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.

Little r you shall go to the ball.

DSCN1166As we move into the festive season a light hearted post to end the year with informed by the many occasions I have sat in meetings and listened to discussions about how to engage more healthcare professionals with research. There is usually a point in the discussion when someone raises the need to find a different word for research…

As the curtains rise we find ourselves in the drawing of the HadEnoughs as it’s approaching time to leave for the NHS Christmas ball, the biggest event of the year by far. Everyone is starting to assemble looking resplendent in their brightly coloured glittering ball gowns and fine jewellery. What a night this is going to be.

The last to come donwstairs is the youngest of the sisters, little r, and as she walks through the door there are gasps of horror from the rest of the family. ‘What do you think you’re doing? You know we can’t take you to the ball looking like that, where is your disguise? You know if you go as yourself, everyone gets nervous around you. No one will want to know us or dance with us’ cried her sisters. ‘Mother make her go and change immediately’. Mrs H turned to little r and with a tender smile said, “I’m sorry little r but you know they are right. Go and put on your cape of evaluation and your shoes of improvement and be quick about it we can’t be late.’ Little r started to reply but knowing when she was beaten turned around and went back upstairs to change. No one noticed that as she went that she shrunk another millimetre.

As they approached the ballroom the mellow light of candles shone from the windows, and a magnificent tree, adorned with candles, graced the entrance hall. As the orchestra struck up the sisters ran up the steps not wanting to miss a moment. Little r followed at a distance tripping over her ill-fitting cloak as she climbed the steps, her feet crammed into uncomfortable shoes. She longed for the day she could throw off her disguise and dance like everyone else but instead with a sigh made her way upstairs to the drawing room where she knew she wouldn’t be disturbed.

In the peace and quiet of the room with the crackle of the fire for company little r kicked off her shoes, threw down the cloak and closed her eyes. The next thing she knew she felt a gentle caress on her cheek and sat up with a start to find Prince Recherche kneeling by her side. ‘Why are you here all alone when there is so much fun downstairs he asked?’

‘The only way I’m allowed to step foot downstairs is in disguise’ replied little r, ‘because if I come as myself I make people anxious and would spoil the ball. I have to wear the cloak of evaluation and the shoes of improvement but the trouble is neither feels right, they drag me down and force me to be someone I am not. They don’t fit me and I hate the way they make me feel. Every time I’m asked to put on this disguise something inside of me is lost and I shrink by another millimetre, that’s why I’m called little r. Soon I am going to be so small I will disappear. I feel so alone.’

Looking deep into her eyes Prince Recherche shook his head, ‘where have you been all year, what do you mean alone! While that great old cloak has been covering you up a revolution has been taking place, let me show you’. From a massive pocket in his jacket he pulled out a snow globe and shook it up. Little r was astounded to see not snowflakes falling but millions of little messages fluttering down, all starting the same #whywedoresearch. ‘Lift it to your ear and if you listen carefully you will hear thousands and thousands of tweets from people all over the country who love you’ he said.

‘You mean I no longer have to pretend to be something I’m not? I can really, really just be myself?’ laughed R as she jumped up and stamped on the cloak of evaluation, grabbed the shoes of improvement and hurled them out of the window. ‘I’m meeeeeee’ she laughed as she danced around the room. Prince Recherche clicked his fingers and as if by magic a lady-in-waiting appeared. ‘Yes you are indeed you but you can’t go downstairs looking like that. Ella will help you change into something more fitting.’

A few minutes later the doors opened. The drab cloak had been replaced by a wonderful black dress, understated, elegant and timeless. The ill fitting clod hoppers had been replaced by a wonderful pair of Louis Vuitton shoes, their black classic elegance offset by their sassy, kickass red soles and R’s hair had been swept up accentuating her new found height.

‘There is just one thing missing’ said Prince Recherche and from his pocket took out the most dazzling, glittering, diamond necklace, “to show off your true beauty and your many different facets’ he said as he threw open the doors of the drawing room with such relish that they crashed against the wall. Everyone assembled below turned their eyes upwards. There were gasps all around as Prince Recherche walked down the stairs with the most breathtaking tall, beautiful, elegant woman they had ever seen.

The orchestra struck up a waltz and the couple swept onto the floor and as they whirled around Prince Recherche whispered into R’s ear, ‘never let anyone disguise you again, you shine so brightly, you cannot be dimmed and no matter what anyone says never ever let anyone call you something you are not.

Wishing you all a very happy festive season.



Promote: moving forward into action

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 13.03.40This is the final post on Promotion within the EPIC model for emergent health researchers.

The first post on this component of the model explored why promoting research to service users is an important activity for any healthcare professional to engage in and the previous post provided some insights into how promoting research can contribute to the development of research skills and expertise. In this post attention turns to some of the specific activities you can engage in to promote research.

Increasing your understanding and awareness of what is happening within your organisation: A starting point for every emergent researcher should be to ensure that you are informed about the kinds of research being undertaken by your colleagues, including the medical teams you work with.

Find out what studies they may be involved in and how people find out about them currently, ask if they are looking to recruit participants and if this is something you can help with? Similarly contact your R&D department and increase your knowledge about the wider research activity within your organisation. If you are in a research active clinical environment there may well be research nurses working into your unit who will also be able to tell you about the studies they are involved in.

Don’t worry that your knowledge about research is limited, the participant information sheets have to be written in plain English to enable potential participants to understand clearly what would be required if they were to take part in the study. Therefore you will be able to understand them as well.

Don’t worry either about needing to explain the detail of studies to potential participants, this is not what you are being asked to do. The participant information sheets give contact details for anyone wanting to find out more information.

Explore national campaigns: Alongside research being undertaken within your organisation there are also examples of national campaigns such as Join Dementia Research developed by National Institute for Health Research in partnership with Alzheimer ScotlandAlzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer’s Society. This campaign enables people with dementia, their carers and anyone over the age of 18 without dementia to register their interest in participating in dementia research and to be matched to suitable studies. It is in effect a national database for matching people interested in participating in dementia research with researchers seeking participants. So far over 13,000 people have registered their interest but the campaign is wanting to involve as many people as possible.

Increase your understanding of the perspectives, motivation and experiences of people who have taken part in research. Health Talk has a series focused on taking part in medical research and provides different perspectives of what its like to be involved in research.

Another excellent resource to explore is the NIHR Clinical Research Networks’ series Research Changed My Life which currently contains  18 short films and video diaries from people whose lives have been transformed by clinical research.

Alongside this learn about the Patient Research Ambassador Initiative  from NIHR. Patient research ambassadors may, if they have experience of a specific condition, work with a particular clinical department or, if not, work in a more general way within on organisation to gain an overview of how it makes its research available to potential participants. If you are working in the NHS in England find out if your Trust has a Patient Research Ambassador. 

Increase the visibility of opportunities to take part in research within your working environment. If a secret shopper were to visit your department would they know, by looking around, that opportunities for research might exist. Where does such information show up on your notice boards or displays. What kind of information is available to them and in what formats? Is this something you could work on with colleagues?

Mark International Clinical Trials day in your calendar. International Clinical Trials Day is on or near the 20 May each year, the exact date for 2016 isn’t yet available, but around that time why not find out what your Trust R&D department are doing to celebrate the day. The day seeks to raise awareness of the importance of research to health care highlighting how partnerships between patients and healthcare practitioners are vital to high-quality, relevant research. 

Better still why not plan an event yourself. It doesn’t have to be a massive event, it could be a set time that you have information available to colleagues and patients focused around the It’s OK to Ask Campaign or you might suggest a lunchtime speaker in the department.

These are just some ideas of the kinds of activities you can undertake to develop your expertise in promoting research but the most important thing of all is to realise the potential you have to make a difference to people’s lives and improved health outcomes if you see an essential aspect of your role as being to ensure that you inform as many people as possible about opportunities open to them to take part in research.