Second Order Peer Review: How to keep up with HPE Publications

By Jonathan Sherbino (@sherbino)

Recently, I’ve been thinking about the rapid expanse of education scholarship. My current practice is to scan the ToC of the top medical education journals and download the pdfs to read at a later date.  Unfortunately, my virtual “bedside table” is frequently buried under a pile of pdfs.  Every so often, I must re-triage the list and delete manuscripts that no longer make the grade.  This is not an effective process.  This problem reminded me of a favourite reference that’s now a decade old.  Ann McKibbon, from McMaster University, coined the term “number needed to read” in this article  (Of course, being on faculty at McMaster University <the evidence-based medicine epicenter> I’m contractually required quote every hour on the hour a NNT [number needed to treat] or NNH [number needed to harm]. Now, I have a surrogate, the NNR.).

McKibbon et al. suggest “that a clinical reader would need to read in the range of 13-14 articles from the top 20 (clinical) journals to obtain one that is directly clinically important in any health care area.” Check out this table from the article to see where your favourite clinical title ranks.

Back to my problem…what is the NNR for health professions education journals?  More significantly, is it an effective practice for a CE to attempt to read all of the (key) articles published monthly in the “big” journals (and what about the education manuscripts published in clinical journals, social sciences journals)?

I think second order peer review may be an answer to this problem.  At McMaster there is the Premium Literature Service (PLUS).  This program for clinical journals rates the methodological quality AND clinical impact of a manuscript.  Subscribers are sent (daily) links to manuscripts that meet a quality and clinical impact threshold.  Out of the flood of a fire hose comes a drink of water.

I guess I’m wondering about the equivalent for health professions education journals.  I hope that you subscribe to KeyLIME. This is an example of a second order peer review resource.  But with bi-weekly episode releases, this resource can never keep up.

What do you use?  Share it below.  I hope that we can build a list of resources to help CEs keep up with the rush of education scholarship.

Image courtesy of Creative Commons