Evolutionary Biology Online Journal Club

“World’s First Online Journal Club”


Today Morgan Jackson alerted us to a recent piece in the journal Nature entitled “Online journal club” (Nature 496, 261 – 11 April 2013 – doi:10.1038/nj7444-261c). The main thrust of this short “Career Brief” article is that another group called Fertility and Sterility has recently stated up an online journal club using a platform called Journal Club Live™ (http://journalclublive.com/). This website has created the “world’s first online Cyber-Journal Club™ platform”, which basically does the same thing as we have been doing with G+ Hangouts™ and YouTube™. Devin Drown rightly pointed out that this short blurb in Nature reads like an advertisement for  Journal Club Live™.

I think for most of us the headline in Nature was both exiting and disheartening. We are all happy to see the idea of an online journal club approach gaining more general interest, but it is disappointing to see the high-profile exposure gained by another group for doing essentially the same thing that we have been doing since September 2012 (https://evobiojournalclub.wordpress.com/2012/09/).

However, since September we have grown and matured as a group. We have overcome issues relating to technology, topic selection, discussion format and more. I think we all see the inherent value of an online journal club, and I also see us as people who are uniquely positioned to write a piece on the topic. A few of us have decided that it is worth trying to publish a short paper that explicitly spells out the value of online journals clubs, and the practical steps to implementing one.

If you have any suggestions or comments that you think might be relevant for this paper please feel free to add them in the comment section below. Specifically, what do you think should be in this paper? What are the main strengths & weaknesses of online journal clubs? What are the main technological challenges that need to be overcome?


Author: hossiet

PhD student at Carleton University. I study predator-prey interactions. My current project examines the ecology and evolution of caterpillar eyespots.

13 thoughts on ““World’s First Online Journal Club”

  1. I personally am all for an online platform for Journal Clubs, but I’d love for it to be a collection of numerous journal clubs, not just the medical ones. MAybe it could provide advice on how to start one, too. And indeed, it feels disappointing (and unfair) to see a group state to be the “world’s first ever live interactive journal club” when it is obviously not true.

    Anyway, here are my thoughts on the questions you asked:
    STRENGTHS = the ability to pull together motivated people from virtually anywhere on the planet; the freedom to organise it however people want; meeting people interested in the same topic/field and that you wouldn’t have met otherwise (just like through other social media)
    WEAKNESSES = the almost impossibility to organise it to suit everyone every time, due to different time zones, for instance; the (seeming) absence of a software/platform tailored to the needs of a journal club.
    TECHNOLOGICAL CHALLENGES: G+ hangouts have worked so far, but there have been and probably always will be technical problems, plus the 10 people limit (which also exists in Skype) is, well, limiting.

  2. On that note

    • Sorry, I hit enter before I was finished typing. ….. On that note, I’m going to be attending a conference at the beginning of next month for all the students funded by my bursar. It’s a diverse group of about 70 students from different academic fields throughout South Africa. We were asked to suggest interesting topics/issues in the academic fields which would be valuable to have as a discussion/presentation. Perhaps, maybe (Pretty please), would one of the EvoBio Journal veterans be willing to do a short presentation (via G+ or skype) on the day about online journal clubs. Aside from being good publicity for the group, I think it generates all round feelings of importance and such for the presenter.
      I’m one of the bursary recipients, not staff of the fund, so this isn’t an attempt at getting a free show.

      • hi Ryan! Thanks for your interest! I think I speak on behalf of many of us here that it would certainly be interesting to do that. Just drop me an email if you want to follow up on it!

      • Will do, Rafael. Thanks.

      • Hi Ryan, that sounds great, and as Rafael said, I think a few of us at least would be quite interested in helping out. I’d certainly love to see more people take advantage of the technology and put it to use in new ways, and I think your conference might be a good way of showing people one way of doing so.

  3. You’ve got to keep in mind that the Nature blurb is about a /Medical/ journal club, medical doctors aren’t researchers, and they have a different perspective on journal clubs. Researchers are trying to sharpen their research skills and expand their knowledge, while medical journal clubs are more about working at a hospital and impressing your boss.

    • Dear Schenck. I do not think that you realise that many medical doctors are in fact researchers. This type of attitude would not see you as an ideal fit for any translational research collaboration. Your thoughts on medical journal clubs as being about impressing a boss is out of order and I afraid insulting to medical doctors who are passionate about their journal clubs. Your next post “Adding” raises concerns about your ability to work with the medical profession in a mutually respectful relationship.

  4. Adding:

    I also think the medical vs research difference is why, for example, it took a private company to produce a product to sell to doctors to get the doctors into on online journal club, whereas researchers were able to figure it out for themselves.

    • They didn’t say this is the first medical journal club, but rather that this was the first online journal club ever, which happened to be started by a medical journal, a fact that is often repeated on the journal’s websites, press releases and within the recorded videos themselves. So yes, I agree that there is a lot of handwaving & grandstanding going on by the publisher to make this seem like a more innovative idea than perhaps it really is.

      I think it’s more than a little sketchy that they’re marketing it as a “new platform” when in fact it’s just a dressed up Google+ hangout, using nothing more than custom headers & footers applied through the included add-ons in Google+.

  5. “An online real time live journal club has never taken place before…” in reference to the club meeting that happened in February or March this year. A bit in accurate seeing you guys have been around since September last year.These guys seemed to have done a bit too get some advertising which makes sense since they are an official website and not an actual group of people interested in a journal club.


    Here is a more specific club that seems about the same age….it seems a bit more exclusive

    • I actually wouldn’t be surprised if other groups had tried online journal clubs before but hadn’t been able to persevere, maybe due to a lack of motivation or technological limitations.

      • I think there may be a number of online journal clubs perhaps they chose to keep a low profile or saw no reason to advertise broadly. I just did a google search now for “online journal clubs” and a lot of stuff came up — some of it articles on how to keeps an online club going and others actual club websites. I didn’t look at too many links but most of it seems medical.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s