At the beginning of 2014, Twitter had 645,750,000 active registered users, with 135 000 new users signing up every day. The number of active Twitter users every month is around 115 million, and 43% of users are Tweeting on their phones.
Facebook has over 1.3 billion users, with over half of these being mobile users.
And it’s not just ‘social’ media that’s ever-growing; LinkedIn, with 277 million members, now has the largest number of users of any online professional network in the world. 
This ‘on the go’, online networking is already well established in the research community too, with the likes of Mandeley and ResearchGate.
So, the audience is there. but how can this online activity be employed to encourage structured, stimulating discussion on new research? How can these habits of sharing news and updates and being constantly connected be harnessed to encourage real-time research debates in an open environment?
With the support of BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The Blue Journal Club (BlueJC) has been running for nearly 2 years. This is an online, open, international journal club for women’s health aiming to provide a platform for post publication peer review and continued medical education.
The Blue Journal Club (BlueJC) – how does it work?
BlueJC currently uses BJOG journal club resources to host an online journal club on the last Wednesday of every month, with the discussion open for a week. So far, all discussions have been held on Twitter, tracked with #BlueJC.
BJOG regularly publishes papers suitable for journal clubs. These specially selected papers provide a set of questions or discussion points, to critically appraise the paper, and a set of PowerPoint slides prepared by the author to summarize the main findings of the paper. The questions stimulate discussion on study design, analysis and interpretation of the results, and whether clinical practice should be modified in light of the overall evidence base.
Each BlueJC has a host, to coordinate the discussion and prompt users to focus on the discussion points provided.
After a week, the Journal Club Host collates all the comments (for example produces a transcript), and BJOG encourages the host to summarize the discussion in a ‘Report from #BlueJC’ article, for consideration for publication in BJOG’s correspondence section, BJOG Exchange.
We have certainly seen success with BlueJC, with an average of 18 (range 7–35) participants and 122 (range 70–200) Tweets per session. So far ,BJOG has published 10 Reports from BlueJC. This initiative is constantly developing and we are continually looking at ways to improve, such as introducing an author Q&A at the beginning of each session.
More recently, we are now looking at the Altmetrics of a paper selected for BlueJC. The authors of one paper, which discussed women’s perceptions of normal genitalia, should be happy with the results since the paper achieved an Altmetric score of 91.. This is compared to an average Altmetric score of 5.3 for the journal and makes it the 6th highest scoring article so far.
Early observations indicate that our social media engagement efforts could be boosting download figures for particular papers. A BlueJC paper was the only paper published in 2013 to appear in the top 10 most downloaded papers (from the entire catalog of BJOG papers) in 2013, quickly catching up with others in the list with a 12-year head start). Another interesting observation was that Twitter and Facebook were the 5th and 6th top referrers to this paper, after only PubMed, Google (2 domains), and www.BJOG.org.
Of course, one must remember that it could be the case that papers selected for BlueJC are likely to be more topical and controversial than others, and therefore they may naturally spur debate. We hope to carry out some research that may strengthen this early evidence of the benefits of BlueJC.
Not only does BlueJC achieve engagement, it achieves instant connection for readers to authors, and vice versa. We have also seen key organizations and opinion leaders join BlueJC discussions. This allows for rapid post publication peer review among a wide range of stakeholders, rather than the slower, traditional method of a letter to the Editor. However, with the publication of reports from BlueJC, the value and reach of letters to the Editor is not lost.
With the discussion being open for 7 days, participants from all time zones have the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. The Journal Club host aims to hold a more structured discussion at the beginning of the week but this can be hard to coordinate to suit all time zones. We are actively working to improve this. That said, BlueJC does attract many participants and hosts from outside the UK, and this reinforces the truly global nature and reach of the research published in BJOG.
We see a mix of both trainees and consultants joining BlueJC sessions; trainees can learn how to critically appraise a paper, learn from the wisdom of more experienced colleagues worldwide and consultants are able to earn CPD points for partaking in a discussion as well as discuss papers with peers with different experiences in other countries.
We still have lots to learn with BlueJC, and there are vast opportunities for further development – we have recently started this with a new Blog, Facebook Page, and dedicated Twitter feed @BlueJCHost. Our next step is to host BlueJC on alternative social media platforms.
If you are interested in learning more, joining a BlueJC or hosting one yourself, please follow the relevant links below. And don’t forget to use #BlueJC when posting!
Upcoming BlueJC sessions:
April 30: What are the risks of birth to my baby?
Follow @BJOGTweets for all BJOG news, including upcoming journal clubs
Follow @BlueJCHost to follow discussion points
Like the BlueJC page on Facebook