How social media can enhance medical conferences

I found this great piece written by Claire Bower at the BMJ. It identifies 4 areas where social media can help the organisers and participants at medical (or any other) conference.

The part that struck me was:

84% of organisers use Facebook to promote their events, while 61% use Twitter and 42% use YouTube. It seems that social media not only facilitates knowledge sharing and networking amongst attendees, it can also help create a real buzz that starts before the event and continues long after it ends.

Here's a graphic taken from the blog (credits at the bottom).

Thought for the day

A useful motto for researchers:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot worked at Lloyds bank from 1917 till 1926. That's why I bank with Lloyds.

Moving to Squarespace 6 from Squarespace 5

I finally bit the bullet and made the leap from 5 to 6. Initially I was held back by the lack of support for my favourite blogging software, Marsedit. It doesn't look like Squarespace are going to put back the compatability with Marsedit any time soon. Eventually, I felt it would be easy enough just to work with Markdown text files and then copy and paste them into the Squarespace 6 post editor. It seems to work fine. I chose the template called Hudson.

The compelling reason to switch was the responsive design templates available on v6. Most of my traffic comes from mobile devices (phones and tablets), so this is important. I like the fact that I don't have to pinch and zoom on the iPhone to read the site easily.

I also decided to merge and into a single site with two distinct sections. I think it looks pretty good so far. Clean lines, no clutter. Almost iOS7-like. Don't laugh.

The switching process was reasonably easy. Getting used to the new system is happening slowly. I'm happy.

Scientific Reputation Metrics

As follow-up to this post, I read a great piece by Richard Price. It describes the failings and costs of the traditional scientific publishing model, and why these are driven the development of new metrics to track academic success.

To break out of the tragedy of the commons, new reputation metrics, developed by a number of startups, have been developed that incentivize scientists to share their research openly, rather than incentivizing them to put their research behind a paywall. Scientists are adopting them to better stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. Examples of these new reputation metrics include inbound citation counts, readership metrics and follower counts.

He predicts that most scientific journals will eventually disappear, as scientists' reputations depend less on where they publish, and more on their public profile.

I'm not as sure of this last statement as Richard is. I feel most Journals will move to an open access model and will gradually lower their up-front publication charges.

Seven Tips From F. Scott Fitzgerald On How to Write

A great find from the Open Culture site:

Seven Tips From F. Scott Fitzgerald on How to Write Fiction

F. Scott Fitzgerald is often portrayed as a natural-born writer. “His talent,” says Ernest Hemingway in A Moveable Feast, “was as natural as the pattern that was made by the dust on a butterfly’s wings.” But Fitzgerald saw himself in a different light. “What little I’ve accomplished,” he said, “has been by the most laborious and uphill work.”

1. Start by taking notes.

2. Make a detailed outline of your story.

3. Don’t describe your work-in-progress to anyone.

4. Create people, not types.

5. Use familiar words.

6. Use verbs, not adjectives, to keep your sentences moving.

7. Be ruthless.



From the author of The Great Gatsby, this is advice that needs to be taken seriously.

10 Productivity Tips

I like podcasts, specifically those from the 5by5 network. There are some excellent ones on productivity at work. Over the years, I’ve gathered some tips and tricks from them that you might find useful. I will share some of them here.

  1. Check email only twice a day. The rest of the time, get on with the work you are supposed to be doing.

  2. I am a bad typist. I have tried to learn touch typing here. But I prefer to use speech recognition software, like Dragon Dictate 3.0

  3. I subscribe to a Getting Things Done system. One of the keys aspects is having a single Inbox for all your new tasks. Tasks of course can be anything, from a letter that needs a reply to a grant that needs to be written. In fact I have 3, one physical one at home and another at work, plus my email inbox. I try to process them to zero (i.e. act on things) at least twice a week.

  4. Instant capture - I carry around my iPhone with Evernote on it. This lets me take pictures of whiteboards, jot notes, record meetings/talks and write ideas quickly. They are then available to me on every platform (iPad, Mac), and can be shared via email very easily.

  5. I sometimes have trouble focussing on the task at hand. I use the pomodoro technique to get around this. 25 minutes of focus then a 5 minute break is workable.

  6. Try and build exercise into the working day. Even if it is just walking up the stairs. Getting outside for a few minutes also helps me recharge and focus. I use a Fitbit Activity Tracker to track my exercise but then I’m a numbers geek.

  7. Have trusted systems for your areas of responsibility, and don’t endlessly fiddle with them once set up. It’s tempting to always be adding the latest and greatest software to your setup, but it’s a real time-sink. I leave things as they are and revisit every 6 months.

  8. Turn off spell and grammar checking whilst you write. It’ll distract you and interrupt your flow. Get a first draft down. Prettify it later.

  9. Have a list of boring but straightforward tasks you can do when you are not on your best form. Save the ones that need more thought for another day.

  10. Don’t try multi-tasking. Even if you are female.

A Mathematical approach to life

I came across these websites and was drawn in. They use mathematics to solve seemingly insoluble problems. The first is a medical one - deciding whether (or not) to go ahead with an ablation for paroxysmal atrial fibrillation. The analysis is performed by Tim Gowers, a Fields medal winning Cambridge mathematician, and can be found here.

The risk of death is put at one in a thousand, and this is where things get interesting. How worried should I be about a 0.1% risk? How do I even think about that question? Perhaps if my life expectancy from now on is around 30 years, I should think of this as an expected loss of 30/1000 years, or about 10 days. That doesn’t sound too bad — about as bad as having a particularly nasty attack of flu. But is it right to think about it in terms of expectations? I feel that the distribution is important: I would rather have a guaranteed loss of ten days than a 1/1000 chance of losing 30 years.

The data used to estimate the chance of dying within the next 12 months is on the Bandolier site, here.


The second scenario is an intriguing analysis to estimate the possibility of missing a connecting flight against the time it'd take to eat at a favoured airport restaurant - Poisson Eats Cheeseburgers.

It seems a long time since Maths A level, but these sort of posts are rekindling my interest. Check them out for yourself, and also take a look at Numberphile on Youtube.