Author + information
- Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD∗ ()
- Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
- ↵∗Address correspondence to:
Dr. Valentin Fuster, Zena and Michael A. Wiener Cardiovascular Institute, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, One Gustave L. Levy Place, New York, New York 10029.
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
— Leonardo da Vinci (1)
I began my very first Editor’s Page with this quote, which is oft-attributed to a man who was not only a celebrated Renaissance painter, but also an inventor, scientist, sculptor, mathematician, engineer, astronomer, cartographer, and botanist. Similarly, another artist born several centuries later in my birthplace of Barcelona said, “For me, to gain freedom is to gain simplicity” (2). (There is a video of Joan Miró making this statement in the Fundació Joan Miró in Montjuïc, Barcelona, which you should all visit.) These pioneers could have been mired down by the complexity of communicating abstract concepts through artistic means, yet they both recognized that simplicity had to be their ultimate objective for their audience to understand their efforts. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC) editorial board members and I appreciate the difficulty of their plight, as we attempt to emulate this same directive through our Journal.
When I first proposed the idea of a Central Illustration for JACC, many people resisted, suggesting that authors would neither understand nor agree to this new initiative. However, I knew this was an important next step for medical journals because of 1 fact: people read less and less. Having observed many generations of fellows, I speculate that this trend will continue to worsen with the next cohort of medical professionals. In addition, due to the distractions of the mobile revolution, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Recently, Microsoft conducted a study in Canada with the goal of determining the effect of modern digital technology devices on attention spans as they relate to advertised materials presented on various media (3). The study consisted of surveying 200 people and administering electroencephalogram scans to 112 volunteers. The researchers found that the average attention span for the respondents and volunteers was 8 s, down from 12 s in 2000—1 s shorter than the average goldfish. This might be good news for marketers, who can flash new images on a second-by-second basis, but it poses a challenge for those of who are tasked with communicating complex medical scientific findings to the current and next generation of physicians.
To better understand how the younger generation consumes published medical data, I have conducted unofficial surveys. I have learned that most people read the conclusion of the abstract first, and only then do they determine whether the study is worthy of their time—which generally consists of skimming the discussion. We are not the only industry that has battled this trend. For many years, USA Today was considered a “fast-food” approach to the news, catering to “people who don’t want to spend a lot of time reading but who want the headlines…[and an] added graphic” (4). Their stories rarely run longer than 600 words and always featured a graphic. Today, due to extensive marketing research, most media outlets have adopted the approach established by USA Today, especially as an increasing number of people consume news and media online versus in print. Social media only serves to reinforce these growing cultural norms. Between Facebook, Instagram, and Tumblr, consumers share nearly 5,000 images every second of every day (5). With this backdrop, I recognize that we can no longer resist these forces within medical publishing either.
Thus, the concept of the Central Illustration was born—a simple, quickly consumable image that seeks to encapsulate the main findings of the manuscript, even if the person had never read the paper. In fact, we envision readers looking at the Central Illustration first, in addition to the abstract conclusion section, to see if they want to delve further into the paper. For this reason, these Central Illustrations cannot be laden with excessive text or too much detail. They are intended to be pulled into slide decks for lectures and presentations as a resource for authors and readers alike—understood within seconds as they flash before the reader.
Thus, we would like to set forth a challenge for the JACC authors. We encourage them to focus on 1 essential message from their paper, with the assistance of our medical illustrators. Use the Central Illustration to serve as a guide into the paper. As I mentioned at the beginning, the success with these Central Illustrations will only be achieved through their simplicity. As a result, it is integral that authors understand the core message of their paper and consider the readership in the creation process. Although this may be a new wave of thinking when compiling medical manuscripts, the lasting power of its findings or the message may reside in the ability to communicate it in a consumable, graphical manner.
We, as seasoned authors and editors, will not be able to reverse the trend of how people consume information, so we need to start appealing to readers through a medium in which they are comfortable. Similarly, we have just instituted a new JACC policy to reduce the number of words in the titles of our manuscripts to 15. These efforts are made with the intent of maintaining the highest quality content for our Journal. The editors and I are passionate about maintaining quality and simplicity, so we will continue to work with our authors as they become more adept at this new milieu of communication. Through these efforts, we attempt to embody another sentiment by Miró (6): “The works must be conceived with fire in the soul but executed with clinical coolness.”
- 2015 American College of Cardiology Foundation
- ↵BrainyQuote. Leonardo da Vinci quotes. Available at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/l/leonardo_da_vinci.html. Accessed September 20, 2015.
- ↵AZQuotes. Available at: http://www.azquotes.com/quote/1263337. Accessed September 20, 2015.
- ↵Microsoft. How does digital affect Canadian attention spans? Available at: http://advertising.microsoft.com/en/cl/31966/how-does-digital-affect-canadian-attention-spans. Accessed September 20, 2015.
- Biagi S.
- ↵Gupta A. The shift from words to pictures and implications for digital marketers. Forbes. July 2, 2013. Available at: http://www.forbes.com/sites/onmarketing/2013/07/02/the-shift-from-words-to-pictures-and-implications-for-digital-marketers/. Accessed September 29, 2015.
- ↵BrainyQuote. Joan Miró quotes. Available at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/j/joanmiro173209.html. Accessed September 26, 2015.