Wednesday exploration: TED Talks

DSCN2331Welcome to another Wednesday Exploration. This week we journey into the global world of TED, a world I know we will visit on a number of occasions over the coming year due to the sheer breadth of inspiration to be found there.

To start off, a brief introduction to TED which is probably best know as the home of TED Talks, does that ring a bell? TED describes itself as ‘a clearing house of free knowledge from the worlds most inspired thinkers’ and whether you’re a health researcher or working in clinical practice there are TED Talks for you. Some will support your personal development, some will give you inspiration and others will expand your horizons.  I can say honestly that I have laughed, cried and been astounded whilst watching Ted talks

If you would like to find out about the different aspects of TED’s work like the TEDx conferences run throughout the UK you can do this via the website. But for today I am going to focus on the talks of which there are now over 2,000. All are freely available online and last no longer than 18 minutes and therefore great to tune in to when you need a bit of down time or a cup of coffee. You can create a log in and bookmark those that you find helpful so that you can keep revisiting or sharing them.

To help you navigate through the library you can search either via curated Playlists, of which there are over 100, or by topic. The playlists are structured under the following headings

  • A better you
  • TED at a glance
  • Technology
  • Entertainment
  • Art and design
  • Science and medicine
  • Culture
  • Global issues
  • Business and work

To whet your appetite one of the playlists found in ‘A better you’ is Where do ideas come from? the 8 talks in the playlist include: where do good ideas come from; your elusive creative genius; how to start a movement; how to get your ideas to spread; where does creativity hide; when ideas have sex; embrace the remix; 4 lessons in creativity.

Other playlists include All kinds of minds. which comprises 9 talks focused on ‘powerful stories shattering preconceived notions about mental illness and posing provocative questions’ and How to be a great leader  which ‘offers surprising, nuanced approaches on how to inspire and empower others to do their very best’.

For anyone who needs to speak in public the 8 talks within the Before Public Speaking playlist are well worth watching. One of my favourites within this list is Julian Treasure’s talk on How to speak so that people want to listen.

You can follow TED on all of the usual social media channels and sign up for an email alert when a new talk is released.

Here’s a suggestion, if you want to experience the world of TED you might start by exploring the 20 most popular talks of all time which will give you a really good idea of the range and diversity of the talks.

Tempting as it may be I’m not going to link to any more as part of the fun is in exploring for yourself. If you already use TED talks or decide to have an explore I would love to know which ones you enjoy.



Wednesday exploration: Future Learn

DSCN2331Welcome to the 3rd Wednesday Exploration, a series of weekly posts highlighting resources which may be of interest to healthcare professionals with an interest in or engaged in research.

Whilst we tend to think about courses in terms of modules and programmes delivered within Universities there is a rapidly increase range of high quality learning opportunities provided outside academia. I value greatly the opportunities offered by Future Learn and its mission to, ‘pioneer the best social learning experience for everyone, anywhere’ and for many reasons would encourage you to venture into the wonderful world that is Future Learn .

At a time when accessing funding for personal development within the NHS is becoming extremely challenging and time out from direct clinical harder to obtain Future Learn has the potential to open avenues of possibility. All of the courses it offers are free and online so can be taken at a time and place that fits around your practice.

However whilst cost and time are important of greater importance is the quality of the learning experience. Future Learn is owned by the Open University (OU) therefore you are accessing high quality courses which are informed by the OU’s wealth of experience of delivering online learning. The courses are developed in partnership with internationally renowned universities and cultural institutions enabling you to learn from international experts in their field.

Signing up for a course is straightforward and once the course starts it is easy to follow. I am not going to go into the detail here as it is all on the website. It is worth noting that  courses are certified by the CPD certification service. Whilst participating in the course is free the certification gives you the option of buying a statement of participation as evidence of your CPD for your portfolio.

There are currently 13 categories to explore including Health and Psychology, Business and Management, Online and Digital, and Teaching and Studying. To illustrate the range of opportunities available here is a sample of courses which may be of interest to health researchers:

and here are a few which may support your clinical practice:

The overview of each course tells you who it is aimed at, some are aimed specifically at healthcare professionals whilst others are aimed at a wider audience. For example the Dementia: understanding and managing challenging behavior course is aimed at carers, Nutrition and wellbeing is aimed at anyone interested in the topic as is Mindfulness for wellbeing and peak performance and the Making Sense of Health Evidence is identified as being of value to lay members of research committees or advisory panels.

Therefore even if you aren’t looking for a course for yourself it is worth exploring Future Learn as there may be courses of relevance to your clients. Similarly if you are a team leader and frustrated by needing to turn down requests for attending courses this may be a way of alerting your team to CPD opportunities to access either on an individual or group basis.

As with previous posts if you access a resource on a regular basis which you feel would be useful to healthcare professionals with an interest in or engaged in research please share it.

Stepping out with courage

 IMG_1444It was wonderful on Sunday morning to wake up to the possibility of snow, the different light in the bedroom an indication that something was different and sure enough pulling back the curtains there it was. Happy days.

Over the summer we welcomed four young hens to our home and this was their first experience of snow. The normal reaction on opening the pop hole is a flurry of activity and feathers as they burst forth to greet the day. Sunday morning was different, yes the usual jostling to be first out but then the hen at the front put on the brakes, the hen behind her clambered over her head and then both of them launched themselves into this new world. The other two however were somewhat more reticent standing and looking, turning round and retreating, coming to the door for another look, a bit of clucking and eventually tentative steps were taken into the unknown.

For a number of reasons I have been thinking recently about courage and  I came across a quotation from Mary Anne Radmacher which begins, ‘courage doesn’t always roar, sometimes it is the quiet voice……..’ it was the juxtaposition of ‘roar’ and ‘quiet voice’ which hooked me and came to mind as I watched the hens, especially the two taking more tentative steps but still, in the end, going for it.

What comes into your mind when you think about courage, do you think of it in terms of the ‘roar’, people doing great acts of bravery or facing/overcoming extremely challenging situations? How would you answer if I asked you to tell me about the courageous things you have done? If that a difficult question to answer is courage a characteristic you ascribe to other people rather than yourself? Maybe our own courage is difficult to connect with as we tend to think of it in terms of the ‘roar’ and yet courage is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as ‘the ability to do something that frightens one’. Thinking about it in this way puts a different slant on it doesn’t it? If I was to ask you to tell me about the times you have done something which frightens you I suspect the answer would be different.

Why am I thinking about this at the moment? Making the decision to embark upon a PhD, to give your first presentation at a conference or walk through the door into your viva all require courage. Maybe not of the roaring kind but be assured that they are courageous acts. When we are frightened the volume of our self-doubt and inner critic can get turned up to full blast filling us with self-doubt, warning us to back away, drawing our attention to all things that would be challenging and frightening about what we want to do or who we want to become. Our attention is drawn away from the times we have acted courageously, when we have overcome our fear, the very things we can draw on to give us confidence.

Get to know your acts of courage, really get to know them, visualise them and relive them to embed them, what were you doing, where were you, who was with you etc. Next time you are thinking about doing something which feels frightening tap into those feeling and tell your inner critic, “yes I hear you and thank you for the warning, I know it is frightening but I also know that I have the courage to try this’.

Wednesday exploration: 3 blogs you might enjoy exploring


This week we are exploring three blogs I follow on a regular basis which may be of interest. Firstly an admission, it was only about a year ago that I discovered the wealth of information, inspiration and expertise that can be found in blogs. I know that the number of blogs produced can feel overwhelming but that is the fun of exploration – you can dip in, see what you find and decide whether or not to return.

 The analogy that comes to mind, for those of you who remember, is the pick and mix section of the now extinct Woolworth stores. I was brought up in rural Oxfordshire and so this treat was possible only when we made excursions into Banbury or Oxford. Memories of standing in front of the array of containers making your pick and, over time, getting to know your all time favourites. The decision about whether to go for your absolute favourite first or save it until last and every now and then the excitement of something new appearing to tempt you.

My approach to exploring blogs has been similar, to spend time just exploring, bookmarking or following the ones I enjoy but dipping into new ones as well. One of the things I love about Twitter is the way in which people tweet links to blogs they have found useful. This has been a great way of expanding my blog horizon. The blogs I have picked this week are quite different in their focus just because that’s fun.

 London School of Economics Impact Blog

The impact blog describes itself as, ‘a hub for researchers, administrative staff, librarians, students, think-tanks, government, and anyone else interested in maximizing the impact of academic work in the social sciences and other disciplines.’

 Whilst its primary focus is on the social sciences many of the posts and resources are of relevance to health researchers from other backgrounds. Alongside the posts other resources which may be of interest are the Essential How to Guides on topics such as

  • How to write a killer conference abstract: the first step towards an engaging presentation
  • Using Twitter as a data source: an overview of current social media research tools
  • How to write a peer review to improve scholarship: do unto others as you would wish them do unto you.

 You can also download from the site resources such as A short guide to using twitter in university research, teaching and impact activities and, The Handbook. Measuring the Impact of your research: a handbook for social scientists.

 The Thesis Whisperer

This blog is focused on helping research students undertaking a thesis, written by people with experience of doing a PhD or work with research students and edited by Dr Inger Mewburn. Recent posts include:

  • A journal article by any other name – exploring the importance of thinking about the title of a paper or chapter.
  • Dr Daddy and the Double Act – the challenges of combining research and fatherhood.

Posts are  organised by topic which is really helpful and topics include: you and your supervisor; on writing; presenting; your career; getting things done.

 Alongside the posts are links to a wide range of resources for students and supervisors which are well worth exploring as is the overview of how to set up a Shut up and Write group.

 Brain Pickings

This blog couldn’t be more different from the two above and I’m really grateful to Kandy Woodfield (@jess1ecat) for sharing this blog via twitter otherwise I’m not sure I would have found it. It is written by Maria Popova who describes herself as, a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large.

The ethos behind the blog resonates strongly with the focus on cross-disciplinary working and thinking to informs current agendas in health research and innovation.

‘in order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.’   Maria Popova

This is what I love about this blog – it takes my thinking out of the world of health research and stretches it to connect with views and perspectives from different disciplines including art, design, philosophy science and psychology.

To give you an insight into posts the current post provides a synopsis of “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi, a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The post is interspersed with links to previous posts of relevance and ends with links to posts which complement the topic. In this instance a synopsis of Anne Lamott’s book Small Victories. Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace; Gratitude, written by Oliver Sack and published posthumously; seven books written for children to help them make sense of death and bereavement.

Alongside the posts you can subscribe also to a weekly digest which arrives on a Sunday morning in time for a relaxing read.

 An incredibly subjective selection I know but if you follow a blog or write one which you feel would be of interest to health researchers why not share it. I would love to know.

 As for the Woolworths pick and mix, if they were bookmarkable I would bookmark the chocolate orange cream and the purple wrappered hazelnut and caramel.

Wednesday Explorations: The Cochrane Journal Club 

It feels appropriate at the start of a new year to introduce a new series of posts, Wednesday Explorations. Towards the end of last year I introduced the EPIC framework for emergent health researchers And have since been exploring the different components within the framework. The first component was Explore highlighting the importance of increasing our knowledge and understanding of the research community in all of its different facets, opportunities and resources outside of formal academic study for personal development and ways of developing and extending personal networks.

Having talked about the importance of exploring I thought it might be fun to go on a journey of exploration over the coming year so each Wednesday I will post a short blog about something I have discovered during my explorations which might be of interest to others.

Journies are much more fun when taken together so why not join in. If you have discovered or developed a resource that you feel will be of interest to others why not share it? The only criteria is that it should be of interest/relevance to healthcare professionals interested in promoting, conducting or using research and accessible to everyone. It could be, for example, an organisation or network you are a member of, a blog that you follow or a learning resource you have used. I would love to follow in the footsteps of your explorations as a way of extending my travels. What better way to start the New Year than on a journey of discovery?

So here goes………

1. The Cochrane Journal Club. 

If you run or are thinking about setting up a journal club this is a resource that you simply must explore. My memories of the first journal clubs I attended as a clinician were of being part of a group of people who were enthusiastic about research but had limited research experience. We were good at selecting relevant papers and engaging with the introduction and rationale for the study,  but then things got a bit wobbly.

Understanding the study design and methods was manageable but critiquing was a bit more troublesome due to our limited knowledge of other possibilities. Understanding and critiquing the approach to data analysis, especially if it was statistical,  was where the wheels began to fall off along with understanding some of the more complex statistical results. Everyone breathed more easily when we got to the discussion. It would be brilliant if every clinical journal club had access to someone with research experience to lead the discussion but this is not always possible and many healthcare professionals need to rely on the knowledge within the team.

This is where the Cochrane journal club, which is part of the Cochrane library, may help you to run a better quality journal club and also support the implementation of evidence informed practice in your team.

There are currently 58 Cochrane reviews available in the journal club series which have been selected from the Cochrane library to highlight, ‘practice changing findings, controversial conclusions, new methodologies, evidence based methods and reviews from diverse health and social care topics.‘ Examples include

  • Music interventions for mechanically ventilated patients
  • Community wide interventions for increasing physical activity
  • Exercise programmes for people with dementia
  • Interventions for preventing falls in older people living in the community
  • Interventions for preventing obesity in children
  • Exercise interventions on health related quality of life for cancer survivors
  • Cognitive reframing for carers of people with dementia.

As you can see the topics are quite diverse. For each topic a range of multi-media support material has been developed including:

  • A PDF of the review which is free to download
  • PowerPoint slides of the key tables
  • Podcast by the lead author to explain key points of the review
  • A list of discussion questions
  • A clinical vignette which outlines a scenario and then asks you, based on the findings of the review, how you would respond
  • Multiple choice questions
  • Links to other related resources

You can access individual topics and also sign up as a member of the journal club which means that you will receive an alert every time a new topics is made available.

So if you are unfamiliar with the Cochrane Journal club next time you have a few minutes grab a coffee/tea and go on an adventure. You may find buried treasure.

PS. Sorry if formatting is a bit awry this week no broadband connection at the moment so publishing via my iPad which is a bit different.