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Review articles are popular with clinicians who savour concise, scholarly accounts of hot topics. Reading reviews is perceived as good use of precious time for busy dermatologists, recognizing that accessing and assimilating key information from a series of original articles is difficult. High-quality reviews identify and interpret the best original research, and create new knowledge through synthesis with existing knowledge within the context of clinical practice. The ideas and insights provided by such scholarly reviews have usually been developed and honed by the author in their teaching practice. Importantly, a well-written review has the potential to improve clinical practice by inspiring the reader to acquire new knowledge and insights that lead to improved patient care. However, informal discussion with jobbing clinicians reveals that all is not well with this vision of professional practice. Some reviews in dermatology attempt to be comprehensive with the emphasis on including everything published on a topic, rather than selecting key papers that have the potential to change practice. This type of review is usually too long (and too dull) to engage and inform busy clinicians. Review articles written by less-experienced clinicians may be comprehensive but lack clarity and brevity. Furthermore, a disconnect between theory and practice may be evident, as the novice author has a limited pool of experience to illustrate how the review relates to clinical practice.

In 1990, Ernest Boyer,[1] an educationalist, challenged prevailing notions of scholarly endeavour and scholarship. He reminded the academic community of scholarship in earlier times, where its integrity was measured by the ability to think, communicate and to learn. He highlighted that knowledge is not developed in a linear manner, and that the arrow of causality frequently points in two directions where theory informs practice and practice leads to theory. Boyer redefined scholarship as having four separate but overlapping elements. The first of these was the scholarship of discovery, which maps closely to research. The second element was the scholarship of integration, which was closely related to discovery, and relates to contextualizing the research. Boyer explained integration as the scholarship of fitting one's own research, or the research of others, into larger intellectual patterns. Integration seeks to interpret what the new discovery means, and may provide a larger and more comprehensive understanding than was initially anticipated. Boyer's third element was the scholarship of application. He stated, ‘To be considered scholarship, service activities must be tied directly to one's special field of knowledge and relate to, and flow directly out of this professional activity’. He cautioned that such service is serious, demanding work, requiring the rigour and the accountability traditionally associated with research activities. The fourth element was the scholarship of teaching; to paraphrase Boyer, the work of the clinical academic is only consequential if it is understood and acted upon by others.

What has Boyer's inclusive view of scholarship to do with a new BJD initiative for the publication of commissioned reviews? A lot, as we intend these reviews to be scholarly in all four dimensions: recognizing that knowledge is acquired through research, through synthesis, through practice and through teaching. Firstly, these reviews will concern ‘hot topics’ where the pace of new research findings will represent discovery for much of the readership. In most instances it will be clinical academics active in the scholarship of discovery who will be invited to contribute these reviews. Secondly, lead authors of these reviews will be selected on the basis of their ability to use a disciplined approach to the topic that seeks to draw together and to bring new insights to bear on original research (the scholarship of integration). Thirdly, as a clinical journal, the BJD aims to publish reviews of the highest quality and standard to help clinicians deliver better patient care. Thus, these scholarly reviews will be relevant to professional practice, with the theory and knowledge they communicate underpinning what happens during dermatological consultations (the scholarship of application). Finally, the BJD has always been strong in publishing translational research; some of these reviews will look at recent developments and how they may translate into clinical practice in the future. These reviews will be freely accessible to all readers: be sure to follow us on our new Twitter account @BrJDermatol. It is our aim that these review articles will be popular with clinicians, who will hopefully savour these concise, scholarly accounts of hot topics.

Reference

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  • 1
    Boyer EL. Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate. A special report of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. New York, NY: Wiley, 1990; chapter 2: 1525.