Tag: running

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.


An evening on the Taff Trail

A brief post with no bearing on work matters whatsoever. Yesterday evening, in the two hours before sunset (which was just after 9pm), a perfect opportunity was presented to take in the simple pleasures of walking the Taff Trail. This is one of the places I also like to run, though for the last few weeks I’ve been nursing a sore Achilles and have, therefore, been resisting.

This part of the world is criss-crossed with disused railway lines, harking back to South Wales’ industrial heritage. Check out the photo here, which was taken yesterday on the flat, mile-long, stretch leading from the Penrhos Cutting to the bottom of the steep hill which climbs above Castell Coch.

This second photo was taken on the same stretch looking towards Craig yr Allt, which remains one of my most favourite places of all.

Hello again, trainers

Today's trainersGreat to have been running again this morning, with my pal Simon. We chose a relatively flat route, taking us down the Penrhos Cutting and along the Taff Trail heading towards Pontypridd. It’s only been a week or so since I last got out, but I sure felt creaky.

To illustrate this event on this blog I might have uploaded a photograph or two of South Wales’ hills and trails, or even a piccie taken en route. These options are far too obvious. Instead I have elected to include a picture of my trainers, sitting proudly post-run on a staircase. Thank you, shoes, and I apologise if you deserve a more accomplished runner than me as your owner.

The COCAPP crew, and MHNAUK comes to Cardiff

Yesterday’s COCAPP meeting in Cardiff was both productive and fun. It was lovely to welcome those members of the London contingent able to make the trip, and I extend my apologies (again, and for the last time!) to those I conspired to keep waiting in a darkened corridor before turning up with a room key.

COCAPPers 07.13.13COCAPP is an exciting research project to be involved in, and pretty soon it will have its own blog. I’ll then add links from here for those who are interested. Briefly summarised, this is an England and Wales cross-national investigation into mental health care planning and coordination, and into the relationships between these processes and recovery and personalisation. It’s funded by the NIHR Health Services and Delivery Research Programme, and has lots of distinct elements: about which more will follow, I guess, once the dedicated project blog is up. For now, here’s a photo of yesterday’s assembled COCAPPers (where from left to right there’s Aled, Jitka, Alan (COCAPP’s chief investigator), Sally, me and Michael. We very much missed Alison and Jennifer and their wise contributions, and when we’re all in one place I imagine we’ll take another, and more complete, photo.

Yesterday evening was the traditional social involving food and drink with fellow members of Mental Health Nurse Academics UK, ahead of today’s meeting proper. As Cardiff hosted we got to select the venues, and I hope everyone who was able to make it enjoyed the selection of fine ales and wines, and indeed the general ambience, at The Rummer Tavern. Likewise the food at The Mango House.

MHNAUK’s first meeting of 2013 was a good ‘un. Jen French talked about mental health strategy in Wales, and Ian Hulatt updated us on the Willis Commission. Eschewing the usual format of host universities presenting their research and teaching activities in the morning, Michael Coffey (in the photo above, and MHNAUK chair) and Joy Duxbury (newly elected vice chair) invited reflections and discussion on the aims and purpose of the group, and on the character of research in mental health nursing and what can be done to nurture it. There was some lively discussion in the two groups (facilitated by Linda Cooper and Len Bowers respectively) which convened to talk to these areas. It occurred to me unhelpfully after the event that we might have taken a MHNAUK photo, including the 35 or so members participating today: not least as MHNAUK, like COCAPP, is collectively thinking of increasing its presence via a blog.

Work aside, running has taken a big back seat this week, what with one thing and another. Must get out soon!

Snow, research and higher degrees

Red weather warningToday brought the predicted dollop of snow, meaning that yesterday there was no bread to be had in the shops. See this Met Office map of the UK, with its colour-coded weather warnings? See the red blob? That’s where I live, and where I am now.

This has been an interesting, and particularly research-oriented, working week. I spent part of Monday with a group of postgraduates, discussing processes for the review and approval of research and other projects. It has to be said that the opportunities for MSc students to complete small-scale data-generating studies are fewer than they once were, particularly if their plans are to generate data in the NHS. The time needed to secure R&D and research ethics approval can take a serious chunk out of the typical student’s period of candidature. Now, unless studies can be shown to be linked to larger research endeavours there’s also a fair chance that some NHS organisations will want to levy charges for processing R&D applications and for consuming their resources. As I ended up telling this particular MSc group, for NHS governance purposes there are also fine distinctions sometimes to be made between ‘research’ and other activities (like ‘service evaluation’ and ‘audit’) which, on the face of it, can look pretty ‘research-y’.

Monday also brought a meeting with second year, undergraduate, pre-registration mental health nursing students. That was nice, and we got to talk about all manner of things: the history of mental health nursing, developments in local services, experiences of practice.

Tuesday brought a project advisory group meeting chaired by Professor Billie Hunter. Billie’s study is funded by the Royal College of Midwives, and is examining midwives’ resilience. It’s interesting both methodologically and substantively, and one of the things I’m learning about is the generation of research data using social media.

Wednesday was an unusual day, involving a trip to another university to examine a doctoral thesis. People often have lots to say about preparing for vivas from the student point of view, and in every university there will be stories to be heard about students’ (good and bad) doctoral examination experiences. Less is said about the experiences of examiners. In my view the invitation to examine a doctorate is an honour, and the occasion demands careful preparation. After all, we’re talking here about the culmination of years of work, folks. On this week’s and on the few other occasions in which I have examined I have, I hope, combined rigorous enquiry with respectful courtesy. This is certainly how my examiners were on the day of my viva, I’m pleased to say.

Thursday (yesterday) began with a meeting to review a contract, connected to a funded research project I’m involved in which formally commences at the start of next month. I learnt some new stuff along the way, including the distinctions between ‘background’ and ‘foreground’ intellectual property and copyright. Michael Coffey, Aled Jones, Jennifer Egbunike and I met to make practical plans for a segment of another project, led by Alan Simpson. This study is also involving Alison Faulkner (whose website, if she has one, I do not know), Jitka Jancova and (soon) Sally Barlow. All very productive and interesting, and I was pleased to round off the day in the office with an expected conversation with the clinical psychologist, Andrew Vidgen, about his work in early intervention in psychosis, my Connections and consequences paper, and a few other things besides.

January 18th 2013And today the snow came (check out this photo, revealing the red blob’s local snowfall), and as anticipated a large thesis chunk to read and review from my esteemed colleague, Pauline Tang, who is also a research student. Pauline is interested in the use of electronic patient records, and I am again reminded of the discipline and hard work required by part-time doctoral students who have to combine their studies with the day job. The equally esteemed Jane Davies, my longstanding friend and colleague and now a full time (pretty much) PhD student, also sent me some interesting initial reflections relating to her planned study of decision-making in adolescent cancer.

Running looks out of the question this weekend, and, for all I know, the coming week. Today’s deep snow will be tomorrow’s ice, and that stuff’s not to be run on. Long walks look a tantalising possibility, though.

New year…

Cardiff University Colleges and SchoolsHappy new year. 2013 promises plenty. I’m committed to two externally funded research projects, collaborating with outstanding folk located both in, and out, of Cardiff University. In the fullness of time I’ll perhaps blog about these studies when there’s more to say. I’ll be supervising people working on their doctorates, and as always will be teaching and assessing across the range of academic levels. I’ll be working up grant applications (there’s one in the pot at the moment), writing papers (including the one I’ve mentioned before), and contributing to various types of ethics and scientific review processes. I also have a number of external examining roles to fulfil, at doctoral and pre-registration undergraduate level.

In the year ahead I suspect there will be some interesting organisational changes to adjust to as Cardiff University refashions itself, and as the new College and School structure (which I’ve reproduced to the left of this post, with an added oval to highlight where I work) takes shape. As it happens, the University is making headlines at the moment. Just before the Christmas and New Year break Cardiff’s collaboration with the Open University (and others) to develop ‘MOOCS’ (Massive Open Online Courses) was widely reported. As I understand it, MOOCS are free-to-access courses made available via the web to pretty much anyone with use of a computer and an internet connection. I’m not sure how, if at all, people are able to work towards achieving formal academic awards in this way but I very much like the idea of freely available knowledge. Meanwhile, in this week’s Times Higher Education there’s a report on the new Vice Chancellor’s plans to develop the University’s international presence.

REF 2014In 2013 there’s also the small matter of the Research Excellence Framework (REF). I think the REF (like its predecessor the Research Assessment Exercise, or the RAE) is a flawed process, but it remains a (very) big deal for the UK’s universities. In this cycle, formal submissions will be made at the end of the year. Panel members will then have their work cut out in 2014, reading and assessing the quality of outputs (typically, journal papers), judging the impact of completed research beyond the realms of academia (for example, on policy and practice), and reviewing the institutional environment for research activity. Universities will be ranked on the results, and money will flow (or not). For an ambitious, research-led, Russell Group university like Cardiff this is an exercise of great import. It’s also significant for the professions of nursing and midwifery, which have spent the last decades upping their evidence base. In the last RAE, the outcomes of which were made known at the end of 2008, nursing and midwifery research fared pretty well. Let’s hope this can be sustained.

Outside of work I’ll keep running, hoping to stay injury free. As a meticulous record keeper I track my miles. So far for 2013 it’s 22-and-a-bit, and the aim is to manage 1,000 in total. This I achieved in 2012, and more besides. There’s also an increasingly good chance that this year will see Cardiff City climb out of the Football League Championship. I’m liking this, and it’s something I follow (with season tickets) with one of my boys. And, for those interested in the health and well-being angle of all this, check out the work of Alan Pringle and his colleagues on using football as a means to promote mental health, particularly amongst young men. Alan gave a fantastic talk on this at last year’s Network for Psychiatric Nursing Research conference.

That’ll do for now, I think: enough of the rambling.

Moving and mental health

Craig yr Allt 23.12.12Yesterday’s torrential rain meant I skipped a run, which I’ve instead done this morning. Both the Taff Trail and Fforest Fawr are full of impromptu rivulets and debris. None of this has put off the walkers or mountain cyclists, or indeed the other runners. There were plenty of all types out there today.

Here’s the view from the top of Craig yr Allt, looking east. On this part of my journey I saw not a single other person. Remarkable, really, when you consider this is only a few miles from Cardiff.

I enjoy getting out and about, and that’s reason enough for me. For readers interested in the relationships between exercise and mental health, check out this blog and this blog, written by The Mental Elf (who also tweets via @Mental_Elf). Both posts have good links to individual research papers and systematic reviews. All very interesting, and by the looks of it an area where (not a phrase so often heard these days) more research is needed.

Thoughts on a first month, and a photo of a fallen tree

Officially I’ve knocked off for the Christmas and New Year holidays. I’m still awake earlier than I need to be, but the rotten weather this morning is (so far) putting me off a Saturday morning run. For today’s forecast, check out the clip to the left – which for the record I’ve extracted (in what I think is a permitted way) from the Met Office website.The weather! So for now it’s just me, my porridge, a mug of strong coffee and my computer. I reckon I have about 30 minutes before I’m joined by others, by then also awake and up for the day.

So I have a precious window in which to reflect on a first month of blogging. First up is to state how much I’ve enjoyed it. I began with the idea of writing about my research, drawing on my work as an academic mental health nurse at Cardiff University. I had the plan of blogging about papers and projects, and providing links wherever possible to articles available for public download via the University’s ORCA open access repository. I’ve certainly done some of this (as examples, check out my earlier posts on wicked problems here, here and here, my post on research ethics and governance and my post on the measurement of blood pressure and what this tells us about health care tasks).

But having gone to the bother of setting it up I’ve also found myself drawn to using this site as a place to record more general observations: on mental health care, nursing, policy, people and so on. That wasn’t completely planned, but I’m pleased to have used my blog for this purpose. It wasn’t a long post, but the short point I made in defence of student nurses earlier this week felt worth saying. I expect, as I head into what promises to be a very busy but exciting 2013, that I’ll continue to use this space in this additional way.

Fallen tree, Ridegeway, 15.01.12Others are now awake, and I should go. So without further ado, here at the right is the picture of the tree that’s mentioned in this post’s title. South Wales is full of trails, mountains and woodland. I enjoy this variety very much, as both a born-again runner and as a walker of longer standing. In January this year, heading out on a favourite route along the top of Craig yr Allt, I happened upon this enormous, fallen, monster. It had come down in high winds during the previous week, presumably missing by a whisker the telegraph wires you can see towards the top of the photo.

The tree rests, still, where it fell. For those using the path the way through is either over or under the branches to the right. Goodness knows how the horses are managing it.