Medical Informatics today
In a developing information society, the members of the European Federation for Medical Informatics are keen to develop the dissemination of health information to the public at large.
Health Care should be safe, effective, efficient and patient-centred. Moreover, the health system should be more transparent. It should make information available to patients and their families that allows them to make informed decisions when choosing among alternative treatments or clinical practices. Information technology must play a central role in the redesign of building an information infrastructure to support health care delivery, consumer health, quality measurement and improvement, and clinical education.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is now accessible to the public in developed countries. The development of wireless and portable technologies also makes this access possible in developing countries. The extensive use of the web by patients and laymen for health information challenges us to build information services that are easily accessible and trustworthy. The evolution toward a semantic web is one of the topics that are addressed in this book.
Papers on the state of the art of more classical topics covering all the fields of biomedical informatics have been selected and presented in this book. In order to promote the links between medical informatics and bio-informatics, thanks are expressed to the authors of different papers, posters, keynote presentations and tutorials, which are specifically dedicated to this aspect. This conference and the ones following insist on this necessary synergy.
The selection process for MIE 2003
The Scientific Programme Committee (SPC) for Medical Informatics Europe 2003 in Saint Malo, France, quickly decided to work towards and contribute to the enhancement of the quality of the conference and the proceedings, from a scientific point of view. But it rapidly appeared that such a policy would negatively impact on the participation of young and new scientists, who may experience difficulty in having their contribution selected. Any kind of elitism would be a strategic error, against the wishes of the Council of the European Federation for Medical Informatics. Therefore, it was necessary to navigate between these two constraints.
The first step was the call for papers. Any selection process is strongly dependent on the number of submitted contributions. In coordination with the Local Organising Committee, the call for papers was intensive, and hopefully very successful. No less than 300 contributions were submitted, not always within the specified deadlines. This is a considerable increase compared with the last conference in 2002. The immediate consequence was that no more than one paper out of two could be selected for full presentation, on the basis of a four track conference during three days.
The second step was the reviewing process. An ideal review of any paper would be to obtain comments from three reviewers from different countries working in a related field. This means 900 reviews. In fact, we got 175 reviewers from all around the world, but the majority from Europe and this was not enough for the above-mentioned target. Indeed, some papers have been reviewed only twice, and some very late reports were orally given during the last working session of the SPC. This point should be improved in the next event, on the condition of finding more reviewers. A better “European quality” in Medical Informatics could be reached by a continuous teaching process, where the reviewers take the time to comment and to guide new authors whose papers are not yet at the top level. Such an effort will certainly show positive results in the long term.
The third step was the preparation of the conference proceedings, where the style of presentation is just another aspect of quality. The SPC, supported by the EFMI Council, is in favour of a printed book with a strict set of instructions for authors in order to guarantee some uniformity to the reader: such a target is definitely not easy to reach. The maximum size of a contribution was defined as 6 pages with a l2pt font on an A4 format. This source format was reduced in the final hard cover book edited by IOS Press.
The last step is clearly to gain as large a participation as possible during the conference: the bigger the audience, the more economic freedom for the organizer, the more interesting for authors to attend this conference, the better the submissions for future events.
MIE, a peer-reviewed scientific conference
All the full papers presented at the conference are present in the proceedings and will be indexed by Medline. The strict reviewing policy is a necessary condition for that. The SPC is confident that this system is a strong guarantee for future scientific developments in Europe.
In order to provide a tribune and an audience for more contributions, the SPC has decided on two specific actions. First, some 50 papers were invited for a short oral presentation of five minutes, intermixed with the full papers with 20 minute presentations. Second, some 90 other contributions have been transformed into poster presentations, and their authors were invited to display their contributions at the conference site, where two “walking” poster sessions were organized. The short oral presentations can also be presented as posters. All these contributions are published on the conference CD-ROM to be distributed to all participants. These opportunities should make close contact between participants easy to achieve. All contributions at all levels are clearly visible, and one expects that the best authors will be an example for future authors. This is a pedagogical and pragmatic approach to the art of scientific publications.
Medical Informatics provides an opportunity for different events throughout Europe and the professionals in this domain may sometimes find it difficult to select the event which best corresponds to their needs and interests. A short guide in a few lines may be of help. There are two kinds of conferences: scientific and commercial. Though they look quite similar, there is an essential difference: peer reviewing of contributions and selection of authors is the condition for the label scientific conference. This is not to say that commercial conferences are not useful: indeed, they are a vector of communication and a way to stay “up-to-date” in a world of galloping technology. On the basis of these two kinds of conference, another criterion is certainly the size of the conference and the scope of relevant subjects. MIE is typically a large-scope conference, where all domains of medical informatics are present. On the other hand, a number of specialized conferences or workshops are flourishing elsewhere, generally dedicated to a single topic.
To conclude this point, let us say that MIE is a universal conference of Medical Informatics, scientifically oriented, and the main event of this kind in Europe. MIE is the focal point of 26 member countries of Europe for two conferences every three years.