January 17, 2018

Journal club

Welcome to Journal Club

The purpose of our JC is to continually improve our ability to analyze and interpret research, and share this with the community.

by Peter Attia

Read Time 2 minutes

A journal club (JC) is a group of people who get together to critically evaluate articles in the academic literature. One person typically provides a summary and review of an article, while the group chimes in with comments, questions, and criticisms. In a nutshell, JC is an autopsy (literally translated as a “seeing with one’s own eyes”): a personal observation, a form of postmortem examination. There’s often more to the story than just the abstract.

I had the luxury/privilege of being part of great journal clubs during my residency at Johns Hopkins and even more so during my time at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in both medical school and, later, as a postdoctoral fellow. Some of my greatest insights into the limitations and strengths of science came from these meetings.

Our Journal Club is no different, except that it’s virtual—we’ll always be the “presenter,” and there won’t be any donuts or stale coffee. The purpose of our JC is to continually improve our ability to analyze and interpret research and share this with the community. This should help us all on our quest to be more Feynman-like…

What can JC do for you? It can help you:

  • critically appraise published clinical research literature;
  • cultivate a better understanding of the research process;
  • develop a world-class BS detector for virtually anything the media has to say about “science”;
  • learn more about how research is conducted;
  • assimilate and provide summaries of landmark papers in the fields of performance, health, longevity, and the philosophy and practice of scientific methods;
  • receive insights from the community; and
  • challenge your thinking and the thinking of those around you.

 

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Journal Club Template

We generally follow the 20/80 rule in JC:

  • 20% covering the 5Ws (and How) from the author’s perspective:
    • Who (e.g., investigators, subjects) was involved?
    • What (e.g., methods, results) happened?
    • Where (e.g., settings, the type of study) did it take place?
    • When (e.g., the year and length of the study) did it take place?
    • Why (e.g., the motivation for the study) did that happen?
    • How (e.g., proposed mechanisms, author’s explanations) did it happen?
  • 80% covering our 3Cs (Criteria, Critique, and Conclusion):
    • Criteria: Did the article meet our elementary standards of good science and reporting?
    • Critique: What are the strengths and limitations of this article?
    • Conclusion: Do we accept the author’s conclusions? Why did we choose this article? What can we learn from this JC?

Journal Club Outline

In practice, our outline is generally as follows:

  1. Motivation (Why)
  2. Design (Who, Where, and When)
  3. Results, Discussion, and Conclusion (What and How)
  4. Criteria
  5. Critique
  6. Conclusion

Journal Club is not a solo act. It takes a community of engaged individuals. They don’t call it journal club for nothing. The first rule of Fight Journal Club is, you are permitted, if not encouraged, to discuss it broadly. And so, our fellow JCers, as a wise man might say: ask not what your Journal Club can do for you—ask what you can do for your Journal Club.

Stay tuned for our first JC article. If you have any suggestions for a paper to dissect, please post to comments.

Disclaimer: This blog is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute the practice of medicine, nursing or other professional health care services, including the giving of medical advice, and no doctor/patient relationship is formed. The use of information on this blog or materials linked from this blog is at the user's own risk. The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Users should not disregard, or delay in obtaining, medical advice for any medical condition they may have, and should seek the assistance of their health care professionals for any such conditions.

Comments

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  • Tracy Collins

    Read in the NYT today, “High-Fat Diet may fuel spread of Prostrate Cancer.” Would love your take on their findings. I’m a huge fan and appreciate all your efforts.

    • We’ll put this one on the list. Thanks for sending.

  • I look forward to learning from this group.

  • Christopher Grove

    YEEEAARS ago, I had read a “news” account of an epidemiological study that “proved” that living under hydro wires (ehem “electrical” wires) caused cancer. It seemed very convincing. And I would shake my head at all those poor saps that lived in houses next to transmission towers… as I trotted quickly by.
    Later, I read another article on “confounders” which sited that same study that I had read.
    It seems that the study did not take into account the fact that there was a strong statistical association between people who lived near electrical transmission lines and poverty.
    Get where I’m going? Yes, for various reasons (and one could site other studies) poor people have higher incidents of cancer… BECAUSE of lack of proper nutrition, being overworked and stressed, etc… whatever.
    To this day this is my favourite go-to example as to what confounders are and why one must delve deeply into epidemiological studies to decipher fact from fiction.
    Anyway… this JC Club looks cool! 🙂

    • Taubes wrote a great piece on this many years ago in Science, if you can find it.

  • Kojo
  • Geraldine Taggart-Jeewa

    Would love some discussion on the research relating to Circadian Rhythms and the implications relating to diet/disease. This is just one of the papers. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28162893/ Circadian Entrainment to the Natural Light-Dark Cycle across Seasons and the Weekend.
    Stothard ER, et al. Curr Biol. 2017.

  • NYCRaf

    Recently in the news…www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1715035115

  • Sebastian Ramos

    This one has been all over the news today: “Red meat and refined grains might increase your risk of colon cancer, a study suggests”. -US News. The title they use is “These Foods May Up Your Odds For Colon Cancer”; of course, with the picture of a steak. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaoncology/fullarticle/2669777

  • Robert Coberly

    Thank you and your staff, for this forum for discussion.
    Consider this paper:
    http://www.cell.com/action/showImagesData?pii=S0092-8674%2817%2931493-9
    I have found interactions of NLRP3 and metabolism to be of continuing interest regarding several categories of chronic and degenerative illness.

  • Francis

    Trish Greenhalgh’s book, ” How to Read a Paper” helped me improve my critical appraisal ability of medical literature.

  • Donna Jean Kaiser

    I’ve enjoyed reading your various blogs from time to time. Thank-you very much for sharing your thoughts and conversations with us!

    My journal article interest areas include the following topics:

    1. Auto-immunity and micro-biome
    Example: Diet, microbiota and autoimmune diseases. Lupus. 2014 May;23(6):518-26. doi: 10.1177/0961203313501401;
    Vieira SM1, Pagovich OE, Kriegel MA.

    2. Our circadian rhythms and health
    Example: I used to share the out of print Dover Classic, BIOLOGICAL RHYTHMS IN HUMAN & ANIMAL PHYSIOLOGY (Luce, Dover Publications, 1971), toxicity curves of various substances vs. time of day to my students so they could make better decisions in drinking alcohol vs time of day. Old and out of date, but I haven’t found an nice modern synopsis yet.

    3. Microbiome and any aspect of health
    Example: January 2018 issue of Science has a series of articles on Gut Microbes and Cancer, Science- 5Jan 2018, vol 359, Issue 6371.

    Looking forward to future articles/discussion.

  • Would love to take a closer look at this one https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19664276
    Nutr Metab (Lond). 2009 Aug 10;6:31. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-6-31.
    Study of the ketogenic agent AC-1202 in mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial.
    Henderson ST1, Vogel JL, Barr LJ, Garvin F, Jones JJ, Costantini LC.

  • Henry Flower

    There are a lot of esoteric methods in this paper, and I would love to be able to dissect and really understand the claims the authors are making – and in particular, what they mean for the carbohydrate-insulin model of obesity:
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27385608

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