Tuesday, December 22, 2015

British medical humor for the holidays

Formerly known as the British Medical Journal, the BMJ Christmas issue is out with critical additions to the scientific literature such as a study of doctors’ coffee purchasing at work (surgeons drink the most, hierarchical position is positively correlated with high consumption and generosity in paying for others’ coffee) and the growing frequency of quotes from Bob Dylan songs in the scientific literature (the study was inspired by a long-running bet among scientists at a Swedish institute over how many they could sneak in, apparently “The Times They are a-Changin” is most frequently cited overall).  For the last 35 years, BMJ’s last issue of the year has included novel, sometimes irreverent, often Christmas-themed articles. Unlike April Fool’s, the articles must meet the same rigorous scientific standards as the rest of the year. Prior issues have included a scientific explanation of why Rudolph’s nose is red (more blood vessels), debunking a Danish myth that people can get drunk by soaking their feet in alcohol, and a survey of sword swallowers’ medical issues. My favorite this year is Rejection of Rejection – Overcoming Barriers to Publication. The bane of academic life, leading scientific journals reject 80% of submissions. The piece includes a form letter response to a returned article thanking the journal for the rejection, but adding “Unfortunately we are unable to accept it at this time.” It goes on to explain that the author, as you might imagine, receives many rejections every year and is unfortunately unable to accept them all. I think advocates should expand the concept. We could refuse to accept state budget cuts, the death of an important bill, or the loss of HUSKY eligibility for parents. This has potential.