Blogging taking a back seat for now

I’m in the process of writing up the final parts of my PhD and am hoping to submit a first full draft in August, in preparation for a final submission in November. I’m doing it by publication and so am focusing my attention on the last 2 articles I need to complete. I’ve published two, submitted one, have one almost ready for submission and a final paper that I haven’t begun yet. Together with the bridging pieces that connect the articles, I still have a lot of work to do, which is why I haven’t been blogging with any regularity lately. I’ll definitely pick up on this when my work has been submitted.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-08

  • Designing for Social Norms (or How Not to Create Angry Mobs) #
  • @alisa_williams Do u think it’s because no1 has shown them the value of collaboration? The system expects and rewards individual performance #
  • Anatomy of an incident: Helicopter crash at UCT Interesting analysis of how the info spread #
  • Tell me again what you did? Useful framework for writing and brief insight into a no online learning community #
  • It’s easy criticise….and fun too (apparently) Writing papers is hard enough without nasty reviewer comments #
  • British man survives artificial heart transplant #
  • elearnspace › 5 ways tech startups can disrupt education #
  • @RonaldArendse Been thinking about how much disruption can really happen in the institutional context. Can we disrupt at all? #
  • If you could throw everything out and start again, what would your classroom look like? Would you have a classroom? #
  • Visions of Students Today Another video by Michael Wesch #
  • Create a Research Space | Learning Journey Great tips on using a framework for writing #

Mendeley and Dropbox



A little while ago I finally hit the 500 MB free storage limit of Mendeley, which isn’t surprising considering how I go about collecting research papers. Whenever I come across an article that looks like it might be mildly interesting / vaguely related to my work I copy it into a folder that Mendeley watches and that’s it. I have hundreds of papers that I’ve never looked at (and possibly never will). When I’m working on a project or article, I simply type the relevant keywords into Mendeley and it shows me all the papers I that might be useful to me. I know that this probably isn’t the best way to go about it (e.g. what about the serendipitous papers that I’d never find because I’m not actually looking for them i.e. relevance that I don’t know about?).

Anyway, when I hit the limit I thought I was finally going to have to do some tidying of my folder, until I realised that I could use Dropbox to store the PDFs and just tell Mendeley to watch that folder in Dropbox instead. Dropbox does a better job of keeping my articles synced across all of my devices (I don’t think Mendeley was designed to keep papers synced across multiple computers) and I can use Dropbox on my Android phone (Mendeley is still only available on the iPhone).

Great Prezi on writing for publication

I’ve been doing a lot of writing this year, trying to catch for lost time at the end of last year, with the result that I’ve been thinking about writing a lot. At times, it had become more like getting through a list of tasks than the expression of meaningful ideas, which is why I really enjoyed this presentation by @thesiswhisperer. This was a useful reminder that there are many different approaches to writing for publication, and it gave me a few ideas on how I could step out of my usual routine.


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-30

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-06-29

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Disseminating research results

I attended a short seminar a few months ago that reviewed the academic publication process. At the time I thought it was reasonably informative and useful. Now, after having spent a bit more time thinking about the nature of formal, academic publication, I wonder if there isn’t a better, more efficient way to distribute new knowledge? The seminar seemed to revolve around an aging notion of what it means to be a credible researcher / author, with the main contention being that you must publish in accredited journals and that no other form of knowledge dissemination is as credible.

Over the past few months however, my own ideas of what constitutes a reasonable contribution to the body of knowledge have shifted from that older model to one in which a more informal method plays a central role. Is it really necessary to publish in “acceptable” journals to be taken seriously, or can one use other forms of publication, for example blogs? I’m not sure yet. Can you generate new (or modified) ideas and put them out there to be judged by your peers? Will the good content / ideas rise and evolve (through user input), while bad ones get relegated to the pile of fossils that didn’t quite make it? I think they will and yet, in order for me to be taken seriously as an academic (at least for now), I’m encouraged to avoid alternative forms of distributing academic content.

Anyway, those were a few thoughts that went through my head while I re-read my notes. We began by looking at the differences between a conference presentation and journal publication:

Conference presentation:

  • “Soft” review – one person reads your abstract to decide if you can present
  • No referee feedback – the abstract is either accepted or it’s not, there’s no suggestions to improve
  • No quality control – who decides if the study was well conducted?
  • Therefore presentations have little value for an academic
  • Note: only invited keynote speakers have real academic relevance, as they’re recognised as leaders in the field

Journal article:

  • Strict refereeing (one or several) means that the survey must contribute to the body of knowledge, can be extended / strengthened through feedback and is seen to be based on evidence through appropriate references
  • Only accepted after attention has been paid to reviewers comments
  • There is strict quality control

It was advised that only works in progress be presented at conferences, and that if the study is complete, results should rather be written up as an article.

In terms of selecting a journal, consider which publications cover your area, and give preference to international journals or those approved by the university. Review the authors guidelines for publication in that journal and follow them strictly.

As far as choosing authors, they must be involved in the academic content of the article. In other words, research assistants, data capturers, field workers, etc. should not be given authorship. Authors should be listed in terms of the greatest contribution.

In terms of addressing reviewers comments:

  • Remember that comments are not personal and that they’re there to strengthen your paper
  • Re-read the comments when you remember that they’re not personal (they won’t seem nearly as bad)
  • Address every point the reviewer made, bearing in mind that once addressed, you’re done with them. They can’t add new comments when it’s sent back.

And finally, ownership of the copyright must be transferred to the journal. From then on, you may only use your own paper for personal use.

Some links on blogging in academia:

Continuing professional development (CPD)

It’s our responsibility as healthcare professionals to keep up to date with our professional development in terms of maintaining clinical skills, improving knowledge and many other aspects of our practice.  Unfortunately, due to host of problems, it’s often difficult to stay current and to accumulate the required number of points.

One option is to sign up with eCPD, an online, accredited provider of CPD points.  Registration allows you to login and find a topic you’d like to know more about, download the open access journal article and answer a few questions based on that article.  You get one free credit when you register, but additional credits have to be bought.  With my free credit I chose Research ethics in rehabilitation, which will provide me with 1 (Level 2) Continuing Education Unit.

I wouldn’t recommend that this be your only source of CPD points, however it is a handy solution for those of us who sometimes struggle to make it to journal clubs or conferences.

Link to the site:

Knol: a unit of knowledge

Knol, described as “a unit of knowledge” by the project’s creators, is a new initiative by Google that allows anyone to write an article, called a “knol”, about any topic. It’s a bit like Wikipedia in that respect but is limited to discrete articles with no links between them. Authors can also decide how much freedom to give users in terms of editing, either allowing anyone in the public, only knol collaborators, or no-one at all to edit their knols.

The bulk of the knols written so far seem to be focussed on health and medicine and have been written by specialists in that particular field. After a brief review of some knols, I felt that they seem to be of a higher general standard than those of similar topics in Wikipedia. One of the advantages of knols is that there’s a structure and flow to the article that may come from having been written by one author and that unfortunately is lacking in some Wikipedia articles that often suffer from having been tacked together by many editors.

Of course, a potential disadvantage of having only one author may be a lack of either depth or breadth to the article, as well as raising questions regarding the credibility of the author. Having said that, many knols have complete reference lists and in-text citations that seem to offer reassurance in terms of the accuracy of the knol content.

I’d suggest including Knol as a useful point of reference when beginning to research a topic. It’ll not only give you a good overview of that particular subject, but will also point you in the direction of other sources.

Links: and Wikipedia article on Knol

Clinical guidelines: should we be using them?

I attended a lecture a few days ago by Karen Grimmer-Somers, a professor at the University of South Australia and Director of the Centre for Allied Health Evidence (CAHE). An adjunct professor at the University of Stellenbosch, she visits Cape Town every year or so and this year we were fortunate enough to have her visit our physiotherapy department. She gave a great talk about the emerging use of clinical guidelines in healthcare, as well as the standards around their development and discussed why we should be looking to these guidelines in our practice.

Traditionally, clinical guidelines have been viewed with suspicion by anyone interested in working from the evidence base, as “guidelines” were often little more than one individual’s personal opinion. Over the past 5 years however, the approach to producing clinical guidelines has radically changed, with vast amounts of time and resources being poured into their development.

Nowadays, a clinical guideline focuses on the current understanding of a particular condition and makes use of a diverse range of academic literature to establish an approach to best practices, based on the outcomes of a large number of the studies available. They also inform the reader what level of evidence has been used to establish “best practice”, from systematic reviews of the literature (Level A) to expert clinical opinion (Level D). This allows the clinician to make up their own mind about how solid is the foundation upon which the guideline is built and how much weight to allocate it.

Here are a few links to some of the organisations responsible for developing guidelines (in no particular order). Since different organisations are tasked with developing different guidelines, you might have to look around until you find what you’re looking for. You should also bear in mind that not only are new guidelines being developed all the time but old ones are typically reviewed every 2-3 years, so you need to make sure you have the latest version.

And an article looking at both sides of the use of clinical guidelines:

With the international movement in healthcare towards evidence-based practice, it seems logical to make use of any tools available that would assist us in this regard.