A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Biomedical communication uses traditional and digital techniques to interpret and create materials to help record and disseminate medical, biological, and related knowledge. It is a subset of scientific communication with particular emphases on biology and medicine.



Accessibility and Order: Crossing Borders in Child Abuse Forensic Reports   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Physicians write child abuse forensic reports for nonphysicians. We examined 73 forensic reports from a Canadian children's hospital for recurrent strategies geared toward making medical information accessible to nonmedical users; we also interviewed four report writers and five readers. These reports featured unique forensic inserts in addition to headings, lists, and parentheses, which are typical of physician letters for patients. We discuss implications of these strategies that must bridge the communities of medical, social, and legal practice.

Spafford, Marlee M., Catherine F. Schryer, Lorelei Lingard and Marcellina Mian. Technical Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Reports>Biomedical


Agency and the Rhetoric of Medicine: Biomedical Brain Scans and the Ontology of Fibromyalgia   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Recent agency scholarship has provided compelling accounts of how individuals can strategically occupy authoritative positions, in order to instantiate change. This article explores the discursive mechanisms of this type of agency in the legitimization of disease. Drawing on ethnographic research, this article investigates how a non-human agent (brain scans) contributed to fibromyalgia's acceptance within the highly regulated discourses of western biomedicine.

Graham, S. Scott. Technical Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


AMWA Position Statement on the Contributions of Medical Writers to Scientific Publications   (PDF)

AMWA formed a new task force in 2001 to develop a statement regarding AMWA’s position on the contributions of biomedical communicators to scientific publications.

Hamilton, C.W. and M.G. Royer. Hamilton House (2003). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Anthrax Case Research

Compare the Anthrax technical information offered at the three major sites below. Where does the information seem most credible? Where is it the most complete and detailed? Where is it the easiest to navigate and read? Write a detailed analysis report comparing the information at the three different sites.

Lannon, John M. Pearson Education (2003). Academic>Course Materials>Biomedical


"Aristotle's Pharmacy": The Medical Rhetoric of a Clinical Protocol in the Drug Development Process   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article analyzes the clinical protocol within the rhetorical framework of the drug development and approval process, identifying the constraints under which the protocol is written and the rhetorical form, argumentative strategies, and style needed to improve and teach the writing of this document.

Bell, Heather D., Kathleen A. Walch and Steven B. Katz. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Assessing Information Needs of Diverse Users to Guide Web Design and Content Development   (PDF)

This paper presents a qualitative study of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's diverse users and their mental models regarding injury-related content. The study employed an innovative modified contextual inquiry method utilizing tailored, in-depth interviews with five distinct user groups. Included in this paper is a detailed description of the background, framework, and method used for this study. Analysis of the full results was still in process at the due date of this paper. The results will be in the presentation's slide set and available from the STC website www.stc.org.

Pettit Jones, Colleen and Susan J. Robinson. STC Proceedings (2004). Articles>Web Design>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Assessment of Slovene Secondary School Students' Attitudes to Biotechnology in Terms of Usefulness, Moral Acceptability and Risk Perception   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Quantitative and qualitative studies among 469 high school students of average age 17 years were conducted. The students’ attitudes to four practical applications of biotechnology were examined: genetically modified plants (Bt corn), genetically modified animals (salmon), and hemophilia germ line and somatic gene therapy. Each of the four applications was examined from three different viewpoints: usefulness, moral acceptability and risk perception. Bt corn production proved to be the most acceptable in terms of both usefulness and risk perception. Values for genetically modified salmon and germ line gene therapy were comparable, but much lower than those for the other two applications; this was true for both usefulness and moral acceptability. In addition, students found genetically modified salmon to be ethically much less acceptable than Bt corn. Significant gender differences were observed in the case of germ line gene therapy and genetically modified salmon.

Črne-Hladnik, Helena, Cirila Peklaj, Katarina Košmelj and Aleš Hladnik. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Eastern Europe


The Association of Medical Illustrators

The professional objectives of the AMI are to promote the study and advancement of medical illustration and allied fields of visual communication, and to promote understanding and cooperation with the medical profession and related health science professions. Its members are primarily artists who create material designed to facilitate the recording and dissemination of medical and bioscientific knowledge through visual communication media. Members are involved not only in the creation of such material, but also serve in consultant, advisory, educational and administrative capacities in all aspects of bioscientific communications and related areas of visual education.

AMI. Organizations>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Biomedical


Audience-Driven Web Design: An Application to Medical Web Sites   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

We begin by identifying the problem of defining medical Web site credibility and then identify the gap in Web design research, a gap that fails to identify or address specific audience needs in Web site design. We then present our process for identifying and fulfilling specific audience needs, describe a framework, and present a case study in audience-driven Web design using the framework to guide the discussion.

Swenson, Jenni, Helen Constantinides and Laura J. Gurak. Technical Communication Online (2002). Design>Web Design>User Centered Design>Biomedical


Believing in Both Genetic Determinism and Behavioral Action: A Materialist Framework and Implications   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A disparity exists between studies reporting that genetics discourse produces deterministic or fatalistic responses and studies reporting that the majority of laypeople do not hold or adopt genetically deterministic views. This article reports data from an interview study (n = 50), and an interpretation of those data grounded in materialist understandings of discourse, that explains at least part of the disparity. The article employs a detailed reading of an illustrative transcript embedded in a quantitative content analysis to suggest that laypeople have incorporated two sets of public discourses—one that describes genetic causation and another that describes behavioral causation. These different discourse tracks are presumed to be encoded in different sets of neural networks in people’s minds. Consequently, each track can be articulated upon proper cueing, but the tracks are not related to each other to produce a discourse for speaking about gene—behavior interactions. Implications for the effects of this mode of instantiation of discourse in human individuals with regard to genes and behavior are discussed, as well as implications for message design.

Condit, Celeste M., Marita Gronnvoll, Jamie Landau, Lijiang Shen, Lanelle Wright and Tina M. Harris. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Better Reporting of Randomized Trials in Biomedical Journal and Conference Abstracts   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Well reported research published in conference and journal abstracts is important as individuals reading these reports often base their initial assessment of a study based on information reported in the abstract. However, there is growing concern about the reliability and quality of information published in these reports. This article provides an overview of research evidence underpinning the need for better reporting of abstracts reported in conference proceedings and abstracts of journal articles; with a particular focus in the area of health care. Where available we highlight evidence which refers specifically to abstracts reporting randomized trials. We seek to identify current initiatives aimed at improving the reporting of these reports and recommend that an extension of the CONSORT Statement (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials), CONSORT for Abstracts, be developed. This checklist would include a list of essential items to be reported in any conference or journal abstract reporting the results of a randomized trial.

Hopewell, Sally, Anne Eisinga and Mike Clarke. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Research>Biomedical


Bias in the Exchange of Arguments: The Case of Scientists' Evaluation of Lay Viewpoints on GM Food   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Most perspectives on public participation share the notion that dialogues should be open, allowing participants to articulate and evaluate different views and knowledge claims. We hypothesize that participants' evaluation of claims may be biased because participants have a preference for a particular type or source of a claim. This would hamper an open dialogue. We tested the effect of three variables on scientists' evaluation of claims of the general public about GM food: the claim's favorability towards GM food, the phrasing, and the source of the claim. Results are based on a survey-experiment among 73 biotechnology-scientists. Biased processing occurred when scientists evaluated claims. Claims that were corresponding with the attitude of the scientists and that were phrased in a cognitive way were evaluated more positively than claims that were contrasting the attitude of the scientists and that were phrased in an affective way. Contrary to our expectation, scientists evaluated claims of the public more positively than claims of experts.

Cuppen, Eefje, Mattijs Hisschemöller and Cees Midden. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Assessment


Biomedical Writing

Learn about biomedical writing and biomedical writers, what they are doing at various stages of their careers, and what their interests are.

Vélez, Lili Fox. Earthlink (1999). Careers>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Biotechnology: Opportunities for Technical Communicators   (PDF)

Tanrikulu describes the opportunities and professional requirements for technical communicators seeking employment in the biotechnology industry. The article includes a list of Web sites where readers can seek more information.

Tanrikulu, Marta. Intercom (2001). Careers>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Bird Flu: Communicating the Risk

Most people have already heard a little about bird flu. But people face a host of other problems, and except for public health officials and poultry farmers, few are gearing up for action about H5N1 [the virus that causes the flu]. Yet.

Sandman, Peter M. and Jody Lanard. Communication World Bulletin (2006). Articles>Risk Communication>Biomedical


Board of Editors in the Life Sciences

The Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) was founded in 1991 to evaluate the proficiency of manuscript editors in the life sciences and to award credentials similar to those obtainable in other professions. The Board was founded by 10 editors who had long been active in national and international professional associations in scientific editing and publishing. They began working on the development of the certification program in the early 1980s. They were assisted by consultants in testing and by administrators of certification programs in other professions. BELS was incorporated in the state of Maryland on January 23, 1991, and the first official certification examinations were offered that year. BELS now has hundreds of members in the United States, Canada, and several European countries.

BELS. Organizations>Editing>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Bringing Usability to the Front Lines of Medicine

Will Emergency Medical Records (EMRs) make our delivery of medical care more usable?

Whitney, Hunter. Usability Interface (2008). Articles>Usability>Biomedical


Can Two Established Information Models Explain the Information Behaviour of Visually Impaired People Seeking Health and Social Care Information?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study provides a new and valuable insight into the information behaviour of visually impaired people, as well as testing the applicability of a specific and generic information model to the information behaviour of visually impaired people seeking health and social care information.

Beverley, C.A., P.A. Bath and R. Barber. Journal of Documentation (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Accessibility>Biomedical


Career Opportunities in the Pharmaceutical Industry   (members only)

In this article, I provide an overview of the pharmaceutical drug development and commercialization processes and highlight opportunities for technical communicators to contribute to the development of regulatory documentation and technical marketing materials.

Mogull, Scott A. Intercom (2010). Careers>TC>Biomedical


Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Have you ever been working at the computer so long that your eyes 'went buggy?' Or so intensely that you could barely move when you got up? Working long hours at a computer may be more hazardous than you know. One real possibility is that you will develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS).

Rollins, Cindy. Boston Broadside (1991). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Biomedical>RSI


A Case Study of Health Risk Communication: What the Public Wants and What it Gets   (peer-reviewed)

The task of informing the public about various health risks is fraught with many problems. It is essential to overcome them if risk communication is to be improved. In 1989, the National Research Council (NRC) released a report that is important for many reasons. In particular, it helped establish a conceptual framework for risk communication and identified a research agenda to improve risk communication practices. One area of need identified by the report was better use of case studies to understand, e.g., 'how people react to different types of messages and channels; [and] what their actual concerns, frustrations, and data needs are' with regard to particular health risks.

Trauth, Jeannette M. Franklin Pierce Law Center (1994). Articles>Risk Communication>Biomedical


Catastrophe Discourse in Microbiology, Its Rhetorical Form and Political Function   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Discourses evoking an antibiotic apocalypse and a war on superbugs are emerging just at a time when so-called "catastrophe discourses" are undergoing critical and reflexive scrutiny in the context of global warming and climate change. This article combines insights from social science research into climate change discourses with applied metaphor research based on recent advances in cognitive linguistics, especially with relation to "discourse metaphors." It traces the emergence of a new apocalyptic discourse in microbiology and health care, examines its rhetorical and political function and discusses its advantages and disadvantages. It contains a reply by the author of the central discourse metaphor, "the post-antibiotic apocalypse," examined in the article.

Nerlich, Brigitte and Richard James. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Risk Communication


Centralized Translation Processes: Overcoming Global Regulatory and Multilingual Content Challenges

Accurate translations of clinical trial documents play an important role in meeting global product demands. Mistakes from poorly done translations can result in product delays, cost overruns, malpractice or product liability lawsuits, and confused subjects / patients.

Kassatkina, Inna. SlideShare (2007). Presentations>Content Management>Translation>Biomedical


Challenges for Technical Communicators in Bioinformatics   (PDF)

Bioinformatics, a specialized field in the area of biotechnology, has been a major growth market for the last decade. Generally, bioinformatics companies serve pharmaceutical and other life science research institutes by providing powerful computational solutions for the analysis, storage, and integration of molecular data. The project-oriented organizational structures, international environment, and interdisciplinary approaches that characterize bioinformatics companies provide a wealth of challenges and opportunities. Technical communicators who want to work in this field must be willing to apply strategies and techniques that enable them to streamline communication channels and write effective documentation.

Weirich, Margaret. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Communicating Ethically

As new advances in engineering have occurred in the past quarter century, new ethical issues have arisen, as we frequently see in health care technology. The health care industry can now keep many people alive for a longer period of time, and people who would have died twenty‑five years ago can now be treated. Premature infants, heart attack victims, and other individuals can now be treated with new devices that prolong life. But new possibilities also raise ethical questions about who should receive benefits, who should pay for them, and when is it ethical to prolong life. Should a person who is being kept alive on by a machine and who has no chance of being returned to a state of health be permitted to die? At what birth weight should a premature infant be treated with unusually expensive equipment? Learning how to deal with ethical issues will be an important part of your engineering career. This summary can only touch the surface of the issues that lie ahead.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Ethics



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