RADIOLOGIA news list informs, unites Spanish-speaking radiology community

En Espanol

The predominance of a single language in science, in this case English, has clearly been a positive force for technological progress and the spread of information. Radiology, for its part, has prospered from the easy exchange of information flowing from meetings, studies, and other scientific forums where English serves as the "lingua franca" of our international community. But this one-way street can hinder progress as well, especially when subtle cultural and professional distinctions are lost in the rush to embrace a universal language.

With the goal of creating a stronger Internet voice for the radiology community in more than 20 Spanish-speaking countries, the RADIOLOGIA electronic mail list was established in 1998 under the auspices of RedIRIS, an academic network financed by the Spanish government. The Madrid-based network links the entire Spanish university system, and all of its funds are earmarked for the development of Internet applications such as mail lists. Altogether there are 100 RedIris lists dedicated to topics such as science, law, and journalism.

"The idea behind all the lists is to use Spanish in the scientific realm, and perhaps have a bit of defense (against) the overwhelming predominance of English," said Dr. Federico Javier RodrĂ­guez Recio, Radiology Department head with the Hospital General de Soria, and associate professor at the Universidad de Valladolid in Spain. Recio founded the list in 1998, and now serves as its administrator.

"Spanish is the language we use all the time," he said, "and sometimes we have common problems we can address, not just in Spain but in Latin America as well," he said. "We are united by culture and by the ways in which we work -- sometimes more than with the English-speaking world."

The EUFORA example

RADIOLOGIA has a lot in common with the other European radiology list, EUFORA, including many members who participate in both groups. Yet there are important differences as well, Recio said. For one, EUFORA participants can send messages in any language; the organization uses automated translation software to translate them before they're posted. But Spanish is mandatory at RADIOLOGIA.

"We have members from England, and a few from the United States," he said. "We prefer that they use Spanish. We think it's better to post a message with mistakes than to use automatic translators," he said.

Another difference is in the membership requirements. Unlike EUFORA, the Spanish list welcomes all professionals in the field of radiology; there's no need to be a doctor to join. Whether you're a radiologist or an executive with Agfa or Mallinckrodt, Recio said, all that's required of members is that they tell the truth about their professions, and that they avoid posting commercial content.

Despite this last requirement, if a contribution or discussion topic requires naming a particular brand or piece of commercial equipment, there's no need to worry, Recio said. RedIRIS is supported with public funds. It also depends on the volunteer labor of many professionals, including the administrators, who are not compensated, he said. That's why the organization works hard to ensure that the lists don't become tools for commercial interests.

"Mail lists are very different from newsgroups," he said, "and should be used as professional forums rather than as commercial bulletins."

The RedIRIS team in Madrid represents an enormous asset for developing and controlling the lists, he said, in that it provides free administrative support that functions beautifully. The system architecture, for example, allows for easy modification of any part of the subscription process. So far this structure has even allowed the group to avoid serious problems with the viruses that have plagued other lists, he said.

"If there were some problem with a subscription, or someone who wanted to, say, bother the other members or send them junk mail, we could stop this person definitively from the RedIRIS offices," he said. "RADIOLOGIA gets the benefit of the team's seven or eight years of experience in list administration."

A world of topics

The list is in a growth phase now, with some 262 members at the end of April -- a hundred more than a year ago. Discussions cover the gamut of radiologic topics, especially technical questions, Recio said. So far the list has addressed questions about CT and MRI, for example, and problems with DICOM standards and image digitalization, as well as areas such as the evolution of sonography as a specialization. There are also announcements for meetings, both real and virtual, like the series of chat sessions on PET held on the Web site of the Spanish Society of Nuclear Medicine (

"We've answered a lot of questions from students and residents about literature searches and Internet resources," he said, "and given a lot of support to countries such as Venezuela, Peru and Cuba," responding to requests for documentation or scientific studies. The list recently established an agreement with the Peruvian academic network for the exchange of information, he said.

Still, a RADIOLOGIA subscriber will notice before too long that the list could definitely benefit from more discussion, more debate, and more participation overall. While it's understood that the list is only about 80% of the size of EUFORA in terms of members, sometimes the number of messages seems even smaller.

"This list has the same problem as all the other subscriber lists," Recio said, "in that people are accustomed to the Internet as a place to go see things, and go get things. What they're not accustomed to is participating in discussions."

Looking ahead

Still, with time and a few more members, Recio is confident that participation will continue to grow. The list will take another step forward in its development this spring with a membership meeting scheduled during the Spanish Radiology Society's (SERAM) national congress in May. Members will discuss the idea of naming list managers, or co-owners, for areas such as CT or PET, as EUFORA has done.

Their main job will be to "convey the latest information to the list about their particular areas," he said, "and summarize what's been discussed, because at the end of a discussion, topics can wind up a little deconstructed."

As experts in their respective fields, the managers will help organize and moderate the discussion, yet without wielding authority over any other members. He said the list is designed to be a level playing field where "nobody is better than anybody else."

At the tender age of two, RADIOLOGIA has already become an important forum, Recio said.

"The biggest advantage is knowing what other professionals are doing in Spain and Latin America -- taking the pulse of radiology," he said. "Radiology is at a crucial moment of major growth, with many accomplished professionals, and many young professionals who really want to work. But they're all spread out in their own hospitals and their own cities. The list allows them to benefit from the Internet's enormous advantage of instant communication," Recio said, "for consultation, for help, and as a forum for debate. I think the future results will be very good."

Article and translation by Eric Barnes staff writer
May 5, 2000

Other Spanish-language Internet resouces:

APURF -- AsociaciĂłn de Profesores Universitarios de RadiologĂ­a y Medicina FĂ­sica

Centre Hospitalari y Cardiologic de Manresa (enlaces a páginas de radiología en el Internet)

Diagnostic Imaging América Latina

RadiodiagnĂłstico -- DiagnĂłstico por la Imagen

Servicio de RadiologĂ­a del Hospital Rio CarriĂłn de Palencia

Servicio de RadiologĂ­a del Hospital 12 de Octubre de Madrid

Univers itas Malcitana, Departamento de RadiologĂ­a y Medicina FĂ­sica

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