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What is the EMR?


The Evolution & Medicine Review (EMR) is a new scientific publication created by and for the community of scientists, scholars, clinicians and teachers working at the interface of evolution and medicine/public health. It differs from a traditional journal as it is dynamic, interactive and more timely. The EMR provides open access to carefully selected information from diverse sources, along with engaging commentary and opportunities for discussion.

There is no good name for this new genre of web publishing, created for The Evolution & Medicine Review. It is neither a blog nor a webpage. The best designation we have come up with is a WeView—a Web Based ReView created by a community with a shared interest in a specific topic. We envisage that our concept of a WeView could provide a publishing template for many scientific and other groups. Whether it does so or not, the genre is particularly well suited for fields such as evolution and medicine that are too diverse for any one person to hope to keep up-to-date. Relevant information is buried in 100s of different journals crossing many different disciplines. Moreover, new research and teaching initiatives are being developed simultaneously around the world, but often lack the connections that could make them more generally applicable. The mission of the Evolution & Medicine Review is to bring all this information together along with expert commentary and opportunities for discussion.

The EMR is not a venue for publishing original research, although it is a great place for discussing original ideas that otherwise would never find their way to general circulation. The posts on the homepage are written by scientists who have volunteered to serve as Senior Correspondents (Who we are) and can provide diverse authoritative perspectives from many different subfields. They report on new papers, projects, meetings, teaching resources, and funding opportunities.

Our larger aim is to help build the evolution and medicine community by providing a central resource that everyone can use and contribute to. With your help, the EMR can fulfill that role. We encourage all who are working or interested in the intersection of evolution and medicine to post replies and information that others may be able to use. Read more about our Commenting Guidelines or how to provide feedback and make suggestions

…a virtual home for the evolution and medicine community

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The field of evolutionary medicine is growing fast but there still remains a large gap separating the traditional disciplines of evolutionary biology and medicine (Nesse & Stearns 2008). Relevant research remains dispersed across many different existing subdisciplines (e.g. infectious disease, genetics, anthropology and psychology). Despite recent second editions of major edited books and many international meetings each year, the field has no journal and no society. The website and email list sponsored by The Foundation for Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health has helps to collate and disseminate relevant information, but much more is needed. Those working in the field still have no good way to keep up-to-date about significant recent developments or to learn about others who share their interests, even if they are in the same university. Workers applying an evolutionary framework in one discipline often know little about relevant work in other disciplines. New research is neglected, and misgivings about a line of research can take years to surface.

The traditional way to create a new field is to start a society and an affiliated journal. This is no longer an efficient strategy. Now that journals are available online, for example, scientists have less incentive to join a society or support a specific journal; society memberships are declining. Instead, our aim is to create a virtual home for evolution and medicine that is not restrained by the barriers imposed by a single journal or the discipline-bound, peer-review culture of primary publications. People in the field want a central source of authoritative information with expert evaluation of the latest research (regardless of the venue in which it is published). They want general commentary about a range of topics, teaching resources, and a way to make contact with others. And, they want all of this for free and up-to-date as of today. Creating such a central source will rapidly advance efforts to bring evolutionary biology to bear on the problems of medicine and public health and help to generate new research agendas, funding opportunities and publications. The Evolution & Medicine Review will be that source.

New strategies to bridge the gap

Traditional means of science communication (text books, journals, courses, meetings) can help to build fields, but they are limited because they take time to establish and they inevitably have a restricted audience. For a transdisciplinary enterprise, they can close boundaries as easily as open them. A text book for medical students could be useful, but most medical schools do not yet have courses on evolution and medicine. A new journal would help some researchers, but it would also sequester much information where more interdisciplinary communities would not find it. The mass media promotes interest, but journalists tend to present speculative conclusions as fact, potentially damaging the reputation of the field (see an example about the function of the appendix here, here and here). Moreover, traditional journal publishing, despite the advances in technology, is actually slower now than when the first issue of the first scientific journal – the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal the Royal Society – was published in March 1665 (Alma Swan, Berlin 5 OA Meeting 2007).

Open access publishing and the new generation of social networking tools are changing the nature of scientific communication. We are taking advantage of these to both bridge the gap between evolution and medicine and to demonstrate the value of a new strategy that can be adopted by other emerging and established scholarly communities. In particular, open source blogging software offers a simple and inexpensive means of communicating rapidly with an unlimited audience. Blogs have a reputation for being fast, quirky, personal, opinionated, and are often perceived as highly unreliable. However, in the right social structure, they can provide the same kind of authoritative information found in journals, along with commentary that vastly increases the utility of traditional journal information. Blogging software is now the foundation for the online versions of many newspapers (e.g. the New York Times), simply because it is the most efficient way to manage information on the web. Like those newspapers, we will not use the word “blog,” even while we make full use of blog technology. We feel this is important (at least until we are established) to ensure the engagement of the more conservative members of the various disciplines while capturing a new younger audience; the ones who will take this field further.

Instead of waiting a year to get a few responses to an article, this strategy garners many responses in a matter of days. Instead of wondering what others think about a line of research, this approach offers a combination of expert and open commentary. Instead of communicating mainly at yearly meetings and occasional study sections, scientists can find those who share their interests in minutes, and begin private or public exchanges. Instead of browsing dozens of journals to find relevant material, this approach will deliver the relevant articles, filtered by an expert panel. Together, these advantages not only make science faster and more engaging, they also improve quality.

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The Evolution & Medicine Review is sponsored by The Foundation for Evolution, Medicine and Public Health. The Editor is Randolph Nesse, but the Senior Correspondents are the heart of the enterprise. They roam the intellectual landscape and report back with astute comments on new findings of interest. Other specialist volunteers take charge of gathering and organizing information on a specific topic. For instance, Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist from the University College London, gathers, organizes and publishes a page on the EMR dedicated to education resources.

Senior Correspondents

The following list of Senior Correspondents should match the right hand column of the Home page. If not, we need to update this! The names here link to their own websites whereas those on the home page link to their EMR profile and which posts they have written.

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We encourage readers of the EMR to comment on all posts or contribute to our information pages. We welcome scientific debate and constructive criticism of papers, books and other resources as well as the research, teaching and funding environment relevant to the field. Comments about religion, intelligent design, general politics or other non-scientific issue will be deleted, as will racist, sexist and other defamatory comments.

Comments should be short; usually a few lines to a paragraph.

Please use your real name for all comments. If your WordPress ID is not your name, then please sign your post with yourfull name and affiliation. Anonymous posts will be deleted (even if they are otherwise wonderful).

Suggestions for topics and resources deserving review are welcomed. Please send a note to Editor@EvMedReview.com

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The Evolution & Medicine Review is sponsored by The Evolution and Medicine Network

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