in this way would do almost as much as a negative comment would as it would barely see the light of day.

Conversely, retweets and links (like those to other resources throughout this article as well as on FOAM updates like the LITFL Reviews) promote the article and act as an endorsement.  Generally, when a subject that has previously been discussed in FOAMlit those making the new post reference the initial content (ie – SMART:EM deserves a huge shout-out for anything related to the PPI in GIB controversy). Other processes that act as a form of positive peer review could include the inclusion of sites with quality content on bloglists, the FOAMEM RSS amalgamation site, and the @FOAMstarter. The Global Medical Education Project has even built this into its design with the ability to rank/promote content.

FOAM as a Market of Ideas

The huge community of engaged FOAM contributors/readers/listeners/watchers peer-reviews using a market of ideas that accepts a denomination measured in promotional processes such as positive/negative comments, retweets and links.

What other processes promote the atrophy or growth of FOAM contributions? I am very much enjoying watching this discussion on twitter and look forward to hearing others perspectives. Regardless of how good FOAM peer review may (or may not) be, I think it’s always prudent to take the advice of the SGEM and be skeptical!

Having read this article, I hope that I have convinced you of the importance of giving currency to the ideas you agree with in the FOAM marketplace. Please consider retweeting, forwarding this post, signing up for my RSS feed or my WordPress e-mail list (see right column).

Next Time:

After getting on a bit of an aside with my last two posts on FOAM Peer Review, my next ones will be getting back to the boring old basics. Thank you so much for reading!

Brent Thoma @boringem

Dr. Brent Thoma is a medical educator, blogging geek, and trauma/emergency physician who works at the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine. He founded BoringEM and is the CEO of CanadiEM.