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Author: Cummings, Martin Marc, 1920-2011
Title: Publications Progress or Pollution, 1972
Occasion: The 1972 Annual Meeting of the Society of Sigma Xi, Myrtle Beach, S.C.
MMC Commentary: I can now see that this speech forecasts evidence-based medicine. I was ahead of my time. According to my hand-written notes, this speech was derived from the Osler Oration given to the London Osler Society. This speech continues with a subject that was of great interest to me. In this speech I add that scientists should read the literature selectively relevant to their interests. I again say that we must examine the quality of medical publications to identify those which have a critical editorial process that is not self-serving. I provide the history of the abstract journal. Several other points include the efforts made to provide equal and ready access to the literature through a formal medical library network. The busy practitioner seeks distilled information while the more leisurely historian and scholar compares and evaluates more comprehensive documentation. I spoke strongly that scientific writing needs clarity, precision of expression without a redundancy, and clear titles identifying the topic. In speaking and in writing, complexities need to be reduced to messages and observations that involve the least number of variables for clear understanding. To solve some publication problems I suggest addressing competent writing, the preparation of lucid, but brief scientific reports, improved editing, and more critical standards for publication, thus accelerating scientific progress while reducing paper pollution. All of these facts are true today. It is still difficult to weed through all of the journals that are published. I have narrowed my reading down to a few high-quality journals including a leading journal on cardiology, and I continue to do extensive reading on stem cell research.
Subject terms:
History of Medicine
Publications
Communication
Copyright
Billings, John S. (John Shaw), 1838-1913
Osler, William, Sir, 1849-1919
Cushing, Harvey, 1869-1939
Welch, William Henry, 1850-1934
Johns Hopkins Hospital

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