The Evolution and Medicine Review launched in 2008 to serve as a nexus for information in the field of evolutionary medicine. It has grown substantially and contributed to the foundation of a society, The International Society for Evolution, Medicine & Public Health, which now maintains the site. It has also inspired other evolution and medicine projects including EvMedEd, the leading source for educational materials including books, lectures, and a collection of universities and centers dedicated to evolutionary medicine.
Our aim was to create a virtual home for evolution and medicine. People in the field wanted a central source of authoritative information with expert evaluation of the latest research (regardless of the venue in which it is published). They wanted general commentary about a range of topics, teaching resources, and a way to make contact with others. Creating that central source helps rapidly advance efforts to bring evolutionary biology to bear on the problems of medicine and public health and helps generate new research agendas, funding opportunities and publications. The Evolution & Medicine Review is proud to be that source.
The Field of Evolutionary medicine
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). 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. This leaves a large gap in the potential of evolutionary biology to transform medicine.
New strategies to bridge the gap
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 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.