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  • Oct 28 / 2015
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Academia, Siobhán O’Connor

Making the most of clinical research networks

Photo by Daria Shevtsova ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

 

By Siobhán O’Connor

For those public health researchers with a specific clinical background, tapping into a local and national network of clinical researchers can make a huge difference in terms of how your research progresses and opportunities for a long-term research career. Continue Reading

  • Sep 30 / 2015
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Profcast

The Profcast: Professor Anne MacFarlane

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Today we’re interviewing Anne MacFarlane, Professor of Primary Health Care Research at the Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick.

Why did you become an academic?

When I was younger, several people who were close to me were unwell and spent a lot of time visiting GPs and hospitals. I was so struck by the fact that, often, their interactions with doctors and nurses were adding to their distress: for example, things were not explained properly or their worries were dismissed. I became fixated by this, particularly because I was very fortunate to have an excellent GP who never let my family down in these ways – Dr. Bill Shannon who went on to become the first Professor of General Practice in Ireland at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. So, I kept thinking that these negative healthcare encounters were unnecessary and avoidable. I wanted to know more about why this was happening and to understand more about people, health and healthcare in general. First I opted for a psychology course and took all the health related options going. Then, through my postgraduate research in Health Promotion, I realised I was more satisfied with sociological literature and its accounts of health issues. I also got completely interested in research methods and, particularly issues of rigour in research. I thoroughly enjoyed my teaching experiences and, so, by the end of year 3 I was hooked and determined to get more work as a health services researcher in primary care. Continue Reading

  • Sep 10 / 2015
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Current Affairs, Tiago Zortea

Suicide Prevention: From Illness and Risk Factors, to Thoughts and Actions

Photo by Austin Ban ©. Unsplash. Used with permission.

 

By Tiago Zortea

As a PhD student carrying out research in suicidality, I am recurrently asked why people take their own lives. The thing is, there is not an obvious, quick, or complete answer. Suicide is a complex phenomenon, and it involves biological, psychological and social factors that interact with each other, and these interactions vary across cultures, genders, and ages. The main reason why researchers have been working so hard to understand it and to develop effective interventions is the fact that there is no time to lose when the aim is saving lives; equivalently, someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world [1]. Continue Reading

  • Sep 02 / 2015
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Profcast

The Profcast: Professor Carl May

In our latest Profcast IHAWKES speaks to Professor Carl May, Professor of Healthcare Innovation at Southampton University.

Why did you become an academic?

There are many different ways of plotting this story but the simplest, and perhaps the one that is nearest the truth, is that I found that I just loved the work. I did as a student and I do now as a professor. These are fantastic jobs to have. I can’t think of another career where I would have had the opportunities that I’ve had as a university researcher and teacher. My collaborators are often my friends and some of them are very good and close friends indeed.  Together we do great work. This may seem a bit rose-tinted, but it’s true for me. Continue Reading

  • Aug 26 / 2015
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PhD Experience, Siobhán O’Connor

Big data – how to predict our future health and wellbeing

By Siobhán O’Connor:

As a fledgling researcher, I heard the term ‘Big Data’ several years ago when it appeared on the cover of New Scientist. It was billed as an exciting new field that was evolving at the peripheries of lots of disciplines and one that could potentially revolutionise them all. Having scanned the article briefly I didn’t make much of it at the time and resigned it to the realm of techies, one which would have little impact on me and the way I lived my life. However, as the years ago by and the proliferation of digital data seeps into every facet of life; from monitoring what I eat and the exercise I do via mobile apps, to sharing my personal data on family, friends and life events on social media, I realise I may have missed the central point of the article. The technology to continuously monitor human life (both biological and behavioural) and the environment that surrounds us is here.

Continue Reading

  • Aug 14 / 2015
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Academia, PhD Experience, Ruth Agbakoba

…it’s nice to see you, to see you nice! How to get the best out of a world congress

Photo by Korean Culture and Information Service © 2010. UNESCO WCAE. From Wikimedia Commons.

Photo by Korean Culture and Information Service © 2010. UNESCO WCAE. From Wikimedia Commons.

By Ruth Agbakoba

You may be thinking that this week’s blog post is a tribute to Sir Bruce Forsyth or a reminder of the classic TV show ‘play your cards right’! I know!! L “Come on down” Unfortunately and I’m sorry to disappoint you but it is not entirely. Hopefully I have succeeded in getting your attention though! In my previous post I talked about my ‘five top tips for writing a conference paper’. Now your paper has been accepted (congratulations!) and you are due to attend this amazing conference! What do you do next? Well the purpose of this post is to really highlight and capture how best to participate and gain the most value from a research conference in particular a World Congress. Continue Reading

  • Jul 29 / 2015
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Olivia Kirtley, PhD Experience

Lions and tigers and theses! Oh my!

By Olivia Kirtley:

Blog posts and advice columns about writing your thesis abound and the vast majority speak about it with great reverence; it isn’t just a thesis, it’s “The Thesis”, “The Big Book”, the Goliath to your David, the magnum opus of the last 3 or 4 years of your life. The thesis as a portrait of academic Herculean struggle can strike fear into the hearts of many PhD students. It feels like an unknown, a dark forest with lions and tigers and bears, but perhaps writing your thesis isn’t as scary as it first sounds?

Continue Reading

  • Jul 16 / 2015
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Academia, Tiago Zortea

On sharpening knives, stigma and mental health

By Tiago C. Zortea:

Ten years ago, in the second year of my undergraduate course in Psychology, I came across a short book chapter that caused me to rethink many of the ways in which I understood mental health: The actress, the priest, and the psychoanalyst: The knife sharpeners, written by the Brazilian Professor of Social Psychology Luis Antonio Baptista [1]. Baptista uses the examples of an actress, a priest and a psychoanalyst to explore how ‘public opinion makers’ can indirectly contribute to intolerance and violence against those who they do not consider ‘standard’, ‘holy’ or ‘normal’ respectively. According to the author’s metaphor, they are not directly involved in these people’s death, but they ‘sharpen the knives of the crimes’.

Continue Reading

  • Jul 01 / 2015
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Academia, Siobhán O’Connor

What Twitter can tell you about our health: Some insights from the 17th International Symposium for Health Information Management Research 2015 (#ISHIMR2015)

By Siobhán O’Connor (@shivoconnor):

The 17th International Symposium for Health Information Management Research 2015 (http://www.ishimr2015.com/) was a real eye opener for me as I got an insight into the power of Twitter analytics and how it can be applied in public health research. A poster presentation by Professor Peter Bath (@PeterABath) from the University of Sheffield on one of his doctoral students’ work demonstrated the value of this amazingly powerful digital health tool. Wasim Ahmed (@was3210) the PhD student in question is using Twitter to understand the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa by collating all the hashtags on #Ebola.

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Speaking to Wasim after the presentation I was shocked to hear his dataset was in the region of 26 million!!! No small feat for a PhD student to get to grips with. Not surprisingly his poster described the methodological challenges with gathering and analysing this data and some possible solutions for other researchers to follow in the future. No doubt Twitter will become an important data source for numerous health related topics, in particular global health, as more people get online and share their experiences and ideas on the platform. Researchers are only starting to tap into its potential to monitor health related events as they happen in real-time and the wide ranging impact they have on people across the world.

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Determined to show me some of the nifty analytics that could be done on Twitter, Wasim encouraged me to tweet through the conference at St John’s University in York and showed me his results at the end. It turns out you can very quickly do a lot of clever things on the back of Twitter data such as network analysis and visualisation through a free open-source (love it!!) piece of software called the NodeXL (@nodexl) which creates network overviews and graphs of data through Microsoft Excel. It’s such a quick and easy process that Wasim had the analysis of all the Twitter chat on #ISHIMR2015 done by that very evening the conference finished, after I’d returned to the University of Manchester two hours later. What a turnaround – if only all research analysis was that quick and easy!! PhD students would be laughing!

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As it turns out, thanks to Wasim’s subtle prompting I became the “most influential” Twitter chatterer at the conference thanks to retweets and favourites by other people who were attending and following online. As you can see from the more advanced analysis image the main discussion revolved around one of the plenary speakers, Professor Frances Mair (@FrancesMair), from the University of Glasgow, and her talk on “Bridging the Translational Gap: Key Issues in Health Informatics Implementation” as she raised several thought provoking ideas around treatment burden and how digital tools can both add to and reduce this for patients.

Well it’s certain, Twitter is becoming an important digital tool that will not just help patients in the future but also public health agencies and frontline doctors, nurses and other staff on the ground by providing them with rich data from which they can make critical decisions to solve health issues facing our society.