How Medical Students Attending Italian Schools of Medicine Maybe Introduced into the Debate of the Expert Community? an Educational Perspective

By Chirumbolo, Salvatore | Iranian Journal of Public Health, June 2016 | Go to article overview

How Medical Students Attending Italian Schools of Medicine Maybe Introduced into the Debate of the Expert Community? an Educational Perspective


Chirumbolo, Salvatore, Iranian Journal of Public Health


Dear Editor-in-Chief

Although in Italy any School of Medicine is prompted to introduce students into the highly structured system of scheduled courses and trainings with equipped tutorials (1), undergraduate medical students are quite never introduced into the scientific debate of the expert community, i.e. how to read and write a scientific paper (2), and therefore they are poorly educated to use the scientific literature for their job and progress training. Usually, only graduated students are invited to read specialistic literature, despite for some exception during the medical course, when skilled aged students, approaching to the degree, are recommended to read scientific reports for their thesis. However, these students are rarely trained to address a scientific manuscript, so often they are not used to manage a scientific paper for their specific purposes and to perform a useful synopsis of the main focuses or draw a bullet point of the major issues.

A first concern is the full and thorough comprehension of what a scientific debate is and how to expand it. Controversy and discussion in medical sciences are fundamental attempts to enhance the impact of science on professionals and common people. "Criticism" in science fulfils its fundamental target when it enables peer discussion to expand the debate on the addressed issue and contributes to a renewal in the state of art of the topic. Experts are exposed in this controversy, as it is of public domain, but they arrange their debate within a defined ring, which is fundamentally represented by their publications. Yet, particularly in Italy, discussion may create a journalistic rather than a scientific debate (3,4). Actually, some physician or clinician prefers to address the debate out of the community arena, such as press, wide diffused media, or more often personal websites or disciplinary courts, rather than simply reply to raised comments within peer reviewed journals. In this respect, some professors are reluctant to address a reply to raised comments in the journal and prefer to solicit Editors to prevent publication or even to forward a complaint simply for having been discussed.

Questions are formidable weapons to fight against a routinary and barren academic life and surely educated students should give their fundamental contribution. The research community is composed of manifold talents and is much more complex and dynamic than expected, as science changes very rapidly, collecting novelties that continuosly reappraise its state of art and expertise. In this sense, it involves the overall community, rather than single individuals.

In addition, students should be educated to the concept of an "expert in the field".

Experts should be represented by people actively working in a scientific and/or academic context on one or more interrelated fields who have extensively published on reference journals. Editors of specialized scientific journals in the biomedical area may consider an author as an "expert in the field" on the basis of the bulk of reports shown on public databases such as Pubmed. Very rarely journals welcome Letters to the Editor or Commentaries or other Correspondence, as unsolicited contributions, if the corresponding author is not considered an expert, as space constraints hamper the possibility to publish a comment on the journal if the latter does not come from an authority in the field, particularly if the comment is reported by a single author.

The way how a debate should be addressed by members performing the discussion is a fundamental hallmark or a hot topic of the educational training performed with students. However, in Italy this may generate a certain misleading attitude and preference in addressing scientific argumentations with the disciplinary language of courts, rather than the fair policy of a democratic peers discussion. …

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