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Introducing Dermatology Online Journal.

  • Author(s): Huntley, Arthur C., MD
  • et al.
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(1) Editorial: Introduction to Dermatology Online Journal

by

Arthur C. Huntley M.D.

Dermatology Online Journal
Volume 1, Number 1


Dermatology Online Journal is not just a new journal, but a new concept in the paradigm of information management for the specialty. Designed to take advantage of the unique features of electronic communication, it is a peer reviewed journal which has the goal of presenting free and easily accessed relevant material to dermatologists.

Does dermatology need a new journal? Decidedly not!, at least not in paper format. Dermatology, like the rest of medicine, is suffering from information overload. It is the glut of scientific articles which has been driving medicine to find new ways of information management. Dermatology doesn't need another journal, it needs an improved way of accessing the vast amount of new and existing relevant information.

Is using an electronic presentation an improvement over paper? Not necessarily if the journal only seeks to copy traditional paper format. Computer screens are harder to read and images are of far lower resolution than available on paper. Used simply to turn pages, the computer is a poor substitute for paper format, but electronic communication also has its own advantages.

In order to best utilize advantages of Internet information presentation, the editors first attempted to identify those aspects. Once a list of features was developed, the next attempt was to design new ways of information presentation which depended on those advantages. Over the next few issues of the Journal, those features will be demonstrated. Here are four examples of improved information access and how those are involved in the current issue:

Advantagious Aspects of Information Presentation via the Internet

  • image enrichment
  • immediacy
  • text enrichment
  • interactive features

IMAGE ENRICHMENT

Image enrichment is a major advantage for educational material, especially in a visually oriented specialty such as dermatology. With the Internet, the cost of publishing images has plunged. One might compare the cost of storing an image on a hard disk (at current disk prices to be about 2 cents) and the color page charges of some paper journals ($1000/page is not unknown). Even though the cost of publishing in electronic form may include more than hard disc storage, the advantage is inescapable.

In this issue, the article "Online Reference Images for dermatologists and dermatopathologists" by Krejci-Papa et al introduces one such electronic image resource for dermatology housed at Erlangen University. The article is linked to that database which has thousands of clinical and pathologic slides are posted for the use of the medical community.

IMMEDIACY

Image enrichment is a major advantage for educational material, especially in a visually oriented specialty such as dermatology. With the Internet, the cost of publishing images has plunged. One might compare the cost of storing an image on a hard disk (at current disk prices to be about 2 cents) and the color page charges of some paper journals ($1000/page is not unknown). Even though the cost of publishing in electronic form may include more than hard disc storage, the advantage is inescapable.

In this issue, the article "Online Reference Images for dermatologists and dermatopathologists" by Krejci-Papa et al introduces one such electronic image resource for dermatology housed at Erlangen University. The article is linked to that database which has thousands of clinical and pathologic slides are posted for the use of the medical community.

TEXT ENRICHMENT

Text enrichment is a major advantage of the medium. The journal has chosen to define this enrichment as follows: parallel texts, appended information, and expanded reference material. The journal encourages authors to offer additional material for the reader to option.

Parallel text is one form of enrichment. If one considers an article to exist as a string of words from start to end, it is possible to have more than one string of text which goes through the same material. One example would be the translation of the work into another language as demonstrated in "Inter- and intra-individual variability of skin reactivity to histamine at prick-testing" by Spiewak, where a parallel translation into Polish is provided. Another type of translation occurs in "Viewers, browsers, and WWW performance" by Huntley et al, which has an executive summary version of the work giving graphs and conclusions.

Appended information is another example of text enrichment. Continuing with the analogy of an article being a string of text, the author may want to provide optional intercalation loops which would allow the reader to explore the material in greater depth. There is no longer need for the classic confrontation of editors who wish downsize articles, and authors who wish to include more information. Additional text or graphical material may be present at the reader's option. An example of appended information may be seen in the article "Viewers, browsers, and WWW performance" by Huntley et al, where the discussion section has an optional expansion to discuss the effect of compression formats on image manipulation.

Expanded references are another special feature. References are essentially appendages which are attached to the appropriate location on the string of text. In electronic format, those references can be linked to the appropriate site, and it is possible to quote a full citation. For example, in the Viewers article several of the references are full text reproductions. Other references are given as links to the original work, and in addition to its directory anticipating an updated document at some future date. The ability to offer expanded reference material shooed result in more accurate citations and give the reader greater latitude for exploration.

INTERACTIVE FEATURES

Interactive features are a major plus of computers. Perhaps that is why there is such a large market for computer games. Within the context of the Journal, interaction will be used for quizzes in association with case presentations. In this issue in the "Viewers" article, the reader is presented with test files that reader can used to compare performance with the author. The reader can also download shareware applications from within the article.

The process of information presentation here is in many ways new and different from the traditional paper format. It hoped that through experimentation we can develop an improved paradigm for a journal. Although the edges may be a bit rough, hopefully the reader will find the process exciting and the content enriching.


 All contents copyright (C), 1995. Dermatology Online Journal University of California Davis