If you are reading these words, you are in the minority. The Swine Health and Production readership survey, sent to a random sample of 100 AASP members last summer, indicates that few of you (45%) read this From the Editor column. The good news is that the majority of you read the Case Studies (88%), Original Research (77%), Production Tools (75%), and Literature Reviews (70%). The readership for Brief Communications was a little lower (66%), perhaps because this is a new genre category for SHAP. I was interested to learn that many of you use author and topic as criteria to determine whether you'll read a manuscript. In this month's column, I'd like to bring to your attention another tool we provide to help you decide whether to read an article.
All the articles we publish in Swine Health and Production are assigned a genre category--for example, "Original Research," "Case Report," "Production Tool," etc.--which is indicated at the top of the first page of each article. This category is intended as a means to help you, as a reader, orient yourself to the material you'll be encountering in the article itself. Each type of article has a different purpose and is therefore presented in its own genre-appropriate manner. Case Studies describe herd health problems that are unique. They might be a new clinical presentation of an old disease, or a difficult diagnostic challenge, or a novel treatment protocol. Case Studies are meant to help you deal with similar cases in your practice. In Case Studies, you'll want to know the history of the farm, and whether the described case is similar to what you see in practice. Production Tools give you a new method or resource to use in practice. Original Research tests a hypothesis, elaborates the materials and methods used to test that hypothesis, and then draws conclusions from the results. Brief Communications are original research designs of a smaller scope.
Each of these genre types also uses different techniques to support the claims they contain:
- In Original Research and Brief Communications, claims are supported by the data that result from a carefully designed experimental apparatus that uses a statistically adequate number of experimental subjects, controls for potential confounders and bias, and proper techniques to statistically analyze its findings. This enables the authors of Original Research reports and Brief Communications to state fairly precisely the cause-effect relationships they've observed between the dependent and independent variables in the study.
- Case Studies, because they report findings that were gathered under field conditions, usually do not have controls. They do have the advantage of more closely imitating the types of conditions under which you will actually be practicing veterinary medicine. These types of studies allow their authors to claim credibly that the phenomena they observed are likely to be generalizable to some other practical situations.
- Production Tools are "methods" oriented, and instead of presenting an account of the discovery of new knowledge, they are meant to communicate a helpful new procedure. Because these methods are abstract and meant to be generalized over a variety of practical situations, they are generic enough to be helpful under almost any set of circumstances.
All articles in all of the genres are refereed and edited with equal rigor and care.
At times, we have authors who would prefer to have their manuscripts published under the "Original Research" genre rather than one of the others. In my opinion, each of these genres has equal value. They have a distinct purpose and format. All submitted manuscripts, regardless of genre, undergo the same rigorous peer review process. For example, I have published a Production Tool in Swine Health and Production that required as much creative energy and time as Original Research. Academics live by the mandate to "publish-or-perish." At my institution (the University of Guelph), a first-authored publication is valued equally for purposes of promotion and tenure, regardless of its genre.
A colleague of mine, Dr. Louis Perino, once told me that new scientific information does not become knowledge until it is published in a peer-reviewed journal. The reviewers and editors determine the appropriate genre category under which we'll publish a manuscript. By striving to present the material in each genre in a relatively consistent way, we hope to ensure that you receive the information you need in the format most appropriate for its type of new knowledge.
-- Cate Dewey