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Scholarship is hard: Marshall University figured out a way to make it easier


Love to share your work but struggling to find the time? Darshana Shah, Ph.D., is the associate dean of faculty affairs and professional development at Marshall University. She describes a unique online journal at her school that's serving as a building block to higher level journals.  Think of it as the minor league vs. the major league!

Host: We're broadcasting live at the AAMC in Baltimore 2015, and this year's conversation is about change. What needs to change in health care? I know there's a ton of things, but we're asking each person what specific thing is on their mind right now.

Announcer: Asking questions, seeking solutions. Algorithms for Innovation. Live from Baltimore at the AAMC 2015.

Shah: I'm Darshana Shah. I'm with Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine in West Virginia. I'm an Associate Dean for Office of Faculty Affairs and Professional Development.

Host: Darshana, what at your institution needed to change?

Shah: At our institution we needed to bring the culture back of scholarship, faculty sharing their work, sharing their interest, and what we have been doing at Marshall, sharing with the rest of the world so we can show what we do here at Marshall, bringing back to the scholarship.

Host: It's just that you were finding there's not a lot of time for scholarship?

Shah: No, just like every other institution, faculty are really doing patient care, they're teaching, they're doing research, and they don't have much time to write it up or review someone else's work, too.

Host: So how did you overcome that? How did you solve that problem?

Shah: So we tried, just like every other institution, as a faculty development we offered several programs and trying to customize it with faculty, but again, those did not change the way we had anticipated, and it's not just us but also for faculty to feel that's something meaningful for them.

We used our university resources and created an Open Access peer reviewed journal, and we use a Digital Commons platform so the university was very grateful for us to give those resources and we created an online journal. That created a different level of momentum because this is your journal, and even though you are helping folks to review, now we are actually a reviewer for a journal.

We used the Open Access platform because that's where the world is moving, and I think the faculty also got excited because you can actually see the Google Leadership Map. Our goal is for them to actually publish at high-end journal, but you still have to start somewhere and I think that some of the junior faculty and the residents and students thought this is such a cool idea . We launched our first issue last week and that has already created a momentum. Once, I think, you have faculty buy-in at a different level then it takes it on its own because these are all smart people.

Host: How did this motivate people to want to do scholarship, then?

Shah: As I said, I think every faculty at an institution knows that they want to do scholarship, but the time is limited just like every other institution.

Host: And the opportunity that you'd ever get published is also kind of limited as well.

Shah: And also another thing is that people try sending it to their work, one could be the high-end impact factor journal, sometimes can be also intimidating. Even everybody who has been in the publication world and they know that once you submit a paper it will probably come back, but not necessarily. People will take that and send it back, but I think when it's your own journal you can actually hold their hand and try to navigate that it's okay.

Any of those kinds of things, you could do it because it's right in your backyard. So you need that confidence that even if you got a good review back the review is given so you can make the paper better. I'm sure the big journals, established journals have the same goal, but again, it's a first step towards taking them to the high established journal. Start it in your home ground and then . . .

Host: Kind of like the minor leagues in baseball and sports.

Shah: Yeah, in this minor league.

Host: It gives you the opportunity to practice and . . .

Shah: Yes, so we are giving them a practice, and at the same time the practice has created that everyone else is watching the practice, too.

Host: So they're getting the benefit of the research.

Shah: So they are getting the benefit of both.

Host: What measurements are you using to judge whether or not this program is successful?

Shah: So right now I think it's too early to say because we just launched our first issue last Thursday, and we are going to do this quarterly. We already have things in the pipeline for the fall issue, and success is still, you could still do a factor as a number of publications. But I think for me the biggest thing is that you have created a platform, you must have a platform which everybody feels part of it. Generally, I think, I'm not too much worried about that whether it will go a success or it will die, as long as you have folks loving to share their work. Since it's a new thing, right now I think we have got enough publication for the next four issues, and I feel it's going to take at a different level, because as I told you, it's an Appalachian focus, and there are nine states, so I'm hoping that this will give a different venue of Open Access model coming from Marshall.

Host: And get information to a lot of people that really need that information.

Shah: And the success, which I would call already because people haven't paid attention to what we do, and it's always a difference between a name-brand school and a school which comes from a state, which people may think, "What do they have to offer?" But this, we are actually showing that we have a lot more we can offer, and it's a lot bigger success because we don't have enough resources. Our school is fairly new. It was only started in 1982. Without having those resources and endowments and the funding, you could still create a platform for your faculty. So that's already a success.

Host: Was there a barrier that you had to overcome to implement this?

Shah: I think the barrier, and again I'll talk at mainly the individual level, my personal barrier was I wasn't even sure what I'm capable of doing with things like that so I had to basically work on myself. And then the other barrier was also how do you get buy-in just the way you ask me the question that is this even going to work, because many times there were a lot of naysayers saying, "Why do you even want to create a journal?"

But I think you have to have learned that sometimes the product can speak for itself, so you want to take a naysayer's opinion and that helped me a lot because I would ask, "Why would you say that," and they said, "Where are you going to find a reviewer?" And then those things helped me actually build it a little differently.

Host: Yeah, sure.

Shah: So everybody who says it's not going to work is actually not a barrier, because if you really dive into the question and ask them why, they have something really meaningful to offer. And there are people who will say, "This is not going to work," then I just don't have to . . . basically, that's an opinion, and I usually don't address every opinion, so it's okay.

Host: Was it a fairly minimal investment to launch this?

Shah: There was no investment in a way, because this was my time as a faculty. That's what I'm supposed to do as a faculty affairs office.

Host: So if it fails it doesn't matter because . . .

Shah: No, it . . .

Host: Well, I don't mean to say it that way, but it's not like they spent millions of dollars on it.

Shah: But unfortunately, that's the term, yeah, in that term you're right because it's not . . . and then it's also good to be on a mini league, as you mentioned, that people are not watching that much. But you learn. But I think the leaderships are being, this is his vision, and I . . .

Host: That helps, that top level vision.

Shah: So the leadership vision helps a lot, so I think the support is there. I don't think that financially it could have been created a barrier. It's just all, as you are saying, a lot of faculty said, "Will this work," but once they saw the product, now you want to submit.

Host: Yeah, you've won them over.

Shah: Yeah, you won them, yes.

Host: With the vision. What one thing would you change, you know, through this process, something for somebody else to avoid that's thinking about doing it?

Shah: I think I would probably map out a little bit differently in a way that . . . but I think the good part about the electronic journal is you can always add, but I think the categories, and while creating the buy-in from the university folks that they had the program and they would probably . . . everyone was actually just watching on the sideline. If it takes off, people are going to help you.

Host: Sure.

Shah: So maybe the, initially if I had to do this again I would have actually had a proposal and let everyone look at the proposal.

Host: Yeah.

Shah: But then I think I was also given a timeline, so I bypassed a lot of those steps and then just did it.

Host: So if there's somebody listening that would like some more information, would you help them through this process?

Shah: Oh, absolutely, and I think it amazing that those medical schools which are a part of the university, the university is your mother ship and they have enough resources to do anything but you just have to partner. I think Digital Commons is the software that is used by several universities, and I think it was a minimum investment on our side but it still gave a good recognition to the school and the university. So yeah.

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