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 Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 203-206

A survey to understand the need for quality indicators for ayurveda blogs


Department of Samhita and Siddhanta, SDM Trust's Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Bagalkote, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission03-Dec-2021
Date of Decision15-Dec-2021
Date of Acceptance11-May-2022
Date of Web Publication28-Sep-2022

Correspondence Address:
K R Bhavana
Department of Samhita and Siddhanta, SDM Trust's Ayurvedic College and Hospital, Terdal, Bagalkote, Karnataka
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/joa.joa_356_21

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  Abstract 


Introduction: Blogging is becoming a very popular new mode of knowledge dispersal. Ayurveda blogs are becoming pervasive, but there are no standards set to check the quality of the blogs. Moreover, no study was done to check for the quality of the Ayurveda blogs. Methods: This study was conducted to assess the quality of Ayurveda blogs using modified Delphi consensus recommendations such as identity and qualifications of author, distinction between facts and opinions, advertisements and content, accuracy, citations, and consistency with citations. Forty Ayurveda blogs having more than 20000 social media followers were selected for the study. Results: Only 62.5% of the blogs had author's names and 37.5% of the blogs had disclosed author's qualifications. Only 5 blogs (16.66%) had cited references and 12 blogs (40%) had no clear distinctions between advertisement and content. About 90% of the blogs did not list the conflict of interest. Conclusion: Blogs for marketing the products, ghost writing, and opinionated blogging are eclipsing the genuineness of Ayurveda. Ayurblogs have lots of opportunities and hence, need to be monitored. There should be a blogging code for Ayurveda blogs. Unethical blogging should be made a punishable offense.

Keywords: Blogging, blogging code, conflict of interest, medical blogs, references


How to cite this article:
Bhavana K R. A survey to understand the need for quality indicators for ayurveda blogs. J Ayurveda 2022;16:203-6

How to cite this URL:
Bhavana K R. A survey to understand the need for quality indicators for ayurveda blogs. J Ayurveda [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 4];16:203-6. Available from: http://www.journayu.in/text.asp?2022/16/3/203/357302




  Introduction Top


The medical world is embracing the emerging technologies.[1] One of the most popular e-learning tools in this digital world is blogging. Blogs, also called weblogs are computer-mediated communication of the content such as text, pictures, or sound files, posted on a regular basis and displayed in reverse chronological order.[2] Apart from regular blogging which has only texts and pictures, there is video blogging or vlogging which is audio–visual and podcasts that are audio files typically available as series. A blog with links is called as linklog.

Medical blogging conveys concerns and medical knowledge of the physician. It generally consists of discussions related to clinical cases, information about diseases, treatments, images and videos relating to clinical trials, and news and information on current research regarding a particular treatment or disease. Since past few years, Ayurvedic blogs are mushrooming in an attempt to popularize Ayurveda among masses. Since the blogger may be the author, editor, publisher, advertiser, reviewer, critic and owner simultaneously and may fake the whole thing, unfiltered blogging is a big threat to any medical field including Ayurveda.[3] This article discusses the need for blogging code and quality indicators for Ayurvedic blogs.


  Aims and objectives Top


  1. This study aimed to check the quality of ayurblogs using modified Delphi recommendations
  2. Propose a blogger's code for Ayurveda
  3. SWOT analysis of ayurblogs.



  Materials and Methods Top


For the present study, 40 Ayurveda blogs having more than 20000 followers on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram irrespective of country of origin as on September 17, 2021 were selected. The ten most recent articles as on September 17, 2021 were selected. Ten most recently written articles in each blog were considered. Since the study did not require interviewing the bloggers and were concerned only about the content already published in the blogs, consent was not taken. Moreover, many blogs did not have the details of the author to contact.

The quality of the blogs was assessed based on the assessment criteria derived from the top eight questions in modified Delphi consensus recommendations, namely disclosing conflicts of interest, name of the author, qualification of the author, distinction between fact and opinion, distinction between advertisements and content, accuracy, citing of references, and consistency of references.[4] Since the questionnaire was already validated, it was used for the study. The data were tabulated and analyzed in terms of percentages.


  Results Top


Only 25 out of 40 blogs had author names (62.5%) and only 15 (37.5%) blogs were transparent about the qualification of the writer. Thirty-six out of 40 (90%) blogs did not list the conflict of interests. Only one blog had few peer-reviewed articles, although those articles were written by guest writers and reviewed by the owner of the blog. Only five blogs (12.5%) had cited references at the end and four (13.33%) were consistent with references. Twenty-two blogs had clear distinctions between advertisement and content (55%). Out of 40, 23 (57.5%) were opinion based, 8 (5%) were factual, and rest (37.5%) had both facts and opinions undifferentiated.


  Discussion Top


Ayurveda blogs are rapidly becoming pervasive and are used to influence public.[5] However, no critical analysis of Ayurveda blogs has been conducted. The criteria used in the study had got more than 93% of consensus among the medical professionals.

Conflict of Interest

One hundred percentage of consensus were seen among health professionals of the survey on listing of conflict of interests. Conflict of interest is a matter of concern for both the doctors and the society.[6] It is defined as “the conditions in which the professional judgment concerning a primary interest (such as patients' welfare) tends to be inordinately influenced by a secondary interest (such as financial gain).[7]

Physicians' financial relationship with the pharmaceutical industry is contentious because it may pose a conflict of interest. There should be complete disclosure of relationships with pharmaceutical manufacturers for bloggers who write articles promoting pharmaceutical products in their personal blogs.[8] Disclosure policies would reduce the problems such as sloppiness and fraud by allowing readers to make a more informed and therefore a better interpretation of the article.[9]

No blog in the present study explicitly declared conflict of interest. However, the four blogs run by pharma companies hospitals claiming efficacy of their therapies and medicines were implicit of conflict of interest.

Author

Blogs can be written by one person or a group of contributors.[10] A study on 271 medical blogs showed that only 58% of the authors provided information to reveal their identities.[11] Ghost blogging refers to the practice of writing blog posts on behalf of someone else who is stated as the author, and it can occur with or without disclosure of writing assistance. There are Facebook and WhatsApp groups of content writers who browse through few blogs and write articles on any topics including Ayurveda. Website maintenance companies charge owners for posting the content on behalf of the owners of the blogs. The lack of authenticity causes readers in retrospection to question everything that was posted.[12] Anonymous writers escape accountability. Along with the name, the qualifications of the author should also be disclosed in the blogs. Two of the blogs had the names and details of the author who had no formal education of Ayurveda. Although their resourcefulness to run the Ayurveda blogs is questionable, disclosing the identity reduces the confusion in the minds of the readers.

Qualities of a blogger

Although anybody with an access to Internet and good communication skills can take up blogging, there are studies conducted to know the qualities a blogger possesses. Two studies indicate that people who are high in openness to new experience and high in neuroticism are likely to be bloggers.[13] Blogging is a continuous process and one needs to have perseverance and good social media marketing skills along with the knowledge of search engine optimization to be a successful blogger. One needs to be well qualified to write accurate information on Ayurveda regularly for a long time to establish as an Ayurvedic blogger. Knowledge of Sanskrit would be an added advantage for Ayurveda bloggers.

Content

Content was checked for distinctions between advertisements and content, facts and opinions, accuracy, and references. Content written solely to promote the products could be misleading. Self-diagnosis and self-medication with a presumption of Ayurvedic drugs have no side effects could be dangerous.

Translations of Samhitas, contents and indications of medicines as per Samhitas, and research proven information are taken as facts and rest as opinion. Interpretation of concepts of Samhitas varies from person to person and they are considered opinions. Furthermore, articles related to COVID-19 which was not justified by research and personal ratings were considered opinions.

Accuracy

Peer reviewing is one of the ways to check for accuracy of the content. Biomedical journals appeared in the 19th century as personal organs and only in 20th century, institutionalizing of peer review process began to authenticate the accuracy of the research articles.[14] It is now the need of the hour to bring in peer review process in the medical blogs as well.

Citations

When information is substantiated by suitable references, then it will be factual and accurate. References would not only improve the article but overall, the efficiency and quality of blog literature.[15] While two blogs merely mentioned the name of the Ayurvedic treatise from where the information was translated, three blogs revealed the research articles on which the article was based at the end of the article. However, no blog had statement wise citations.

Blogger's code for ayurblogs

There should be a monitoring body for medical blogs with a separate wing for ayurblogs. Since, blogging can be included under freedom of expression, total prohibition of nonAyurveda fraternity into Ayurveda blogging may not be feasible. However, there should be grading of the blogs based on parameters such as clarity in the author's identity, declaration of conflict of interest, and others. Only those blogs which fulfill these parameters should be permitted to use keywords such as Ayurveda and Ayurvedic treatment. The blogger who indulges in unethical blogging like hiring content writers to fill in the blogs should be held accountable for inaccurate facts and punished. Since there is already a lot of misinformation about Ayurveda being herbology, home remedies, no adverse effects, and so on, among masses, it is the need of the day to curtail these blogs to prevent the loss of sanctity of the science.

Scope of Ayurveda blogs

Ayurveda blogs provide learning resources for students and public. They can be written by students as a portfolio. The blogs can be spaces for collaborative learning and curriculum repositories.[16] They also provide space to host webinars and online short-term Ayurveda courses and sell personal care products and medicines. It can also be utilized to encourage interaction in residency education.[17]

SWOT analysis of Ayurveda blogs

Blogs represent a paradigm shift with new challenges and opportunities that require quick responses, protocols, and policies.

Strength

Ayurveda consultation has restrictions in several countries. However, blogs provide space for online consultations easing out the process. Webinars, blogs, vlogs, and podcasts help in simplifying the process of Ayurvedic learning. Blogs can eventually leads to branding. Books need a lot of time and effort to publish and are expensive for it requires expenses on paper, ink, and so on. Blogs are faster, cheaper, and more convenient.

Weakness

A blog is useful, if it has someone trained in communication and has sound knowledge of Ayurveda to maintain it. Blogs, most of the times, are written hastily and in personal musings. In most cases, bloggers do not have the time, skills, or the funds to do proper research. There are only few collective research blogs, working on specific topics.[18] Lack of peer review is one of the biggest drawbacks of Ayurveda blogs.

Physicians have both a powerful position and leadership role to fill in society, and must work that much more diligently and nimbly to acquire and maintain the trust of the public, including acting in a professional manner. Hence, personal ranting should be avoided.[19]

Opportunities

Blogging could be one of the Adhyapana Vidhi. In a study conducted to assess the need of faculty blogging in university journal-based blogs for promotion, only a minority perceived blogging to be important.[20] However, when a blog gets attached to an Ayurvedic institution, it will have higher authenticity. The contributions to blog should be considered for promotions and appraisals. It can be made part of curriculum of postgraduation to maintain institutional blogs wherein each student contributes an article every week.

Threats

A person with no formal training of Ayurveda when writes on Ayurveda, there is a high probability of wrong or faulty interpretations of the texts. If common man follows improper self-medication and ends up having adverse effects, then the blame would generally be on the science and less on the anonymous blogger. Content of Ayurveda blogs is nowadays quoted in certain research articles. The trend, if continued, would deteriorate the quality of scientific research in Ayurveda. Yoga, herbal, and botanical blogs are also treated as Ayurveda blogs.

Demerits of the study

In this study, only blogs are considered and not vlogs and podcasts. Furthermore, there are social media platforms such as Quora where the people who are not professionals of Ayurveda answer the queries. Those are extremely difficult to scrutinize.


  Conclusion Top


Blogs are resources for propagating Ayurveda. Well-written blogs are assets for both the science and the practitioner. Since Ayurvedic blogs are powerful tools, there need to be quality and accountability. Unethical blogging should be made a punishable offense.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.





 
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Introduction
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