Tag: blogging

Academics and social media

Time this evening to give a quick plug to Deborah Lupton’s Survey on academics’ use of social media. I spotted the online questionnaire when it first appeared, and was pleased to take part. Now, some months later, Deborah has published her results. Here’s the abstract from the main report, reproduced in its entirety:

This report outlines findings from an international online survey of 711 academics about their use of social media as part of their work conducted in January 2014. The survey sought to identify the tools that the respondents used, those they found most useful and the benefits and the drawbacks of using social media as a university faculty member or postgraduate student. The results offer insights into the sophisticated and strategic ways in which some academics are using social media and the many benefits they have experienced for their academic work. These benefits included connecting and establishing networks not only with other academics but also people or groups outside universities, promoting openness and sharing of information, publicising and development of research and giving and receiving support. While the majority of the respondents were very positive about using social media, they also expressed a range of concerns. These included issues of privacy and the blurring of boundaries between personal and professional use, the risk of jeopardising their career through injudicious use of social media, lack of credibility, the quality of the content they posted, time pressures, social media use becoming an obligation, becoming a target of attack, too much self-promotion by others, possible plagiarism of their ideas and the commercialisation of content and copyright issues. The report ends by contextualising the findings within the broader social and political environment and outlining areas for future research.

The report makes for an interesting read. For those looking for a condensed-but-longer-than-an-abstract version, follow this link for Prof Lupton’s accompanying piece for The Conversation website.


Multiple Mini Interviews

Over the weekend I was sorry to learn that Inspector Michael Brown’s much-respected, and award winning, MentalHealthCop blog and twitter account have been suspended. I hope he is able to get back to both in the very near future.

Meanwhile, back at base I spent pretty much all of today helping select future students of nursing using multiple mini interviews (MMIs). Not sure about MMIs? Neither was I until recently. Here’s what we’re saying about them in the School of Healthcare Sciences at Cardiff University:

The interviews at Cardiff University School of Health Care Sciences for Nursing involve the use of a Multi Mini Interview procedure which is based on the Objective Structured Clinical Examination format that is commonly used by Health Sciences programmes to evaluate clinical competence.

The interview process is an opportunity to assess interviewees in person and assess information, such as personal qualities, that is not readily forthcoming in traditional application processes. The majority of these interviews will take place the week commencing 17 February 2014. 

The MMIs are made up of a series of short, carefully timed interview stations which provide information about applicants’ ability to think on their feet, critically appraise information, communicate ideas and demonstrate that they have thought about some of the issues that are important to the nursing profession. There are six stations in total. Each mini interview lasts a maximum of 5 minutes.

The School assesses the ability to apply general knowledge to issues relevant to the culture and society in which students will be practising, should they be successful in gaining admission to (and ultimately graduating from) the School. Equally important will be an assessment of the ability to communicate and defend personal opinions.

That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Sticking to time is clearly important, and there’s plenty of moving around for applicants as they shuttle from station to station. As a process I rather liked it. I’ll be back for another slice of the same tomorrow, but will spare a thought for my esteemed Mental Health Nurse Academics UK colleagues who will be meeting at Lincoln University.

Using digital tools to promote research and scholarship

This week I received an invitation from a colleague at Cardiff Metropolitan University to spend an hour or so sharing my experiences of integrating my use of the ORCA institutional repository with this blog and my Twitter account in the service of promoting research and scholarship. This has given me the impetus to create this set of slides, embedded here:

One year retrospective

The appearance of a new icon in my WordPress dashboard reminds me that this site has now been registered for a year. My first post was uploaded on 24 November 2012. The title of this piece, revealing a shocking lack of inspiration on my part, was Some opening thoughts (1). In this I wrote about policy and service challenges in health and social care.

In my first full 12 months of blogging I published 127 posts. I categorised each with one or more of the words appearing beneath the site’s title, and now reproduce here. The size of each word reflects the number of times the category has been used. ‘Research’ is my most-applied category, closely followed by ‘Mental health’. So no surprises there.

Looking at my viewer statistics I see that the Enduring posts page has been popular. This is pleasing, as I deliberately set this up as a way of keeping together my more substantial, often research-related, pieces. Individual posts attracting most views have included those relating to this year’s NPNR conference, nursing and the approved mental health professional (AMHP) role, and the research excellence framework.

The WordPress software I am using also allows me to track clicks, which are the links to other sites I have embedded in posts and pages that readers choose to follow. I see that, over the year, the onwards site which has been visited the most is the Cardiff University digital repository (ORCA). Again, this is pleasing, as this tells me that some people have been sufficiently interested to visit the place from where green open access versions of papers I have provided links to can be obtained. Most popular amongst downloaded articles has been Michael Coffey‘s and my paper on the mental health system’s wicked problems, which was also the first document I made available in this way. Next up are Michael’s and my paper on AMHPs and Davina Allen‘s and my paper on complex caring trajectories in community mental health.

Thoughts on the occasion of having written 100 posts

My first post was written and uploaded to this site on November 24th last year. I wrote about my interest in exploring the mental health system’s ‘wicked problems’, and drew attention to an article Michael Coffey and I had recently published in this area. In this, my 100th post, I want to think a little about what I have learned using a blog as a medium of communication.

As a mental health nurse academic my job involves researching and writing. I have wanted this site to be a vehicle for bringing some of this work to a wider audience. The main way I have gone about doing this has been to write posts to surround published articles, and where copyright makes this possible to add links to full-text green open access versions of papers stored on Cardiff University’s ORCA digital repository. The link above to Michael’s and my paper on wicked problems is an example. I’d like to think that this strategy has had some effect. As I wrote in this post last month, copies of papers I have deposited and then blogged about have been downloaded. By whom I cannot know. Nor can I be sure what use, if any, people have made of what they’ve read. If anyone wants to let me know, then that would be all to the good.

Over the last eight to nine months I have also learned that a blog needs looking after. So in addition to writing about research I have taken the opportunity to write generally about other things I do at work or am interested in, or about stuff which has simply caught my eye. My approach has been to write little, but to write often. I reflect that adding small pieces here and there has helped me in my teaching, as I noted earlier here. I also realise that in blogging beyond research I have blurred my boundaries somewhat, having added notes along the way about (for example) the simple pleasures of running. As an aside, I’ve been plagued by minor, but annoying, running-related injuries over the last few months and am missing my forest jaunts very much.

Just as a peer reviewed, published, article can be given a leg-up by a post on a blog, so too can a new blog be supported by a tweet. I have taken to using Twitter to draw attention to newly published posts, and indeed have started using this (sporadically, it has to be said) as another, independent, way of exchanging ideas.

That’ll do, for now. But I conclude that I’ll maintain this site in its small niche for a while longer yet.

Increasing the visibility of research

Where publishers’ copyright rules permit, since last year I have been uploading green open access versions of peer reviewed research papers I have written or co-written to ORCA, Cardiff University’s digital repository. I have then been adding hyperlinks to these papers to research-related posts on this blog. To round this all off I’ve been using Twitter to draw attention to what I’ve been up to.

Having a WordPress blog means that I get to see which hyperlinks anonymous readers are following, and I know that some onward clicks are taking people to my open access articles. At the end of last week I asked colleagues managing ORCA if any tools existed to help me find out which of my papers have been downloaded, and when.

What I now have is access to an application allowing me to interrogate ORCA in all sorts of ways. So I know, for example, that full-text papers I have authored and saved to the repository have been downloaded 360 times between January 1st 2005 (the earliest date I can select) and today, July 3rd 2013. Two hundred and eighty eight of these downloads have taken place since November 24th 2012, this being the date I created this blog and first posted.

Here is a summary of my ORCA ‘eprints’ and the number of times each has been downloaded up to today:

Eprint Fulltext Downloads
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2013. Complex caring trajectories in community mental health: contingencies, divisions of labor and care coordination. Community Mental Health Journal 10.1007/s10597-011-9467-9
Hannigan, Ben and Coffey, Michael 2011. Where the wicked problems are: the case of mental health. Health Policy 101 (3) , pp. 220-227. 10.1016/j.healthpol.2010.11.002
Coffey, Michael and Hannigan, Ben 2013. New roles for nurses as approved mental health professionals in England and Wales: A discussion paper. International Journal of Nursing Studies 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2013.02.014
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2011. Giving a fig about roles: Policy, context and work in community mental health care. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 18 (1) , pp. 1-8. 10.1111/j.1365-2850.2010.01631.x
Hannigan, Ben 2013. Connections and consequences in complex systems: insights from a case study of the emergence and local impact of crisis resolution and home treatment services. Social Science & Medicine 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.12.044
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2006. Complexity and Change in the United Kingdom’s System of Mental Health Care. Social Theory & Health 4 (3) , pp. 244-263. 10.1057/palgrave.sth.8700073
Hannigan, Ben and Allen, Davina Ann 2003. A tale of two studies: research governance issues arising from two ethnographic investigations into the organisation of health and social care. International Journal of Nursing Studies. 40 (7) , pp. 685-695. 10.1016/S0020-7489(02)00111-6

All are papers I have specifically blogged about, and have subsequently flagged up on my Enduring posts page. I am therefore going to tentatively conclude that the approach I have taken to increase the visibility of my research is having an effect.

What I do not know is who has been downloading (and hopefully reading!) these articles, and for what purposes. I would like to think it has been a mixture of researchers, practitioners, managers, policymakers and service users. I also hope they have found what they have read to have been both interesting and useful.

Using research

I very much hope that UK readers of this blog have enjoyed this year’s summer (which, at least, coincided with the early May bank holiday weekend). Right now we’ve been plunged back into autumn, or so it feels here in South Wales. Wind and rain are everywhere.

Here’s a wordcloud used during Friday morning’s teaching with students of mental health nursing, during which I shared something about COCAPP and other (past and present) research projects involving people working in the Cardiff School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies. One of the things I did was to draw students’ attention to my paper on complex trajectories in community mental health, as previously blogged about here. Unrelatedly, towards the end of Friday I also caught sight of some newly delivered reviewers’ feedback on a grant proposal on which I am a co-applicant. One of the points the reviewers made was to encourage us, as a research team, to plan to do more to get future findings into services and practice.

The first of these otherwise unconnected events was a modest attempt to close the gap between research and education. The second was a reminder of the importance of closing the gap between research and the world of health and social care. So with both experiences in mind this post is about getting research out of the hands of academics and into the hands of others who might use it: practitioners and students, service managers, policymakers, users, carers. Coming not long after my recent post on the assessment of outputs in the Research Excellence Framework, this post might also be thought of as an excursion into ‘impact’.

Within single university departments it ought to be reasonably straightforward to bring research and teaching closer together. This said, I can still clearly remember co-presenting with Cardiff colleagues at a nursing research conference in London in the late 1990s only to be told, by a student who had travelled from our own school, that she had had no previous idea who we were or that the research projects we had discussed were ongoing. That was a salutary moment, and since then I have taken opportunities to directly bring research (mine, my colleagues’, other people’s) into the modules I have led and contributed to. And of course, I am hardly alone in doing this kind of thing. But across the whole higher education sector demarcations are growing between ‘teachers’ and ‘researchers’, with universities routinely differentiating between staff on the basis of their expected roles. If researchers become less involved in teaching then the risk is run that naturally occurring opportunities for projects to be brought into the classroom, by those who are running them, will dwindle.

But if integrating research and teaching can be challenging then getting research findings out of universities’ doors for the benefit of all is harder still. In the health and social care fields the publication of findings in peer reviewed journals comes with no guarantee that these will be read, or used to inform anything which happens outside of academia. In nursing (and I imagine in many other practitioner disciplines too) this has often been seen as part of the ‘theory/practice gap’ problem. Nurses have spent a long time agonising over this, and typing some suitable search terms into Google Scholar produces some 200,000 documents (that’s the slightly obscured number circled in red in this screenshot) evidently devoted to its examination:

Nurses are not alone in having concerns of this type. The Cooksey review of UK health research funding talked about tackling the ‘translation gap’ through getting ‘ideas from basic and clinical research into the development of new products and approaches to treatment of disease and illness‘, and at the same time ‘implementing those new products and approaches into clinical practice‘. Universities are increasingly urged to do better with their ‘knowledge exchange’ activities. And, as we know, the Research Excellence Framework 2014 has introduced the idea of assessing ‘impact’.

‘Impact’ in the REF2014 Assessment framework and guidance on submissions document is defined ‘as an effect on, change or benefit to the economy, society, culture, public policy or services, health, the environment or quality of life, beyond academia‘. It’s about research being ‘felt’ beyond universities, and assessing this. The assessed bit is important in the formal REF exercise because impact (presented using case studies, and counting for 20% of the overall quality profile to be awarded to each individual submission) will be graded using this scale:

Four star Outstanding impacts in terms of their reach and significance.
Three star Very considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance
Two star Considerable impacts in terms of their reach and significance
One star Recognised but modest impacts in terms of their reach and significance
Unclassified The impact is of little or no reach and significance; or the impact was not eligible; or the impact was not underpinned by excellent research produced by the submitted unit.

As in the case of the assessment of outputs I am struck by the fine judgements that will be required by the REF’s experts. I suggest that one person’s time-pressed ‘very considerable’ may well turn out to be another’s ‘considerable’, or even ‘modest’.

Issues of reliability aside, the inclusion of ‘impact’ in REF2014 has got people to think, again, about how to close some of the gaps I have referred to above. For researchers in health and social care there has been new work to do to demonstrate how findings have been felt in policymaking, in services and in the provision of care and treatment. Who would object to the idea that research for nursing practice should have benefits beyond academia? But as many of the documents I identified when searching for papers on the theory/practice gap (along with newer materials on ‘knowledge exchange’) will no doubt confirm, demonstrably getting research into policy, organisations and practice can be fiendishly hard.

There are many reasons why this is so. Not all research findings have immediate and direct applications to everyday health and social care. Even when findings do have clear and obvious application, university-based researchers may not be best-placed to do the necessary ‘mobilisation’ (to use the currently fashionable phrase), including in relation to knowledge which they themselves have created. And by the time peer reviewed findings have reached the public domain, policy and services in fickle, fast-moving, environments may have moved on. In cases where we think research has made a difference there is also the small matter, in the context of the REF, of marshalling the evidence necessary to demonstrate this to the satisfaction of an expert panel. In any event research is often incremental, with knowledge growing cumulatively as new insights are added over time. Given this we should, perhaps, have rather modest expectations of the likely influence of single papers or projects.

Beyond this it is always good to hear of new ways in which wider attention might be drawn to research and its benefits, and a rich resource for people with interests in this area is the multi-author blog and associated materials on the impact of the social sciences run by the LSE. This is a suitably interdisciplinary initiative, which can be followed on Twitter at @LSEImpactBlog. I recommend it (and not just to social scientists), and as a starting point its Maximising the impacts of your research document. This sets out to provide ‘a large menu of sound and evidence-based advice and guidance on how to ensure that your work achieves its maximum visibility and influence with both academic and external audiences‘, and as such has lots of useful observations and suggestions.

Blogging for teaching

With apologies in advance for making an exceptionally obvious observation, but it has properly dawned on me this week that writing a blog might have significant advantages for teaching. A couple of days ago I was in class with a group of MSc students, talking about what we can learn from the study of service user trajectories. The sensible thing to do was to navigate to this site, and show people where they can download this recent paper. So that’s exactly what I did.

Unrelatedly, Mark Howard (who works at London South Bank University and who I used to work with in East London in the days when I was a community mental health nurse) has also been kind enough to comment on a post, and to mention that he sometimes points his students here. Hello again Mark, and hello to your students too – and thanks for your collective interest.

And today I’ve been planning a new Professional Doctorate module, and have been deliberately embedding links to this blog in my teaching materials. So what all of this is making me realise is that a blog (mostly) oriented towards research and academic stuff might, over time, become a useful educational resource. I actually can’t think of any other way in which a personal repository of papers, commentaries, onwards links and so on might be brought together.