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Journal club seminars

Dag Stenberg stenberg at cc.Helsinki.FI
Sun Jan 21 10:37:59 EST 1996

misandst at magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (misandst at postbox.acs.ohio-state.edu) wrote:
} some opinions from both students and faculty about the most productive / 
} effective way to run journal club type seminars.  

I will comment on your questions, although I do not regard myself very
good at this at all.

} 1. In order to get discussion moving so that many people can 
} participate, is it acceptable to engage in what (to the experts) may seem 
} like wild speculation?  

This I disapprove of. Speculation as a way to bring up new ideas is one
thing, but they have to be based on solid ground, for example a "what
if" on the basis of previous advances in the field, and leading to a
"how to prove/disprove". Just blowing thought bubbles in the air is
quite disrupting in a serious group discussion (yes, been there).

} 2. If a paper has been chosen and the authors are less rigorous about 
} defining their hypothesis than the standards of faculty present would 
} usually allow, is it still possible to discuss interpretation of data in a 
} meaningful way?

I would think so. But I also think that the definition of the hypothesis
should then be one subject of discussion. "Why is this not a well
defined approach? What would have been more rational? What meaningful 
study could be planned here? Are the findings relevant considering that
the authors were careless with their design?"

} 3. If the terms used in a paper, which have been well defined in the 
} literature prior to this paper, begin to be used with definitions which veer 
} away from the strict operational parameters to which they were once 
} associated, is it better to discuss/teach the former literature which 
} these authors seem to discount or to question the previous definitions?

I would frown on aberrant terminology. Agreed terms are the basis of
exact discussion; if people mean different things with the same words,
it would seem difficult to build on the scientific knowledge hierarchically.
I am not sure I know what you have in mind, but let us say somebody has
clearly defined a behavioral state called e.g., "E-state". Then somebody
finds that the drug "barc" induces something similar, but not quite identical.
If people now start to study the "barc"-induced state, assuming they are
shedding light on "E-state", it is all right only as long as they
clearly say that they use "E-barc" as a pharmacological model of the
physiological "E-state". If, for instance, "barc" also induces burst
firing in the amygdala, it is obviously false to say that "we found burst
firing in the amygdala during E". I think this type of confounding terms
has occurred in the past, and should be avoided (as in my example by
creating the new term "E-barc").

} Thank you for your participation.  I just wanted to hear what the rest of 
} the world thought.

And I just wanted to give the discussion some initial impetus.

Dag Stenberg

Dag Stenberg     MD PhD                    stenberg at cc.helsinki.fi
Institute of Biomedicine		   tel: int.+358-0-1918532
Department of Physiology                   fax: int.+358-0-1918681
P.O.Box 9       (Siltavuorenpenger 20 J)   tlx: 1002125 finuh sf
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki,Finland   

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