Interview #2 - 22 December 2007:
Cultural Divide in Europe; UK post-Croatia
Shock; Amedeo Prize Self Nominators; Prize Money 30,000 Euro?; Christmas Gift
Exchange - Sue Weinstein in conversation with Bernd
Sebastian Kamps, Amedeo President and creator of the Amedeo Prize.
Weinstein: During the first three weeks, you have received more than 700
nominations for the Amedeo Prize. That
is more than I expected and I apologize for my skepticism of our last conversation.
Kamps: The nominations come in steadily. During the first days, there were
some misunderstandings because we had not been clear enough about self-nominations, which are not
permitted. We should also have explained that no one was expected to figure out which article could
possibly be THE BEST article of the year. The only thing needed at this time is that all Amedeo
subscribers submit just their personal favorite articles.
Weinstein: How long does it take your subscribers to nominate an article
for the Prize?
Kamps: A few minutes for one article, half an hour if they submit the
maximum of seven nominations. Interestingly, every time seven articles are nominated in a row, you
get the impression that they are very carefully selected. You sense that the nominator is passionate
about medical literature. As I said earlier: The fantastic thing about Amedeo is that you can really rely on the people who
gather around the service.
Weinstein: From where do the nominations arrive?
Kamps: They come from 60 countries, with Italy, Spain, the US, Brazil,
Germany and Argentina being in the first
places. There are regional differences, though. When calculating the number of
nominations per 1,000 eligible voters, Portugal, Argentina, Italy and Spain contribute twice as many
nominations as France, Switzerland, Germany, or the Netherlands; and four times as many as China,
the US, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, Russia or South Africa.
Weinstein: I miss the UK in your list.
Kamps: The UK? A disaster: almost absent from the competition! We have
received ten times less nominations from the UK than from Italy or Spain. That is curious because,
when you calculate the number of subscribers per one million population, the UK is among the top 10
Amedeo countries together with Switzerland, Belgium, Spain, Australia and Denmark.
Weinstein: Any explanation for the UK desertion?
Kamps: I can only speculate. Is it the post-Croatia shock - you won't let
me play in the European Championship, so I won't participate in the Amedeo Prize? Probably not.
Maybe more subtle factors come into play, for example...
Weinstein: ...a greater workload in some countries?
Kamps: No, these are things of the past. Today, a doctor in the UK does
not work more than his colleague in Spain or in Italy. The explanation may be of a different order.
Think about it: Amedeo asks you to spend 5 to 30 minutes of your time to make another person win
tens of thousands of Euro - a person you have never seen and who you may never ever meet in your
Weinstein: That supposes a minimum of altruism...
Kamps: ...and generosity. In my personal experience, these qualities are
not evenly distributed throughout our continent and may be more prevalent around the Mediterranean
Weinstein: You are neither Italian nor Spaniard, so nobody will accuse you
Kamps: Fortunately, I am above the parties. And of course, there is no
such thing as a country without generous people. Generosity is everywhere. But the special form of
generosity needed for the Amedeo Prize may be more common in some places than others. The data are
unambiguous: Take the territory of the ancient Roman Empire, exclude the UK from it, and inside the
borders of the empire you will find the countries which contribute most to the Amedeo Prize. Why
not, after all? For 2,000 years, the border of the Roman Empire has been a cultural divide in
Europe. Here you drink beer, there you drink wine; here life is somewhat more organized, there it is
more relaxed; here the cooking is more spartan, there it is traditionally more elaborate and
tasteful because of a benign climate. Personally, I am happy about these differences. The more
variety you have, the more interesting the world is.
Weinstein: Does that mean that the Amedeo Prize will lack authority and
Kamps: Not at all. To run the Amedeo Prize we don't need the expertise of
our colleagues from a handful of "low-participation countries". The combined expertise of the global
Amedeo community does not depend on the contribution of any particular country.
Weinstein: You once said that 1,500 nominations for the Prize would be
fine. Why that limit?
Kamps: When you check PubMed, you will find that every year there are
about 200,000 articles published in the most important medical subcategories. 1,500 would be roughly one percent of
Weinstein: One percent may not be an adequate pre-selection for the Amedeo
Kamps: In fact, it is. If you look at the first ten journals of the
preliminary nomination list, you see that some journals have already 10 to 20% of this year's articles nominated for the
Prize (see http://amedeoprize.com/ap/medicaljournals.php)
Weinstein: In other words, you believe that the future winner of the
Amedeo Prize 2008 published his articles in one of these top 10 journals?
Kamps: I don't anticipate anything at all. An author who has published in
a well-established journal has a bigger audience than authors who have published in less-known
journals. During the three voting rounds, visibility could translate into votes, but in the end,
this is all speculation.
Weinstein: The Amedeo Prize website says repeatedly that - I quote - "you
may not nominate your own articles or those you co-published." How is the compliance with this
Kamps: 85% of all nominators have respected this rule so far.
Weinstein: Which leaves you with 15% who don't.
Kamps: Yes, unfortunately. Our monitor is busier than he expected to
Weinstein: So you
have a monitor? Does that mean that the nomination process is not secret?
Kamps: It is extremely secret. Only my brother
Stephan, who is the chief software developer at Amedeo, and myself have access to the nomination and
poll data. Needless to say, the data will never be made public.
Weinstein: So if I participate in the nomination, you can see which
article I nominated?
Kamps: Yes, of course.
Weinstein: That means that my nomination is not secret.
Kamps: Yes, it is, because I won't check your nomination.
Weinstein: But you could?
Kamps: I wouldn't. Please believe me: I don't have time to waste on
checking individual nominations. The only thing that counts is the final ranking and who will be the
winner of the Amedeo Prize. By the way, the independent monitor is my brother Stephan. He is not a
physician and does not care who nominates whom. He will crosscheck every single nomination and
delete the self-nominations. Our chief illustrator Carmen Rivera had demonstrated his job in a
Weinstein: How do you think people will react when they find out that
their self-nominations have been deleted?
Kamps: They will accept it. Most of them simply didn't read the sentence,
which explains the no-self-nomination rule. Some people noticed it only after the nomination and
promptly sent me an email, asking me to delete it.
Weinstein: Someone might complain about being spied upon in his nomination
Kamps: No, I don't think so. The Amedeo Prize has few rules and one of them
is fairly simple: "You may not nominate your own articles or those you co-published." Whenever you
establish rules, you must give yourself the means to have these rules respected, otherwise there is
no point making rules. This is a well-established principle in life.
Weinstein: In early December, you announced that the Prize money has been
raised by an additional 5,000 Euro. The Amedeo Prize now stands at 15,000 Euro...
Kamps: ...and will hopefully continue to increase. I would like to see the
Prize money reach at least 30,000 Euro. Do you understand now why I am so keen on having more
nominations? The more nominations we have, the more donations we will get. As Amedeo Prize is a
non-profit initiative and as all contributions from donations and institutional sponsors will be
entirely - 100% - distributed among the Prizewinners, I don't see why I should refrain from
pushing the Amedeo subscribers into the nomination process.
Weinstein: Are you sure that you are not promoting the Prize a bit too
heavily? To invite the Amedeo subscribers to the nomination, you sent two emails a few hours apart.
Kamps: I have never done that before and I won't do it again. But the
Amedeo Prize deserved it and that's why I did it.
Weinstein: How did your subscribers react?
Kamps: There were no complaints, which is in an indication that the
message was understood. One colleague asked after the second "P.S." mail: "Is this a threatening
e-mail?" Of course it was not. I simply could not put all the information into one single email. You
know, messages which are too long simply finish in the trash folder...
Weinstein: One surgeon was more eloquent in his criticism.
Kamps: That was a colleague from Hungary who was about to operate on a
frail patient "who may die in the operation and definitely will die without it" and who had been on
call all day seeing emergency cases. He continued: "Maybe you cannot imagine that checking and
answering my emails gives a sort of 'putting things in order feeling' which is a good way of
preparing for an operation, however participating in a competition or nomination needs a sort of joy
and relaxation I do not have now." I explained to him the reason for what I did and we are now
Weinstein: What next?
Kamps: It is Christmas time.
Weinstein: That has nothing to do with the Amedeo Prize.
Kamps: Don't be so sure. Amedeo will ask its subscribers for a modest
Weinstein: Ah, I see. Nothing more than a nomination for the Amedeo
Kamps: One tiny little nomination in exchange for one year of loyal and
Weinstein: ..."and with that we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New
Kamps: Well, Not just that. Whenever you ask for something, always offer
something in exchange. Remember the Latin "do ut des".
Weinstein: And what will we find under our Christmas trees?
Kamps: HIV Medicine
2007, by Christian Hoffmann, Juergen Rockstroh and myself.
15th edition, 800 pages, free download - the same procedure as every year.
Weinstein: You really don't miss anything to get the Amedeo Prize flying
up into the air, do you?
Kamps: 800 pages in exchange for a single nomination for the Amedeo Prize
2008 is an honest exchange, isn't it?
Weinstein: That makes me think - excuse me if I change the topic
completely - that I still don't know why only the first authors are eligible for the Amedeo Prize -
and not the last authors.
Kamps: That's too long a story to be told now. Let's leave that for our
Weinstein: All right. So I just wish you a happy and successful New Year
Kamps: You mean for me and for the success of the Amedeo Prize 2008? Thank
you. After all, the Prize celebrates the 10th anniversary of Amedeo.
Weinstein: So, Happy Birthday, too?
Kamps: Not now, on May 22nd. I wish you a happy and successful
2008, too. And I wish, of course, the very best - health, prosperity and professional
success - to all our subscribers in 205 countries around the world.