Technical Article Of The Day

July 11, 2016 by Sam Wang

New in Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a review of the national and state-level impacts of the Affordable Care Act…by Barack Obama, J.D.! I guess everyone can use a boost to the ol’ C.V.

Seriously, though, I believe that makes him the first President to publish in a peer-reviewed journal (with two formal revisions and several rounds of editing). However, it was only a review article. Also, note that Thomas Jefferson was a fairly serious scholar. Update: commenters point out scholarly contributions by James Garfield, Herbert Hoover, Teddy Roosevelt, and Woodrow Wilson.



Richard says:

Well, since Sam was published in Stanford’s law journal, the president thought it was only right for a lawyer to publish in JAMA….

538 Refugee says:

How is it that this runs pretty much contrary to Rob Portman’s re-election commercial here in Ohio? While doing contract work through an agency I was once offered a policy that had a limit of liability lower than what my payments would have been. Seriously. I reread it thinking I had to be missing something. When I see the Portman commercial with a business owner complaining how health care costs have soared since the ACA was enacted I figure she must have been offering her employees a similar policy.
I remember seeing a survey once of people and how they rated their medical coverage. There was an inverse correlation between usage and satisfaction. People that had never really had to use their policies didn’t really know what they had and were satisfied. People that had the misfortune of really needing to use their policies tended to be quite dissatisfied.

Ru says:

apologies for the off-topic question, but – does the congress graph on the bottom right say what I think it says? And how come it’s skyrocketing when the others don’t seem to be moving much?

Sam Wang says:

Yes, it does. I don’t know why, though note that Obama net approval has also been bumping upward, though not as much.

Olav Grinde says:

I, too, have been following that graph with great interest!
One question: Does this take into account the fact that the Democratic Party is not fielding candidates in every Congressional District?
…more specifically, abstaining from fielding a candidate in some districts where they might have actually had a chance…
Sam, I believe you referred to this as political malpractice. I am inclined to agree.
Anyways, how might this political malpractice lead to the Democrats snatching defeat from the jaws of victory – leaving Congress in Republican control, even with a landslide “victory”.

Olav Grinde says:

Sam, one comment, if I may: While President Obama still enjoys a net positive approval rate, Congress has an average net disapproval rate of 62 (sixty-two!) percent.
It is, of course, possible that this might make voters more inclined to vote for Democratic challengers to Republican incumbents.

ajay says:

Trivia: does this make him the first serving president to publish a peer-reviewed article in a scientific journal?

Sam Wang says:

Evidently, though Thomas Jefferson was a serious scientific scholar while out of office.

Neal says:

Are special communications peer-reviewed?

Ed Wittens Cat says:

I beg ur pardon Dr-Wang-Commentariat
it WAS NOT a peer-reviewed article
it is classed as a “special contribution”

anonymous says:

I hear that it is very hard to get Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, or George W. Bush to review anything these days. I am sure those JAMA editors tried though.

Ken O'Brien says:

Somebody is trying to pad his resume for the job search next January.

Ken O'Brien says:

I especially liked clicking on the “Author Affiliations” expansion.

Gabor Kari says:

I believe Teddy wrote a well received naval history book while in office. One that was used in classrooms.

Chillax says:

Yes, Teddy wrote throughout his political career, including 6-7 books while President (though not the naval book, that was much earlier). I say “wrote”, but in reality a lot of his later work was dictated to stenographers.

Maddie says:

Obama and HRC coauthored a piece in 2006 for the New England Journal of Medicine, though it was a commentary more than anything else:

anonymous says:

I don’t know if the article is strictly following academic norms about authorship though. The president credits people in the acknowledgments who seem to have done enough of the analysis in the article to be in the author list in a typical academic context.

Sam Wang says:

As a former Senate staffer, I can attest that this is normal.

Olav Grinde says:

And as a professional copywriter and translator, I can point to many texts and articles that I have written but which bear someone else’s signature. This includes academic articles so heavily edited/rewritten that it might be legitimate to ask who really wrote them.
Apropos Dr. Wang’s comment: perhaps we’ll one day see an anthology of great political speeches – sorted by copywriter.

Amitabh Lath says:

The Republicans now have to figure out how to attack it without increasing his h-index.
Seriously though, a good article with interesting analyses. I worry about comparing states because demographics affect healthcare outcomes too, but it’s a small quibble.
A compelling plot I would like to see is decline of Emergency Room visits for primary care (mainly by the uninsured), and the corresponding reduction in national healthcare spending. That has good quality-of-care consequences also.

anonymous says:

Unless he goes on a huge writing spree after his presidency, I think it is a fairly safe prediction that Barack Obama’s h-index will always be equal to the number of articles/books he writes (no matter what the Republicans do). Now, I will go back to Google Scholar to check whether my paper published last year got its first citation.

Amitabh Lath says:

Several years ago one of the major high energy physics conferences was held at UVA and there was an actor playing Thomas Jefferson at the dinner. I wasn’t there but people could ask him about any topic and he would answer with some quote from Jefferson’s writings.
Of course someone from my tribe asked what Jefferson had to say about quarks. The guy had a quote ready about truth and beauty (alternate names for top and bottom quarks).

Bob says:

Herbert Hoover still has the authoritative translation of Agricola’s “De Re Metallica,” the 1556 treatise on mining and refining metals…

alurin says:

It wasn’t a comparison to Jefferson. Sam was merely pointing out that Jefferson, while he might not have published in peer-reviewed journals, was a noteworthy scholar.
While Obama might fall short of the Jeffersonian ideal in the polymath department, he does seem to have a more wide-ranging intellect than his more recent antecedents.

Amitabh Lath says:

Cat, if you want a true polymath you could get your owner (Ed) to run. He is conversant in history and linguistics, and of course high energy physics. And whatever M theory is (philosophy? metaphysics?).

A New Jersey Farmer says:

Interesting article and another reminder that this president is thoughtful and intelligent. Worthy attributes in a leader.
What’s with those three polls from Florida published today? Two have been in the field for two weeks. All have Trump ahead.

Michael Coppola says:

Lawyers regularly publish in JAMA and NEJM. There’s a lot of public policy stuff in those journals.
Abraham Lincoln holds a US patent. I believe that he is the only POTUS with that distinction.

John Dillon says:

Sam Wang seems to have forgotten Woodrow Wilson, a professor of political science before he became President. Here’s a reprint of an early article in _Political Science Quarterly_, July 1887, written while Wilson was at Bryn Mawr, where he taught from 1885 to 1888:
_Political Science Quarterly_ has been published since 1886 by the Academy of Political Science. It’s peer-reviewed now. Was it not at its inception?

Buzzy says:

U.S. President James Abram Garfield published a proof of the Pythagorean theorem in the New England Journal of Education , volume III, number 14, p.161 (1876). However this was a few years before he became president while he was still a congressman, and perhaps it was not peer reviewed in that day and age — so perhaps it doesn’t count. In any case, see

cvermar says:

I teach my college math students this. Though I someytimes dooubt they know who James Garfield was.

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