This year marks the 52nd annual Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Research in Medical Education (RIME) program. Once again, we on the RIME Program Planning Committee (PPC) and staff had the difficult but fortunate task of identifying the very best from among 59 research papers, 6 review papers, 270 abstracts, and 5 symposia submitted for this year’s RIME session. As a committee and with help from reviewers and the Academic Medicine editorial staff, we accepted 12 papers for publication in this issue of Academic Medicine. In addition, we selected 1 symposium and 133 abstracts, of which 51 will be presented orally and the remainder as posters at the AAMC annual meeting. Together this work highlights high-quality medical education research and new directions for the field.
The process of putting together the RIME program is complex, involves many stakeholders, and has many deadlines and decision points. Because much about this process has changed in the three short years I have served on the PPC, and since the last detailed process outline was provided a decade ago,1 I have outlined our steps.
Our process starts shortly after completion of the AAMC annual meeting each fall with a solicitation for reviewers. The RIME program would not be possible without the tireless effort of the 233 RIME community members who submitted reviews in 2013. We recognize that completing thoughtful reviews of abstracts and full-length papers can be exhausting. To reduce the volume of work we ask of our reviewers and to improve the quality of the reviews we receive, we are now collecting more information about reviewers’ preferences and areas of expertise.
Call for submissions
To accommodate the shift to publishing full-length papers in the October issue of Academic Medicine,2 the submission date continues to creep earlier to give reviewers, the committee, editorial staff of Academic Medicine, and authors adequate time to prepare papers for publication. We recognize that this provides additional challenges for authors, but the time from submission to publication for full-length RIME papers remains substantially shorter than for a typical scholarly publication. Although the deadline for full-length papers must remain early, by expanding our pool of reviewers we hope to develop the capacity to push back submission deadlines for other RIME submission types (e.g., abstracts, symposia).
Each abstract is assigned three to five reviewers who complete a scoring rubric and have the option to provide written comments. From the rubric, we determine a summative score. We then establish two cut points; the highest-scoring abstracts are selected for oral presentation, and those in the second tier are selected for poster presentation. RIME PPC members review the written reviewer comments, where available, to ensure that comments align well with the decision. In cases of uncertainty, committee members review the abstract and come to consensus about a decision. The most successful abstracts are those that clearly delineate the research question, state the methods used, present data, and draw a reasonable conclusion based on the presented data. Because of the volume of submissions, the PPC cannot review and discuss each abstract. We rely heavily on the RIME community to provide thoughtful reviews, and we greatly appreciate our reviewers’ efforts. We are also very thankful for those who have developed and participated in local faculty development efforts to bring those new to education research into the fold of completing reviews.
This year’s call for symposia was revised to help bring clarity to the goal of the symposia section. We continue to be interested in proposals from diverse perspectives that offer opportunities for the community to learn about a specific research question or topic as it relates to medical education. Possible topics include debates about theoretical foundations and discussions about new methodology, novel applications, and alternative solutions to and interpretations of existing problems. Every RIME PPC member reviews each symposium proposal, and we typically accept one or two symposia.
AAMC staff assign all research papers and review papers to pairs of RIME PPC members (one MD and one PhD) and three to five external reviewers. We always strive to avoid potential conflicts of interests during the review process. By intentionally limiting the number of papers we ask reviewers to complete and by better aligning reviewers’ expertise with the paper’s topic, we hope to continue to see improvement in the quality of the reviews. Our most useful reviews are those that include written comments in addition to numerical scores for each evaluation dimension. Our decisions about the submissions depend on external reviewers’ numerical ratings and qualitative comments and the PPC pair’s review. Papers with high ratings and positive external reviews and positive reviews by the assigned RIME PPC pair are presented at the spring RIME PPC planning meeting for endorsement. In situations where the two RIME PPC members are uncertain or disagree with each other, the paper is forwarded to the RIME PPC past-chair for adjudication. PPC members craft detailed acceptance and rejection letters that synthesize external reviewers’ key comments in addition to PPC members’ recommendations for improving the quality of the submission. In cases where we have decided not to accept a submission, we hope this feedback is useful to authors to improve their work prior to submitting it elsewhere.
All accepted papers become part of the RIME program meeting. After the authors have made their revisions, the RIME PPC forwards selected manuscripts to Academic Medicine to be considered for publication. The editor-in-chief of the journal makes an official publication decision, and the Academic Medicine editorial staff work with the authors of all accepted manuscripts to complete the standard editing process and ensure that manuscripts follow the journal’s formatting and ethical requirements.
Organization and presentation
For the RIME program, we group accepted papers and abstracts by theme, and we will extend this approach to accepted posters in 2013. Our intent is to promote cross-fertilization, networking, and collaboration throughout the program. We have also worked closely with conference organizers to increase the number of available seats in hopes of fewer of us sitting on the floor or leaning up against the wall during the sessions! We identified moderators and discussants from across the country that span undergraduate, graduate, and continuing medical education and represent different areas of expertise. Moderators have a critical role in ensuring that each session is presented as planned. They also manage and facilitate the discussion and question-and-answer period associated with oral presentations. During sessions where full-length papers are presented, a discussant ties the presentations together, identifies key points and questions, and frames ideas about what research questions come next.
Recognition and Gratitude
My hope is that, by sharing these steps, we are increasing the transparency of the process. Also, I invite your views and ideas as to how the RIME PPC can better serve the RIME community. If you are interested in joining the PPC or would like to recommend someone, please remember to respond to the yearly request sent via e-mail from the AAMC on behalf of the chair of the nominating committee (currently Jennifer Kogan, MD). I would like to extend my thanks to members of the PPC for their diligent work and willingness to share their wealth of expertise and to Dr. Sklar and the staff of Academic Medicine for providing the authors of this year’s very best papers a venue for timely publication of important work. Lastly, I extend my sincere appreciation to Caroline Coleman and Kate McOwen for their attention to detail and ability to keep us on track and to the members of the Medical Education Scholarship Research and Education section of the Group on Educational Affairs for their ongoing efforts to improve the quality of medical education research.
1. Pangaro L. Foreword. Acad Med. 2003;78(10 suppl):Siii–Siv
2. Dauphinee WD, Anderson MB. Maturation (and déjà vu) comes to the research in medical education program at age 51. Acad Med. 2012;87:1307–1309