Jordan and her fellow stewards "hard at work" at BEVA 2014.
Jordan and her fellow stewards “hard at work” at the 2014 BEVA Congress.

As a student steward at the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress, my responsibilities included helping set up the trade exhibition, handing out welcome packs at the registration desk and escorting speakers to the appropriate rooms. However, we were also able to sit in on lectures and act as the legs for the microphone whenever there were any questions.

The congress provided a great opportunity for networking and meeting other students from across both the UK and the world, as well as many veterinary professionals from every corner of the globe.

One of the lectures I sat in on was a Q&A session, “Ask the editor”, about publishing clinical research. A particularly sensitive topic was the process of peer reviewing research papers. The main point of discussion that interested me was the huge variation in quality of reviews depending on the reviewer, especially when veterinary schools were brought in to the argument.

As someone with no experience of research, the general impression I got was that one of the issues with peer reviewing is many reviewers are practising vets who – having done a veterinary degree rather than a research-based degree – are never taught specifically how to write a paper, and therefore aren’t taught how to review one either.

And then came the inevitable “well perhaps that should be introduced to the veterinary curriculum”.

In my opinion, absolutely not. The format of the veterinary degree is primarily geared towards producing vets. The majority of veterinary students will have chosen veterinary school because they wanted to be a vet, not because they wanted to learn how to review scientific papers.

BEVA 2014 was apparently a very sombre event.
BEVA 2014 was obviously a very sombre event.

Is the veterinary course not intensive and long enough without adding in extra skills that would be of limited use to the everyday clinician with no interest in research?

This also brings me back to the controversy surrounding the opening of new UK veterinary schools. One of the arguments countering the “too many graduates and not enough jobs“ point is a veterinary degree doesn’t necessarily lead to a career as a vet. Some graduates opt for other aspects of the profession, such as research.

I have to disagree – with extramural studies forming such a huge chunk of the course, it is certainly preparing students to be practising vets, not researchers. If you want to end up in research, do a bioveterinary science degree instead. That way, students aiming for a research career would get the scientific background knowledge of veterinary and research experience, without having to undertake hours in a veterinary clinic, learning practical skills they’ll never use.

I understand some students may want to practise as vets and yet still become involved in research. However, I believe masters’ courses are available, or the option of intercalation, which would allow them to gain some research experience.

I strongly believe not only the vast majority of veterinary students would resent a more research-based degree, but also it would produce less-competent clinicians as a result.

Research should be an option, but not a compulsory part of becoming a vet.

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7 Comments on "Ask the editor"

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Dawn Boothe
Dawn Boothe
2 years 26 days ago
Jordan, It would be my fervent hope that upon graduation from veterinary school, that you and your classmates – the future caretakers of my pets – will have acquired one of the most fundamentally important tools for life-long learning: the ability to discern whether or not an original report of a therapeutic or diagnostic intervention is sufficiently credible that its results should or should not be incorporated in your practice and applied to your patients. If you cannot decide for yourself whether or not the information is appropriate, you will always have to rely on the opinion of others…which is… Read more »
2 years 26 days ago

Understanding whether a study is designed properly allows drawing the proper conclusion about its results. If one cannot interpret the validity of the conclusions in a scientific paper, then one cannot expect to be more than a tradesman. Practicing veterinarians need to be able to continue to learn throughout their careers and having a working knowledge of the scientific method, basic statistics and what they mean and the ability to be introspective about what one knows and doesn’t know are essential. You would want this in your grandmother’s physician. Why not in your family dog?

2 years 26 days ago

The processes of understanding, writing and peer-reviwing a journal paper are taught as key skills to medical students, for the simple reason that there will probably come a time when you are at the top of the pile (Consultant/ Practice owner) and you wont have people telling you about new studies, you’ll be the one telling them. If you do not have the skills and knowlege of the scientific process and peer review, you’re gonig to struggle to stay up to date with latest techniquies, and their efficacy.

Will Easson
2 years 14 days ago
The process of “peer review” Jordan mentions in this blog entry is distinct from the process of “literature review”. “Peer review” would be where a paper submitted for publication is scrutinised and dissected. The data are reanalysed. The references followed-up and themselves scrutinised, as well as the more mundane minutiae as reference formatting and grammar. Writing a paper and getting it through the peer review process is a skill in itself and it needs practice. “Literature review” is what practising vets all do, and they do not (routinely) work through the data in detail because someone has already done this… Read more »

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