Sunday, 9 December 2012

Dental Journal Access - ha! ha! ha!

I presented to the British Society of Gerodontology Thursday last week on how to find and access research, with an emphasis on Atraumatic Restorative Treatment (Prezi available here).

I had begun to develop an interest in the problem of access once people are outside of the institutional access that comes with being part of an educational establishment or NHS Trust because a couple of former students had contacted me to say this was a problem now that they are out in practice.

So I did a little investigation for the BSG presentation into the access one can obtain to the top 81 journals as ranked by impact factor when you have:

  1. no institutional access 
  2. 3-4 years after publication again without institutional access
  3. with an educational institution's access (in my case my university's - QMUL) 
  4. the access you could obtain as a member of the British Dental Association through their library.

I was not surprised to find that only 12% of these journals allowed access to non-subscribers but was very pleasantly surprised that the BDA has access to 87% of them. I have been in contact with the very helpful staff at the library there and it seems unlikely that the BDA will be able to afford the high cost of online institutional access for its members. They make a charge of £2.50 per article that they copy / scan for you but my feeling is that if one reads the abstract well and chooses only the studies with the most appropriate design (i.e. controlled trials for intervention studies) that one could keep the number of articles down to a minimum.

I think there are two further points that stand out for me here. One is that accessing research needs to be easy and immediate if we are to encourage its use in day-to-day decision-making and the current difficulty accessing journals hampers this (even with the excellent BDA service). Second, this makes it even more important the dental profession as a whole begins to contribute to the summarising of research in the form of systematic reviews or guidelines that are freely accessible. It would be much simpler for all of us if there were up to date summaries of research relating to particular clinical problems that we could access any time we wanted. 

Because of this I'm beginning to think we could work collaboratively in the form of an evidence-based dentistry wiki to collect, critique and summarise evidence relating to clinical problems. Anybody interested in helping me out here - please get in touch!


  1. I am. How can we colloborate. Is there room on for something like thiss ?

    1. All we would need is a wiki. Then those of us with access to a journal could extract the essentials and offer a brief critique - similar to how the EBD journal works but collected around topics.