Nature Clinical Practice audio articles: keeping busy doctors updated

Let’s give a chance to audio articles, a new initiative being trialed by Nature Clinical Practice. “These are FREE full-text audio versions of printed content from the March 2007 issue of Nature Clinical Practice Rheumatology. The aim of the Nature Clinical Practice journals is ‘to translate the latest findings into clinical practice’ by highlighting important original research papers so that busy doctors don’t have to read every journal associated with their specialty. The unabridged audio articles will extend this concept by enabling on-the-go doctors to make the most of their time through learning by listening, for example when commuting, exercising or driving.”

Ok, that’s the theory so far, but what is the practice behind? I listened to the demos (via iPhone on an airplane) and filled out a Surveymonkey survey.

For protocols, research and practical articles (full with numbers) it is not a good format as you cannot turn your eye back checking the earlier information (usually people are not reading scientific articles in a linear way but in circles, for instance reading abstracts firsts, than scanning figures and conclusion, then going into details in results, materials, methods, discussion and so on). Shorter, opinionated, journalistic pieces are preferred for audio content like the editorial, and viewpoints formats.

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The articles are read out by natural voices, not by machines and softwares just like iSpeak It.

audioarticlesauthorsThe Nature folks also created an embeddable player of the Editorial demo ‘Rheumatology in the Asia Pacific region—opportunities and challenges’ that can be added to a blog post. However the code is not functional on my WordPress blog, but this could be due to the severe restrictions of the WordPress people to protect their blog engine against malicious code.

To sum up, I think there is a definite niche future for shorter scientific audio articles in the iPodoPhone world including people struggle with sight problems, but nevertheless curious about medicine and science.

I would also like to remind of what Timo Hannay said on the future of scientific audio broadcasting concerning podcasts: Feedback indicated that researchers liked hearing the author interviews because it gives them an insight into reports from outside their fields that they would never normally read in the journal. It also allows them to connect with these scientists as people, unfiltered by the formal, passive style of research papers. (Needless to say, authors also love being given a platform to talk about their work in front of tens of thousands of fellow researchers.) More prosaically, the show enables researchers them to make more productive use of their time. “Please make your shows longer,” pleaded one listener, “I have a lot of microscope time.” And this hints at one of the benefits to us as the producers: it allows us to connect with scientists and clinicians during times when they could not possibly read one of our journals or browse our websites – for example, when conducting experiments, commuting or exercising. Of course, as well as serving our main constituency of established professional scientists, podcasts also enable us to reach a broader, younger audience than we traditionally encounter.