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The BJO has now been online for over a year (which amounts to practically eons in internet time), and perhaps an opportunity is at hand to take stock of its internet presence. Inherent in the eBJO are capacities that differentiate it from the print journal; such features as reference linking, electronic archiving, customised alerts, and site searching, to name a few, exploit the web to expand the functionality of the BJO. With the recent addition of several new features and sections, theBJO's electronic incarnation continues to develop.
The inauguration of eLetters brings rapid response capabilities to the correspondence section of the BJO. Expanding upon the Mailbox section already familiar in the print journal, eLetters will provide an accelerated forum for readers' responses to articles and editorials. For each article, a link allows readers to respond with eLetters of varying lengths, to offer comments, critiques, and questions. Submissions of eLetters are edited and selected for posting. In turn, authors of the original article are notified when each eLetter has been posted and encouraged to post a reply. Any number of eLetters will be posted for a given article, and the series of responses preserved for BJOreaders. By compressing the response cycle of readers' correspondence and authors' reply, the eLetters feature intends to enable a multilateral commentary not otherwise possible in traditional formats.
Multimedia is another internet avenue that the paper journal simply can't follow. Video Reports, a new online section with ophthalmological video images as its centrepiece, is making its debut on the eBJO. Clinical and diagnostic images have long been indispensable to journal articles in ophthalmology. Perhaps more than any other specialty, we're positioned to utilise advances in online video capabilities; microsurgery, for example, has awaited a medium for full realisation in the ophthalmic literature.
Video Reports redefines what authors can communicate in the clinical and laboratory sciences. As the first such feature in any journal in ophthalmology, Video Reports is a venue for all that can best be communicated by moving images—surgical techniques, laboratory videos, diagnostic technology, clinical findings. Video Reports will feature novel material representing advances in all areas of ophthalmology, but also will include “classic” findings from the operating room and clinic. And some images will stand on aesthetic merits alone, with the Video Reports section as a sort of video gallery of beautiful or extraordinary images in ophthalmology. Each video is presently limited to a few minutes, and is accompanied by a brief text article providing background, methods, and commentary. Video Reports accumulated from each issue will be gathered on an ongoing basis and made available in an online archive on the eBJO.
Information capacity is another obvious advantage of the web, one exploited by Data Supplements, a new function of theeBJO. Data Supplements are aimed at overcoming some traditional limitations of article size and content, artefacts in many ways imposed by hard copy journal space and page publication costs. To alter these, the Data Supplements function allows authors to present electronic material expanding upon their hard copy article. This material can encompass extra or even complete data sets and spreadsheets, multiple additional figures and illustrations, extended elucidation on the background and discussion sections, detailed methodology, and statistics. Authors can include data in non-traditional media such as video and audio, animated graphics and illustrations, even interactive content. Accessible online for every original article in the BJO, Data Supplements offer expanded dimensions for authors in presenting their research, and gives readers greater access to that research.
It has become a truism that the internet revolution is bringing radical transformation to scientific and medical publications, and the demise of the traditional medical journal in the face of the web onslaught has been pronounced for some time now. However, the facts of readership patterns and preferences belie this, in the biomedical fields at least. The medical journal in its basic format fails to succumb, perhaps because the roles and standards of medical publication have, after all, remained the same whatever the modality employed for their transmission. The dissemination of research, the authority of peer review, the facilitation of literature review, and also the simple enjoyment of reading—these interests will drive theeBJO as it incorporates new features afforded by advances in internet technology. Or, to adopt “Silicon Valley” parlance, the eBJO will continue to evolve killer apps to capture eyeballs in our space.