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July 1998

Information Overload? Read 3 of These and You Won't Have to Call in the Morning

Author Affiliations

Not Available

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(7):622-623. doi:10.1001/archpedi.152.7.622

THERE COMES a time for all pediatricians when they consult with parents and tell them it's time to let their adolescent go. The adolescent is entering a world of independent experiences that the parent can no longer share or originate. Instead, the parent must trust the decisions of the teenager, while continuing to ask probing questions to establish that everything is all right. Without extending the analogy to ridiculous extremes, the same phenomenon—of letting go, of relinquishing control—is something to recognize when we evaluate research in general, and clinical trials in particular. The rate at which new information is now available surpasses our wildest dreams. Whether you accept claims that our knowledge base doubles in 5 months or 5 years, it is clear that the sheer mass of facts stemming from research and clinical trials is growing to mountainous proportions. It is literally impossible for most clinicians to acquire, let alone process, that amount of information. At the same time, we know that the number of journals is increasing, as is the very real cost of subscribing to them. In short, formidable challenges stand in the way of ready access to the full breadth of published work that may well affect our care of patients. If one adds to the available pool of clinical trials those pursuits that never reach publication, or that circulate informally among collegial groups, access is that much more difficult, if not impossible.