Monday, 25 August 2014


In medical journals

To while away some of a cold, rainy Sunday I have done a little bibliographic research by looking up “conductive education” in Medline (formerly Index Medicus):

This found me 58 journal references under the rubric of Conductive Education according to Medline's inclusion criteria – in effect, that is articles published in reputable, refereed medical research journals, from around the world but largely in English.

Over the years

This electronic record stretches back across 45 years, the first appearance of Conductive Education in this context being recorded for 1970 and the most recent appearing earlier this year. Over this time the highest number of items on Conductive Education indexed in the the medical research journals in a single year was five:

2014       1
2013       0
2012       2
2011        1
2010       1
2009      2
2008      3
2007      3
2006       2
2005       5
2004       2
2003       3
2002       2
2001       2
2000      0
1999       0
1998        1
1997       0
1996        1
1995        2
1994        0
1993        2
1992        0
1991        3
1990        4
1989        5
1988        4
1987        1
1986        1
1985        1
1984        0
1983        1
1982       0
1981        0
1980       0
1979        0
1978        0
1977        0
1976        0
1975        0
1974        1
1973        1
1972        0
1971         0
1970        1

Combining these into quinquennia makes the tendency a little clearer:

2100-2014      5
2005-2009    15
2000-2004     9
1995-1999      4
1990-1994      9
1985-1989    12
1980-1984      1
1975-1979       0
1970-1974       3

András Pető's work was barely known outside Hungary during his lifetime. In the sixties (not reflected above) and the seventies there were traces in the medical journals but by the late seventies earlier academic interest in Conductive Education had largely dissipated, as remarked elsewhere. It was then rekindled, especially by the explosion of first popular then academic interest following Standing up for Joe. Since then Conductive Education has continued on the fringe of the international medical agenda, largely but not exclusively in the English-speaking world.

How precisely you regard how Conductive Education is faring there depends on how you read this literature.

Range of items

These 58 references comprise general introductions and overviews, empirical outcome evaluations, review articles (some systematic) and refereed correspondence, but do not include obituaries or book reviews.

The overwhelming bulk concern Conductive Education for children with motor disorders (primarily cerebral palsies). Outcome research is almost wholly quantitative.

I see that I myself wrote or co-wrote three items. Very little is written from within Conductive Education. There are two articles plus two letters from Hungary.

Everything found indexed by Medline is also included in the Conduction's Virtual Library of Conductive Education. The Virtual Library includes more on Conductive Education than just medical articles, and far more than just refereed articles of any kind.

Fundamental problem

Despite its strict inclusion criteria Medline leaves the question of what does or does not count as Conductive Education to self-definition. If an article uses the term, then it is included. Medline sets a generally high bar for including references. With respect to Conductive Education, however, in this respect it is prey to a fundamental problem. One cannot get far in science without careful and accurate definition.

An item questioning the relevance of a medical framework for research into Conductive Education appeared earlier this year.

Note that whatever an item article regards as comprising Conductive Education, it may still raise important theoretical and methodological points.

Free or to pay to view?

Most of these journal articles are accessible on line only for a fee. Some fee-charging journals release older items to free access. You can read the following old items from medical journals on line without having to pay:

Hill (1990)

Shields (1989)

[Letters] (1989)

Robinson et al., (1989)

Beach (1988)

Sutton (1988)

These are not necessarily the best items, nor even representative. More will doubtless appear on line with the passage of time.

Who reads Medline, anyway?

Medical researchers do. So do doctors and other health personnel (such as therapists). If they have an institutional affiliation (e.g. they work somewhere) that subscribes to relevant journal companies, then it costs them nothing to click on an article and download it in full. If they are busy (and who isn't​?) they are unlikely to look far down the list that Medline brings up – and anyway, who wants to read old research?

They may be unlikely to look elsewhere (such as in education or social science indexes).

So, if you ask medical or health staff about Conductive Education, it may be what is knowable through Medline that defines their potential horizon.

Access to Medline is free and open to all. Try searching it for “conductive education”, or any other topic that might find its way into medical journals, by using the search box at top of the following page (don't forget to use the inverted commas):

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