Websites of note


  • Graham R. Parslow

    Corresponding author
    1. Russel Grimwade School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
    • Russel Grimwade School of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia
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Taylor and Francis is an international publisher listing more than 800 journals and around 2,300 new books each year, with a books backlist of more than 20,000 titles. The books are published under the imprint of specialty printing groups including Garland, which caught my particular attention. Garland publishes some market leading titles in life sciences including Bruce Alberts' Molecular Biology of the Cell (4th Edition) and Introduction to Protein Structure (2nd Edition) by Carl Branden and John Tooze. Locating the publications is a straighforward task by following the simple menu choices from the home page. By way of quantity of titles, the most significant imprint is Routledge. The brief history given at the site outlines how the company, founded by two scholars in the 1800s, became a large public company in 1998. My bookshelf includes the 1984 title Microcomputers in Biochemical Education edited by E. J. Wood, published by Taylor and Francis, that is the subject of a commentary elsewhere in this issue. The majority of Taylor and Francis' publications are in the social sciences, and this includes a number of publications on educational research. Two of these titles are the British Educational Research Journal and the Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. I found it informative to look through listings of paper titles, and look up occasional abstracts, to see the areas of regional and global concern in educational research. One article had an intriguing main title of Ban the Computer, although in fairness this article was directed at bad usage in primary education. Another imprint within the group is CRC, familiar to many of us for their encyclopedic reference books in science and medicine. There are multiple offerings for research and teaching from the evolving Taylor and Francis group.


The Blackwell group has produced some interesting specialist books in biomedical sciences, and their local agent has always treated me well by way of providing academic inspection copies. Just as for Francis and Taylor above, Blackwell has followed the route of corporate growth and offers an impressive diversity of titles. The simple menu of choices includes titles in life and physical sciences and medicine. There are a number of significant general research titles (e.g. the European Journal of Biochemistry) and numerous niche titles. The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, published on behalf of the British Dietetic Association, caught my interest, and I was delighted to find that I could access both abstracts and full papers online. The full paper download is only available to paid users (my university is a subscriber), but visitors can perform full searches and read abstracts for free.


BioMedNet News is a free digest of topical science provided to showcase articles published in Elsevier-Group publications. It has evolved from one of the first online journals in life science, originally titled HMS Beagle, and the editors have constantly tweaked my interest with synopses of articles that arrive in my E-mail every 2 weeks. I recommend subscribing to BioMedNet News for all students and teachers in life science. The content in each issue of the magazine is free for a period of 14 days from the publication date of that issue, then reverts to being available to subscribers, although abstracts and content remain in an archive. In the issue of 15–28 January 2004, a feature article on Gehrig disease was included from David A. Greenberg and Kunlin Jin, published in Trends in Molecular Medicine (2004) 10, 1–3 (the title heads this item). Their paper led me to recall a response from the wheelchair-bound physicist Stephen Hawking to a reporter who asked if Hawking was taking any interest in following medical developments in his disease condition. Hawking had no interest at all in medical matters and was sure that someone would let him know when there was a cure. Greenberg and Jin are not likely to let Hawking know that there is a cure for Gehrig's disease, otherwise known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), although serendipity has allowed some realistic hope. The story begins with unpromising attempts to create gene-knockout mice that failed to express vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) or either of its two principal receptors, Vegfr1 or Vegfr2. The progeny died in utero, and it was deduced that VEGF is critical to protect nerves from hypoxic, ischemic, and related forms of injury. VEGF may explain some forms of ALS and provide a therapeutic approach for this currently untreatable and fatal crippling disease of motor neurons. In Greenberg and Kunlin's words of introduction to ALS, “It is one of the most famous and poignant stories in baseball. Lou Gehrig—the indomitable first baseman for the New York Yankees—benches himself after having played a then-record 2130 consecutive games, and succumbs over the next two years to a fatal wasting disease characterized by progressive weakness and muscle atrophy. That was over 60 years ago, and, since then, much has been learned about this disease, including recent insights into its genetic basis in a small percentage of patients. However, in terms of treatment, there remains little to offer patients, who still die an average of 3–5 years after diagnosis.”


There is a lot of general educational interest at this site, and I first found myself reading through a collection of book reviews on educational principles (choose “books about medical education”). Interested educators had written the reviews, so many of the core messages in the books were instructively condensed down in the reviews, unlike book-seller's reviews that are carefully calculated to give little useful content. Choosing the Directory of Educational Innovations leads to contributions organized under the headings of assessment, faculty development, instructional technology, curriculum, and pedagogy. The entries are thumbnails of experiences and useful by way of contacting people who have been applying interesting teaching approaches. I was interested in the contribution from Julia Ousterhout (a pharmacologist) and who has used online problem-based learning (PBL) as an alternative to conventional small groups. She reported that “A traditional problem-based learning (PBL) case is presented in a web-based format, which allows the students to navigate through the case in a nonlinear fashion. The case includes pre-recorded responses to typical patient history questions, as well as an image of the patient with pop-up windows containing results of the physical exam. Discussion questions are embedded in the case, and the case summary includes the patient's diagnoses. The students are expected to work through the case in groups of 7–8, with each group led by a volunteer peer facilitator. Online discussion forums are available for communication between group members between sessions. Evaluation is based on a written report from each group detailing their treatment plan for the patient. Although there are some drawbacks to using students instead of faculty members as group facilitators, this experience fosters collaborative learning and teamwork skills in a non-threatening environment. Furthermore, volunteer facilitators enjoy carrying out their responsibilities and helping their peers achieve the group's objectives.”


The collective group that constitutes the BEME organization are administratively located at Dundee, Scotland, but with contributing members throughout Europe, the Americas, and beyond. The site allows anyone to join a list server to take part in ongoing discussions. The BEME group have also held conferences since 1999 as satellites of other major scientific or educational meetings. The last BEME session discussed high-fidelity simulation in medical education and was held in Berne, in association with a meeting of the European Association for Medical Education. The topic of simulation is given further attention on the website by Barry Issenberg (Centre for Research in Medical Education at the University of Miami) and the material can be reached by selecting “Topic Review Groups” from the home page. All listed topics have a contact person, and this may help you to locate someone with specific educational interest and expertise. There is a bibliography of papers published by members of BEME, but this is a limited resource. An attraction of the site is learning of the interests and availability of educators who want to share their insights into the educational process.


This group is a major professional association with well-administered conferences and a journal. Despite the inclusion of “International” in the title, the acknowledged current and past contributors have all resided in the USA. The fulsome history presented on the site relates that 1988 saw the founding of the group in a meeting room of the Chicago Marriott Hotel, formed by a group of 46 participants of the annual conference of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). This specialist meeting had been organized by Roger W. Koment, who remains as a project organizer for the group. The outcome of this was the creation of a new special interest group that continued until 2000. The success of this group led to an independent organizational structure and the establishment of the Journal of the International Association of Medical Science Educators (JIAMSE) with Douglas Gould, University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, as Editor-in-Chief. The list of office bearers in the organization provides a substantial list of contacts for medical education in the USA. Choosing “Educational Resources” leads to a number of offerings including “AAMC Publications,” “Education Guides,” “Ask an Expert,” and “Commercial Educational Materials.” The 2004 conference will be the 8th Annual Meeting, July 10–13, New Orleans, Louisiana, hosted by the Tulane University School of Medicine. The program can be checked at the website.