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Computers in Science, Communication and Education

Association of American Medical Colleges
Publication Date
  • Education
  • Medicine


Proceedings of the Symposium on Medical Informatics Sponsored by the Association of American Medical Colleges 62 In this decade, discussing the role of computers in medical education is like arguing for the role of books. Like books, the electronic me&are just that - media for the expression of canonical knowledge in a form that is subject to organized criticism and review. In her masterful review of the cultural impact of printing, Elizabeth Eisenstein put less weight on the economy of multiple copies and their dissemination than on the faithful reproduction of an author’s work enabling cumulative criticism and perfection of the text. At the time of Gutenberg’s invention, the world already had millions of volumes of man- uscript materials, and it took a century before the new products of the printing press overtook the accumulated manuscripts. The instant and critical change was that a particular work could be faithfully and accurately replicated, that it could be proofread, and that it could be subjected to criticism, and that the same text could be examined by a variety of readers. Authentic data and scien- tific information could now be recorded with incremental improvement, in place of a process which had produced new error and gloss and variation with each new copy. Likewise, that critical and responsible examination of text by an author and by the scientific community is as important a function of electronic communi- cation as is its rapidity and convenience of dissemination. From my own particular experience, I am better qualified to talk about journals than about books, and about medical research than medical educa- tion. Dr. Myers did indicate that I have spent some decades in settings where medical students have been an important part of the environment. We ought to acknowledge the reality, nevertheless, that undergraduate medical education has taken second place in the actual preoccupation of most academic medical centers. Grad

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