- Medicine Information and Evidence for Policy > Information and Publications
- Medicine Access and Rational Use > Rational Use
(2005; 165 pages)
14.3 Creating an organizational memory
A young bulletin, like other new and young organizations, is preoccupied with many immediate tasks and problems, and the future seems far away and unreal. Many issues and problems recur, and as people leave the bulletin, the history and experience can be lost with them. New people joining a bulletin can benefit from knowing about and understanding earlier experiences in the development of the bulletin, including what changes were made and what effects these had as far as one could tell. It might be possible to share this information with new bulletins, perhaps in future editions of this manual.
Examples of the kind of events that are valuable to record include:
• Why various editorial procedures were introduced or modified, what went well, what had to be reconsidered.
• How relationships with other organizations developed, to what extent they met expectations/hopes. On the financial and legal sides, what difficulties occurred and how they were dealt with.
• Discovery and correction of staffing imbalances, the recognition of new needs and how they were satisfied, training of staff.
• Funding and pricing aspects.
• Relationships with readers, official bodies, industry, the media, patients' organizations and advocates.
For all of these a brief written contemporary log is likely to be of value. Ideally this could enable someone to write a biography of the bulletin after, say, 20, 30, or 50 years. The following case study shows the range of significant events that can occur in the life of a bulletin.
Recording this type of information is not quite so easy. It relies on people involved in the changes remembering to write down an account of what happened. It is probably best for one person in the team to be responsible for keeping the records, and reminding and encouraging others to contribute. Having a regular time for reflection, e.g. every six months or year, might be effective. It will be necessary to make all of the team aware of the archive so that people add to it and make use of it.
Case study: Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, UK
The UK’s Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin (DTB) was one of the first drug bulletins in the world, having been started in the early 1960s. So its long history has seen many notable changes that could be described in an historical account.
• How DTB started: at the beginning it included articles from the US Medical Letter, modifying them, and then gradually using them less; it would be interesting to know reasons for that and how the separation happened.
• Evolution of the editorial system: from using external editors to employing permanent in-house editorial staff.
• Relationships with pharmaceutical companies, including a 1964 libel action brought by a maker of ear-drops, and various later disputes and threats that faded.
• The relationship with Prescribers' Journal, another UK bulletin which was published by the Department of Health; it seemed to be in competition, but actually was not, because the publications differed in style and method of production.
• How the Department of Health began to buy bulk subscriptions for trainee general practitioners and medical students, and how that was extended over the years to all doctors in the National Health Service, and what that meant financially and legally. This led to the change from fortnightly to monthly publication, because that saved a lot in postage costs.
• ‘Translating’ articles for publication to lay readers: the development of Treatment Notes.
Contributed by Andrea Tarr, DTB, UK. [http://www.dtb.org.uk].
Keeping a record of things that help to demonstrate the impact of the bulletin is also valuable. As discussed in Chapter 12, formally measuring the impact of a bulletin’s messages (e.g. in terms of effects on prescribing) is difficult. But collecting evidence that gives an indication of the influence of the bulletin can be done and could be invaluable when required to show the bulletin’s funders, be they individual subscribers or organizations, the value of the bulletin. Specific items to collect include noting when other publications have cited the bulletin, press cuttings, a list of radio and television programmes in which the bulletin has participated (not always as easy to retrieve as press cuttings), photographs and correspondence. More complex events might need to be described in a written account.