Two years of Pulses: 3 Insights You Should Know

By Jeff Cain, EdD, MS

This post is part of an Anniversary Series celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning (CPTL) and the two-year anniversary of CPTL Pulses.  In this Series, editorial board members are describing and celebrating milestones in our development and advances in support of publishing in pharmacy education.

Will anyone submit articles?

Will anyone read them?

Will it expand scholarly conversation in the Academy?

Will it provide value to the authors and readers?

Those are just a few of the questions the CPTL Editorial Board pondered in spring of 2017 as we considered the uncharted territory of spinning off a scholarly blog.

Two years and 66 articles later we have our answers. Pulses articles have now been read more than 27,000 times across 102 countries. They have been shared widely across Facebook and Twitter, evoking comments and discussion along the way. Our authors have run the gamut from PharmD students, residents, and graduate students to new instructors to well-respected pharmacy faculty with years of experience.

What have we learned that you should know?
We have reams of data on demographics, readership, and engagement, but we also have a plethora of anecdotal comments that are even more revealing about this newer form of scholarship. Below are three of our most important discoveries.

1. Readership is higher than many peer-reviewed pharmacy education manuscripts.

Why is that?

Prior to Pulses, there was no “home” within academic pharmacy publications for interesting perspectives, novel ideas, and pilot studies that for one reason or another simply did not meet all the requirements of a peer-reviewed manuscript. Peer-reviewed manuscripts are fundamental to academia, but faculty rarely have time to read manuscripts that aren’t immediately relevant or interesting to them. As others have noted, the publish or perish paradigm has created a system that incentivizes quantity of publications in lieu of more meaningful, interesting, and valuable papers.1 By design, Pulses articles tend to be relevant, engaging, and useful to pharmacy educators and can be read in entirety while waiting in line for coffee (or a protein smoothie).

2. Pulses articles become topics of online and offline conversations.

As Mewburn and Thompson contend, scholarly blogs form a community of practice that can help academics create conversation around their work.2 The open nature of blogs, along with other social media tools (eg, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) catalyzes that conversation by removing some of the “friction” of discussing scholarly ideas. The friction of lengthy peer reviews is removed. The friction of time/delay to communicate via other formal, traditional channels is removed. In addition, discussion can begin immediately through blog comments, Facebook posts, and Twitter threads.

We were not surprised with the dialogue that spread rapidly via social media, but we didn’t necessarily expect how much conversation would extend into classrooms and offices.

3. Peer coaching is value-additive for authors.

As opposed to traditional peer review, peer coaching involves a non-blinded, collaborative conversation between authors and reviewers. We thought peer coaching would be beneficial, but I’m not sure we realized just how impactful it would be for author development. Unfortunately, many authors’ first experiences with the peer review process are negative — receiving feedback that hurts morale and does little to improve their writing. The peer coaching model we use was based off the CanadiEM process because it helps “facilitate the publication of high-quality academic materials by learner–authors while providing focused feedback to help them develop academic writing skills.”3 Maintaining scholarly quality was important to us, but we also wanted to use our platform to assist in the development of new and emerging authors. That assistance comes in many forms including helping authors clarify their ideas, helping them understand the reader’s perspective, and guiding their thoughts within the context of the larger body of literature…all in a timely, back-and-forth dialogue between the author and peer coach(es).

More to come
Despite the successes, Pulses is not a finished product. We continue tweaking it to make the process even more efficient, improve the overall value, and help our authors take further advantage of opportunities in the growing field of digital scholarship. If you haven’t submitted to Pulses yet, now is a good time.

The success of Pulses would not be possible without the editorial board members who devote substantial amounts of time serving as peer coaches.


  1. Aragón AM. A measure for the impact of research. Sci Rep. 2013;3: Article 1649.
  2. Mewburn I, Thomson P. Why do academics blog? An analysis of audiences, purposes and challenges. Stud Higher Educ. 2013; 38(8): 1105-1119.
  3. Sidalak D, Purdy E, Luckett-Gatopoulos S, et al. Coached peer review: developing the next generation of authors. Acad Med. 2017; 92 (2): 201-204.

Cain profile photoJeff Cain, EdD, MS was the lead editor of Pulses from inception through June 30, 2019. He is an associate professor in the Department of Pharmacy Practice & Science and Director of the Office of Teaching Innovation & Scholarship at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy. Jeff’s educational scholarship interests include innovative teaching, digital media, and contemporary issues in higher education. He is actively involved with preparing aspiring academicians for a future career in pharmacy education and scholarship. In his free time he is a husband, father, obstacle racer, and president of For Those Who Would, a 501(c)(3) charity in the adventure and endurance racing communities.

Pulses is a scholarly blog supported by Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning

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