Wednesday 26 February 2020

The fantastic example knowledge resource that is Radiopaedia

This reprised blog post is a reminder of that amazing example of free and open knowledge sharing that is Radiopaedia

X-ray published in ABC news, taken from Radiopaedia 
As described in this fascinating article,   Radiopaedia is an online wiki where Radiologists all over the globe share online X-rays that are interesting, unusual, or demonstrate particular aspects of patient cases that others might learn from. When I was a geologist, there was a saying that "the best geologist was the one what had seen the most rocks". Presumably the best radiologists are the ones that have seen the most X-rays, but no single radiologist can possible have seen a X-ray of every type of condition.

But now they can, thanks to this shared knowledge resource.

Radiopaedia was started in 2005 by Dr Frank Gaillard, as a way of storing online his digital radiographic images. Dr Gaillard had the inspiration to make this store an open resource, and in 2007 made it accessible to other radiologists. By 2015 Radiopedia had
  •  7 million hits a month 
  • 2 million unique users 
  • users in every country in the world 
  • more than 10,600 Twitter followers
  • 17,660 cases sorted into 7,636 articles. 

The vision of Radiopaedia is
"to create the best possible radiology reference and teaching site and make it available to everyone, for ever, for free..... By pooling our collective knowledge and experience we can make a real difference in how people all over the world are imaged and diagnosed".
The letters of thanks from radiologists all round the world show how useful this resource is in supporting correct diagnosis and thus saving lives.

So what can we learn from this?

I think the primary lesson is that a simple technology solution which serves a knowledge need for a large user base can grow quickly and organically. The barrier to entry is low, and the benefit for users is very high.

Secondly, the starting point for this was one person choosing to open his personal collection to the public. Despite the well-known behaviour of knowledge hoarding, Dr Galliard's decision to open his knowledge base not just resulted in value to other radiologists; he himself benefited from the massive outpouring of knowledge sharing.

The value is particularly great for radiologists, in that many of them work as lone specialists. A global community provides them with a very welcome link to other practitioners.

Also radiologists are visual workers. Their chief tool is images. The more images they can see, the greater their knowledge base. The best radiologist is the one who has seen the most Xrays.  A wiki is an ideal way to share visual imagery, and to make tens of thousands of Xrays available to view.

Also the wiki is not a standalone, but part of a KM Framework. This includes
For those of you working in knowledge management, this case history provides a model for how you can connect a large community of lone practitioners, for whom a shared library of images is a massively useful resources.

Are there lone practitioners like this in your company? If so, then Radiopaedia may give you some pointers in how to build a system to support them.

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