“Peer-reviewed or non-peer-reviewed? Indexed or non-indexed? Findable and citable? Tweetable? Open access?” During an Associate Editors (AE) monthly call in early 2021, we deliberated where Forum articles reside in a curriculum vitae (CV). Where do they live to recognize a physician’s scholarly work? We agreed that peer-reviewed research articles in an indexed academic or scientific journal are easily categorized as scholarship; however, lines become blurred when addressing non-traditional types of scholarship—including letters to the editor, perspectives, and SGIM Forum articles.
The SGIM Forum editor team combined our collective experiences as academicians and AEs to make recommendations about how past or prospective SGIM Forum authors could list their articles in their CVs.
A Brief History on Scholarship
Classifying scholarly work is as variable as institutions’ definitions of what that means. According to Ernest Boyer in 1990,1, 2 a work to qualify as scholarship should have the following qualities:
- a) evidence of creativity and leadership;
- b) clear objectives;
- c) use of appropriate methods to assess quality or measure outcomes;
- d) significant results that can be reviewed; and
- e) evidence of impact and dissemination of the results, through articles or presentations or integration into current practice.
The CV is seen as a universal place to chronicle one’s scholarship and professional trajectory; however, the concept of scholarship has broadened considerably. Many institutions are adapting promotion and tenure guidelines to include works beyond traditional journal articles, including digital scholarship.3 Additionally, imperatives to modify CVs to better reflect scholarship’s breadth have been influenced by external factors, for example, the COVID-19 pandemic.4
“Traditional” scholarship or scholarship of discovery typically refers to classical, hypothesis-driven research that results in the generation of new knowledge. Successful “discovery scholarship” usually results in peer-reviewed scientific publications.
“Non-traditional” scholarship includes three types:1, 2
- Scholarship of Application: includes activities that build bridges between theory and practice or that apply knowledge to practical problems. Examples include development of new medical treatment modalities or clinical care pathways; activities that address community health care needs, shaping healthcare and public policy; or activities that promote patient safety and care quality.
- Scholarship of Integration: includes creative synthesis or analyses that define “connections across disciplines” or bring new insights to bear on original research. The scholarship of integration seeks to interpret, analyze, and draw together the results of the original research. Review articles and book chapters are examples of the scholarship of integration.
- Scholarship of Education: focuses on the development of new teaching methods, assessment of learning outcomes and dissemination of highly effective curricula or other instructional materials.
Although the consensus and understanding of scholarship has evolved since 1990, the CV structure resisted the passage of time. Academic institutions do not share a standard CV structure. The unintended consequence is that academic clinicians list their SGIM Forum published articles under a myriad of umbrellas or headers on their CVs. It is time to rethink how we document one’s academic life course as the needs of our community change.
SGIM Forum Articles Are Peer-Reviewed
In academia, peer-reviewed publications are considered a scholarly gold standard. However, the reality is that peer review is heterogeneous: the number of reviewers, reviewers’ expertise, the amount of time spent reviewing, and standards applied during review can all vary. Some journals use desk review—and desk rejection—by an editor to decide if a submitted article is timely and aligned with interests and content of the journal’s audience. Desk rejection by an editor means no further peer review follows. Such variability suggests that there is no enforcement, auditing, or credentialing of the peer review process, even though there may be voluntary community norms.
Accompanying peer review, the assignment of a digital object identifier (DOI) to the work adds luster to such publications in a CV. DOIs permit indexing in a bibliographic database (e.g., PubMed) that can be beneficial for rapid dissemination of scientific work and raising the authors’ scholarly profiles. To facilitate this process, many scientific journals use editorial management platforms with built-in pipelines for high-volume submission management and peer review. Using such complex manuscript submission processes in itself seems to add value to a peer-reviewed publication.
Most submissions to SGIM Forum are peer-reviewed—and often rigorously. The editor in chief reviews all articles and AEs volunteer to review, edit, and comment on submissions, working as a team to shape strategic direction and content of the newsletter. AEs also frequently correspond one-on-one with authors iteratively, akin at times to a concierge service, until the articles are ready for publication. In addition, AEs are frequently engaged with SGIM committee work and serve in leadership or at-large roles across the Society: they are often content experts and provide high-quality peer review. Ultimately, SGIM Forum publications are peer-reviewed scholarship.
Why Publish in SGIM Forum?
Publishing in SGIM Forum is a peer-reviewed scholarship activity. Reflecting on the scholarship categories, most SGIM Forum articles belong to at least one scholarship type. Perspectives, clinical updates, or policy updates lend themselves well to scholarship of integration. Timely topics in medical education frequently fall under scholarship of education. Research in progress is a form of scholarship of discovery. Sharing a morning report or institutional experiences that may be valuable to stimulate system change elsewhere can be a form of scholarship of application. Keeping SGIM Forum as a home for important reflective pieces, updates, and perspectives remains unique and distinguishing compared to traditional indexed, peer-reviewed original research content.
As the Society of General Internal Medicine’s official newsletter, SGIM Forum provides a unique space for SGIM members to express opinions, ideas, or thoughts or report early stage findings from ongoing projects. Early career and trainee physicians may find this a welcoming space for scholarly publishing early in their academic careers, providing opportunities for exposure to academic writing and success.
We believe this newsletter offers a high-quality and suitable alternative to the gold standard. SGIM Forum is a non-traditional publishing platform that we believe has comparable academic currency. Furthermore, SGIM Forum has always been free for public access, with an abbreviated non-member account registration to access all current and archived content.
What We Recommend
How do we ensure SGIM Forum authors are well-positioned to receive appropriate academic value for their peer-reviewed publications? We concluded that the most accurate presentation for SGIM Forum articles on a CV is this:
- Peer-reviewed publications
- Non-indexed publications, Newsletters and Bulletins of Professional Societies
- Gupta, S. (2016) Reflections from a LEAD Scholar. SGIM Forum. 9 (12): 5.
In the absence of the embellishments of a traditional peer-reviewed publication, SGIM Forum still offers the value and prestige of peer review and should be readily acknowledged as such. We offer an ideal sandbox for thoughtful and critical dialogue: kindling leads to flames of thought and dialogue on contemporary issues relevant for SGIM members and our patients.