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Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!

MSF Scientific Day 2012 Trailer from MSF on Vimeo.

I was recently contacted by Becky Roby, an intern with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders in the UK. The guys over at MSF hold an annual Scientific Day, where public health professionals working for MSF and other organizations come together to discuss their research. There’s an agenda available online for you to check out. Their speakers are in the thick of the action, helping people at the grassroots level.

What piqued my interest though is that they are fully embracing social media for their conference. While I have discussed how you can use Twitter at a conference (along with SciCurious), MSF will be livetweeting the conference. They are streaming it online, and you can ask questions on Twitter that the researcher can address in the post-presentation Q&A period.

You can follow along online on their Facebook page, on Twitter @msf_uk or by using the hashtag #MSFSD.

I’m hoping to have a few interviews up this week with people involved with the Scientific Day, so make sure to check back! Today, I’m welcoming Becky Roby to the blog, who is helping organize the Scientific Day.

Continue reading “Interview with Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders’ Becky Roby for Scientific Day May 25th 2012!”

Epidemiology, Public Health and Science Hashtags: #EPID

I like Twitter. Can you tell?

I’ve been getting lots of feedback about my series on Twitter for Scientists, but the most common questions I get are “Where do I start and who should I follow?”

Well, the short answer is that you can start anytime you want, and follow whoever you find interesting.

But then I thought about it more, and, through discussion with Jeremy at RadarLake and Sara Johnson realized that we don’t have an “Epidemiology” hashtag. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that a really useful thing would be to have a list of Epid-related hashtags and one unifying epidemiology hashtag.

PSA: If you’re going to tweet about epidemiology in any capacity, please use the #EPID hashtag. It’ll make it easier for us all to keep in touch, and it’ll help promote epidemiology.

I’m going to be curating a list of Epidemiology-related hashtags here to try and provide people with a jumping off point with Twitter. It will also help people network with others interested in their area and hopefully spur discussion. This is by no means exhaustive, so if you have any ideas or ones I’ve missed, please let me know either by email or in the comments.

Hashtags after the jump.

Continue reading “Epidemiology, Public Health and Science Hashtags: #EPID”

#StopKONY: Or, the importance of critically evaluating data in the information age

EDIT 14/03/12: As pointed out in the comments, the accuracy of the PubMed’s database needs to be considered when analyzing retractions. Thanks L. Wynholds!

Unless you’ve completely been avoiding all social media platforms this week, you’ve likely come across the #StopKony/#Kony2012 campaign. In short, a group called Invisible Children created the video above that was meant to make Joseph Kony infamous, and encourage governments and people to act against him. By raising awareness, you can make a difference, the filmmakers argue.

The video went up, and almost immediately went viral. It was uploaded on March 4th, 2012. By March 5th, it had over 25 million views. As of March 11th i.e. one week, it has over 70 million views.

What I find most interesting though, is that almost immediately after the video went up, people started digging. And suddenly, this campaign was being questioned and criticized. Sites such as Visible Children found  questionable information about the campaign, and it wasn’t long before the media started asking questions; Jezebel, NY Daily News, CTV, The Huffington Post (which featured comments from Ugandans) and The Atlantic all penned articles ranging from slamming Invisible Children (Jezebel) to presenting both sides (CTV). People were critical, they dug up information, and they presented facts to back up their criticisms.

Scientists are familiar with this process: It’s peer review.

Continue reading “#StopKONY: Or, the importance of critically evaluating data in the information age”

Jan 30/12, 2PM EST: CDC Chat about Cervical Cancer

I’ve made no efforts to hide my love for the CDC’s outreach efforts. Their YouTube, Twitter and Facebook pages are a great resource for Epidemiologists and lay people alike, and their innovative methods of engaging the public have been absolutely spectacular (see their Zombie Preparedness Guide for example). They’ve been incredible at embracing social media and are really pioneers in this area, including making a toolkit for those interested in using social media in their own organizations (link is a pdf).

As part of their outreach, the CDC does Twitter chats. This month the CDC has decided to focus on cervical cancer, and has uploaded a podcast about the disease, as well as a short fact sheet to prepare readers.

On Monday, January 30th at 2pm EST, the CDC will be using the #CDCChat hashtag on Twitter to host a conversation with Dr Tom Frieden, the CDC Director and MPH graduate from Columbia

Following the discussion last week about Twitter and how it can be used by researchers, this is a great opportunity for those interested but not sure to try Twitter out. Think about it: How many times in your life will you get a chance to ask the Director of the CDC about cervical cancer? Or his views on decreasing screening rates for cervical cancer? Or whether he thinks Epidemiologists are most like Sherlock Holmes, Batman or Nancy Drew/The Hardy Boys?

Let me know if you take part!

Twitter for Scientists Part 3: To boldly go where no lecturer has gone before

How are scholars using Twitter? Click to enlarge.

So far, I’ve talked about how Twitter can be used by scientists to help disseminate information, and acquire new information. I’m going to change gears in my final post and talk about how Twitter can be used in the classroom, and how it can be used by scientists moving forward.

If you missed them, click here for Part 1 and Part 2 in this series.

Continue reading “Twitter for Scientists Part 3: To boldly go where no lecturer has gone before”

Twitter for Scientists Part 2: Networking in 140 characters or less

This week, I'll be talking about Twitter (Pic via Tweepi)

On Monday I discussed some of the reasons why I think you should sign up for Twitter, and why it is a useful tool.

Encouraging scientists to use social media isn’t a new idea. In response to my last post, friend of the blog @muddybrown (you may remember him from the graduate school roundtable) pointed out a series by Scientific American writer Christie Wilcox (@nerdychristie). It’s a four part series, but definitely worth a read for another perspective on social media and science (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4).

Today, I’ll be continuing that discussion, but focusing on two other aspects of Twitter: How it can be used to get information that you wouldn’t otherwise, and how it can be used at conferences.

So let’s get started shall we?

Continue reading “Twitter for Scientists Part 2: Networking in 140 characters or less”

Twitter for Scientists Part 1: How a procrastination tool can be useful

This week, I'll be talking about Twitter

Twitter is a well known microblogging platform. People can post updates in the form of 140 character “tweets” that can be read by followers, who can “retweet,” i.e. repost that tweet to their own followers, or reply to the original post. I started using it about a year ago, and have found it to be equal parts whimsical and hilarious, along with useful and informative.

Several other authors have discussed reasons why scientists should be using Twitter, including this excellent post on Deep Sea News and this post through the American Geophysical Union. As I pointed out in my previous weekly roundup, Dr Jeremy Segrott gave his thoughts after he used Twitter for a three months. Scientists are realizing that social media is an important way to translate knowledge to the public when done well, and Twitter provides another avenue by which this can be accomplished.

What I will do is post 5 reasons why I think, as a scientist, you should be using Twitter, or, at the very least, be signed up for a Twitter account. Reasons 2 and 3 will be up on Wednesday, and reasons 4 and 5 will go up on Friday.

Continue reading “Twitter for Scientists Part 1: How a procrastination tool can be useful”

Interview with Jonathan Smith, Director of “They Go To Die” Part 3: Storytelling and Research

Over the past week, I have the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Smith, a recent graduate of the Yale School of Public Health, and a current lecturer there, to the Blog. Jonathan has been working on a documentary about his research entitled “They Go To Die.” The interview is split into three parts: Part 1 was a broad background to the area, Part 2 covered the filming experience, and finally Part 3 will talk about the role of storytelling in research. Jonathan has mounted a campaign on Kickstarter to help fund the editing and final steps in making this movie a reality, and if you would like to support him, please click here.

What do you see as the role of filmmaking and storytelling in Epidemiology and research in general?

It seems like there is a history of pitting personal stories against data and research. You are either a believer in one or the other. I have no idea why, they work so harmoniously together. I think a few activist films have skewed this perception of how they can work together.

But honestly, this surly perception we have in accepting stories as valid isn’t uncalled for. They have much more room for bias. I said once that if I were to tell you the story of Godzilla backwards, it would be about a moonwalking dinosaur that rebuilds Japan. That may be a silly way of explaining it, but stories are often dismissed as academically rigorous because it depends on how and who is telling the story. Data on the other hand is undeniable (that is, if it is actually done correctly, a whole other debate…).

So we become comforted in data and rely on it to sway our positions. We have become oblivious to what this data means. Are policy arguments are now over a gain and loss of numbers. But mortality doesn’t simply mean that someone dies – it means that a person is removed from an ever-changing, organic infrastructure of family and community. A beam is removed from the foundation, and it weakens everything. It devastates people, families, and communities. But more importantly, it changes how those infrastructures operate. That cant be summed up in data. We have to find a way to show that, justly – because just like our data, we can’t present their stories in a biased way.

Continue reading “Interview with Jonathan Smith, Director of “They Go To Die” Part 3: Storytelling and Research”

Interview with Jonathan Smith, Director of “They Go To Die” Part 2: The Filming Process

Over the next week, I have the pleasure of welcoming Jonathan Smith, a recent graduate of the Yale School of Public Health, and a current lecturer there, to the Blog. Jonathan has been working on a documentary about his research entitled “They Go To Die” a story describing the plight of miners in South Africa. I’ll have the opportunity to talk to Jonathan about his experiences making this movie both as a film maker and an epidemiologist . The interview is split into three parts: Part 1 was a broad background to the area, Part 2 covers the filming experience, and finally Part 3 will talk about the role of storytelling in research. Jonathan has mounted a campaign on Kickstarter to help fund the editing and final steps in making this movie a reality, and if you would like to support him, please click here.

So how did you start the filming process? Did you have contacts? Did you encounter any resistance making this movie? How did the miners react when you told them?

Well, funny you should ask. My first question was, “how can I find these men?” I mean, think about the logistics of actually finding these men, who ‘disappear’ once they leave the mine, then try to get them to agree to let some white guy live with them… and film it? I literally had to start from scratch. I had no connections. It was a tough time.

At first I tried just walking through the settlements asking around for people. Terrifying. Obviously, I’m an idiot. It wasn’t the correct approach and once was literally chased out of the settlement by men with butcher knives. Amazing how fast you can run when you need to!

Later, when I went to the exact same settlement to stay with Mr. Sagati, I approached it through ‘community leaders’ – informally appointed leader of the settlement. Once my intentions were actually explained and by someone they trusted, they were more than happy about letting me into the community. That experience also gave Mr. Sagati’s family in particular (who lived in the settlement) a pretty good laugh and some ammunition to make fun of me after I told them…

Continue reading “Interview with Jonathan Smith, Director of “They Go To Die” Part 2: The Filming Process”

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