Blogs and science communication revisited

Going back in time, looking at old photographs, postcards and letters is something I have always loved doing. And now I find myself going back and reading some of my first posts on this blog. Even though they are still quite new, I still find it amazing to be able to go back and reencounter my thoughts and findings from this summer. With all the information that flows past us in this age of information, it really is amazing to have a place to keep track of a small small fraction of all the thoughts and findings.

My reason for going back in time today was that reading this interesting article “More than a blog” about blogging and sciences made me think of my first posts on this blog about science blogs and peer-reviewed journals and the historical relation between journalism and science communication.

The article “More than a blog” published in EMBO reports gives some interesting perspectives on the role of blogs in science communication. I’d recommend it to people interested in science blogging. It is well written and quite interesting. It would be great if for example public health researchers could be inspired to consider blogging about their own research.

The article takes its offset in a last December’s big news story about the first known microorganism on Earth capable of growing and reproducing by using arsenic (Wolfe-Simon et al, 2010) and the criticism of the article and research articulated on science blogs (Lead by Rosie Redfield from University of British Columbia, Canada).

The article has great links to examples of science blogs. Most of them are within natural sciences (physics, chemistry, biology etc.) but they could serve as good inspiration also for bloggers working within other disciplines.

There are also interesting perspectives on the science blog and blogger by e.g.

  • Bora Zivkovic, science blogger and blog editor of Scientific American,
  • Carl Zimmer, a freelance science journalist and blogger,
  • Paul Zachary Myers, biology professor at the University of Minnesota, and blogger at Pharyngula
  • Jerry Coyne, blogger evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago

Below a few quotes from the article by the above mentioned people, relating to what motivates the science blogger.

“Redfield said she finds blogging—even if no one reads her posts—a valuable way to focus her thoughts

Bora Zivkovic: “The number one rule in the blogosphere is you never tell a blogger what to blog about. Those bloggers who started on their own who are scientists treasure their independence more than anything, so networks that give completely free reign and no editorial control are the only ones that can attract interesting bloggers with their own voices.”

Zimmer on the contrasts of the independence of blogging and traditional journalism. “You really get to set your own rules. You’re not working with any editor and you’re not trying to satisfy them. You’re just trying to satisfy yourself. “

Paul Zachary Myers: Passion is an important part of this. If you can communicate a love of the science that you’re talking about, then you’re a natural for blogging.”

Coyne: “Blogging gives you outreach potential that you really should have if you’re grant funded, and it’s fun. It opens doors for you that wouldn’t have opened if you just were in your laboratory. So I would recommend it. It takes a certain amount of guts to put yourself out there like that, but I find it immensely rewarding.”


Literature review proves: web2.0+public health=public health 2.0

Being true to the main focus of this blog on Public Health Sciences Communication 2.0 it is almost obligatory that I recommend this great and extensive literature review headlined “Public Health 2.0”. The comprehensive list of 109 articles has been put together by Dean Giustini and D. Westbrook from University of British Colombia in Canada and covers in the broadest sense articles on a large range of initiatives, research studies and phenomnoners of social media and other web2.0 elements directly applied to different areas of public health. If someone doubted that there was a connection between web2.0 and public health this should make them think otherwise. And no doubt this list is only the tip of the iceberg.

The list includes articles focusing generally on web2.0 technologies and its influence on public health, but also articles with examples of the concrete use or role of different kinds of social media in public health. This includes for example articles on the use of Twitter in epidemiological studies of H1NI, the Analysis of the use of Facebook for seeking support on breast cancer and YouTube as Source of Prostate Cancer Information. The majority of the articles are focused on the analysis of the content on different platforms, thus a focus on the population generated data as sources of information, but there are also a few articles looking at how social media can be used directly by researchers and policy makers to communicate health messages and on how social media can be used as a tool for researchers and policy makers in public health to communicate with each other. The number of articles on the later is however still limited.

Dean Giustini, is a reference librarian at the Biomedical Branch Library of University of British Colombia and leads a Master’s-level course on Social Media in Health and Medicine which I have previously written about here on this blog.

For a smaller and more digestible list of articles about social media and public health Youth Health 2.0 have put together a list of 9 cool public health and social media articles.


Updated list of # Health Care Social Media discussions on Twitter

Inspired by comments to my post about #hcsm, #hcsmeu etc, I have now updated the list with new regional twitter hashtags from Australia & New Zealand, Latin America, Asia and some country specific from Europe. In addition, there is also a #hcsmglobal. You can see the complete and updated list in the previous post.

Also it is possible through iTunes to download apps for some of the #hcsm. Eg. find the app for hcsmglobal here and the hcsmanz here.

Since the list is now quite long I thought I’d just share again what benefits there can be in following and contributing these hashtags.

Why use #hcsm, #hcsmeu or #hcsmca when you are on Twitter?

Apart from the scheduled discussions which many of these Twitter discussions groups have, it is also possible to use the hashtags outside the discussions when you are writing about something relevant to the topic health care communication & social media. So why should you do that? Well #hcsmca have listed some of the reasons, which I take the liberty of sharing with the rest of you in a slightly moderated version

  • Share and inform: Tell others about the great stuff you’ve read or are doing.
  • Broadcast good stuff: Don’t be shy. If you’ve got something you want to get out there, leverage the #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu communities and the get the word out about your new initiative, your latest blog post or an upcoming conference or event.
  • Ask questions: Adding #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu to your question lets you tap into the collective intelligence of a community that is further reaching than any single set of followers.
  • Request participation: If you’re looking for people to contribute comments, opinions or ideas, the Twitter discussion groups gives easy access to a broad range of people
  • Expand your network: Participate in #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu conversations any time and find people you want to follow and be found by others. This could be a way to connect with people you would normally not have access to
  • Twitter filter: Use it as a Twitter filter to make sure that tweets are relevant to your area of interest
  • Stay current: Get to know of new articles, initiative, projects, news quickly

I am trying to find the balance of which to follow and it is in the beginning a little time-consuming, but interesting indeed and a world one should be aware of. There are lots of people and insights to be found.


#hcsm #hcsmeu #hcsmca etc. – Twitter discussions on health and social media

A few months ago, the meaning of this: #hcsm, #hcsmeu of #hcsmca would have been the greatest mystery to me. I now know of course that they are hashtags(#) for Twitter discussions on topics under the umbrella of health care and social media.

The concept is similar to that of the Twitter Journal Clubs. Once a week at a given time a discussion on an before hand agreed topic takes place. All who are interested are welcome to participate. All they have to do is be online, have a Twitter account and through tweets equiped with the appropriate hashtag share their views, opionons, articles etc. These kinds of discussions exits on a million topics I am sure. In this blog, I will write about a few of the most likely many health related Twitter discussions.

#hcsm is as mentioned above a discussion forum for health care and social media. it is focused on a global conversation, but there are several subgroups each focused on for example a specific geographical area such as Europe: #hcsmeu, Latin America: #hcsmla, Canada: #hcsmca and more.

I admit, that I have not yet been an active contributor to the scheduled discussions, but do enjoy the amazing thing about Twitter discussion: the open format and that everyone can follow it, also after it has taken place. In order to get myself a better overview of the #hcsm’s I have come across until now I thought I’d just list them here. Mostly as a help to myself, but perhaps it would also be useful to others too. Therefore the blog format.

#hcsm – Healthcare Communications & Social Media

#hcsm seems to have been the ‘original’ hcsm. It is a weekly chat on Twitter held every Sunday night at 8pm Central Time. It was established in January 2009 as a way to bring individuals together to discuss health care and communications and social media – including doctors, patients, lawyers, communicators, for-profits, non-profits, hospitals, health systems, insurers, and many more. The topic for each chat is decided by a moderator but based on suggestions from the participants which can be tweeted to @HealthSocMed. On the website it is possible to watch past live #hcsm streams (eg. October 23). The questions/topics cover a quite wide arrange of issues. Sometimes it is broad questions like “Which disease/condition is receiving the most resources/attention/support via SM? Why? How can we reach more patients? But others are much more narrow: “Advanced speech recognition (ie Siri for iPhones) is here – should automated health Q&As be monitored?”. The relevance to Public Health Science Communication varies a lot of course. The main focus is health care and the role of patients. But sometimes the discussion topics s are indeed very Public Health relevant, eg. “How do you prevent spread of misinformation during crises? How do you educate public to know who/what to trust online?”

#hcsm has a website/blog and Twitter hashtag.

#hcsmeu – Healthcare Social Media in Europe

#hcsmeu is a community of EU healthcare blogger, twitterers and social media users. They describe themselves as a space for all healthcare enthusiasts to meet and converse, to  post and share events, projects and initiatives within social media healthcare.The main focus is patient centered. The mission is to help drive forward the adaptation of social media can improve quality, access, value and effectiveness of health care delivery to patients. The hope is to increase the empowerment of patients in health prevention and disease recovery. #hcsmeu convene at noon UK time / 1pm central European time every Friday for a Twitter discussion of health care and social media.

#hcsmeu has a website/blog, a Twitter hashtag, are on Facebook and LinkedIn.

In addition to the general hcsm for Europe, a number of countries have their own #hcsm discussions. These include France (#hcsmeufr in French), Spain (#hcsmeues in Spanish), Austria (only own website, uses #hcsmeu) and UK (#hcsmuk also has a daily collection of links)

 

 

#hcsmca – Healthcare Social Media in Canada

I thought I’d also just list #hcsmca, since Canadian Universities seem to be very much one of the frontrunners in linking public health and social media. Health Care Social Media Canada a was inspired by the success of #hcsm and #hcsmeu. Like the bigger #hcsm, Healthcare Social Media Canada also hosts a weekly tweet chat which takes place on Wednesdays at 1pm EST. Again, the focus is primarily on the patient and relation between patient and health care provider. Transcripts of past chats in can be found in a Transcripts Collection where the content of  is searchable. The #hcsmca also has monthly meetups across Canada where the participants can meet in person.

#hcsmca have website/blog and can be found on Facebook and LinkedIn.

#hcsmanz – Health Care Social Media Australia and New Zealand [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

#hcsmanz is Australia and New Zealand’s version of #hcsm discussion groups. It is of course primarily aimed at interested professionals working with health related issues in Australia and New Zealand. The concept is the same with a weekly discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #hcsmanz. The discussion takes place every Sunday evening on Twitter at 22:00NZ, 20:00AEDT, 19:00AEST, 19:30ACDT, 17:00AWST. Transcripts from the discussion are available here. See the below comment to this blog post to read more about the #hcsmanz’s discussions and the main areas of focus which is influenced by the large distances and geographically layout of e.g. Australia, why rural health and equity is a common theme for the discussions.

#hcsmanz can be found on Facebook and there is a The #hcsmanz Daily collecting the relevant links shared via the hashtag.

#hcsmla – Health Care Social Media Latin America [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

#hcsmla covers Latin America and is naturally a discussion conducted in Spanish mainly. It started with a beta version in November 2010 and is therefore approaching its one year anniversary. As my Spanish skills are still not strong enough to read and follow discussions I encourage you to visit www.hcsmla.com. The concept is the same with a weekly discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #hcsmla. The discussions take place every Tuesday evening (for the specific time check the website). Transcripts from the discussion are available from there website.

#hcsmla can be found on Facebook and on their website/blog.

#hcsmasia – Health Care Social Media Asia [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

Also Asia have their geographic twitter discussion on health care and social media under the #hcsmasia. It is used for people interested in following news, blogs, and tweets regarding  healthcare information in Asia and  the use of the internet and Social Media. The concept is the same with a weekly discussion on Twitter using the hashtag #hcsmasia. #hcsmasia has a monthly twitter chat every first Tuesday of the month at 9 pm JPT. Based on a quick view tt does not seem to be as actively used as many of the other #hcsms, but is also one of the most recent having been establish in February 2011.

#hcsmasia can be found on Facebook and on their website.

#hcsmglobal – Health Care Social Media Global [added to this blog 27. October 2011]

In addition to regional hcsms there is a discussion group that calls itself #hcsmglobal. They tweet under the hashtag #hcsmglobal and aim to bring together people from different chapters health care social media discussions happening to discuss once a month. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find out exactly when these monthly discussions take place, so follow the hashtag.

#hcsmglobal can be found on Facebook, their website and there is a The #hcsmglobal Daily collecting the relevant links shared via the hashtag.

#hcsmse Health Care Social Media Sweden [added to this blog 21. November 2011]

A brand new hcsm in Europe had its first pilot chat this month. #hcsmse from Sweden is know facilitating discussions in Swedish on Fridays from 12-1pm. A transcript from the first #hcsmse discussion is available online. Also a Wikimap of the discussion can be found. The first discussion was in Swedish (and Danish), and the questions up for discussion are posed in Swedish. Comments in English are however also welcomed by the moderators. So don’t hold back in joining the discussion.

@hcsmse do not yet have a facebook presence or seperate website, but news about it is posted on www.stockholm-life.se.

Lots of other social media and Twitter based discussion groups out there

There are lots and lots of other hashtags, discussion forums out there. It is really quite a jungle. For me it is a little bit trial and error to find out which ones are relevant for me to follow. #hitsm (Health IT Social Media) is for example sometimes interesting to follow, but also quite heavily IT focused. I have earlier blogged about the Twitter Journal Clubs which are also examples of Twitter forums for discussions of public health related issues in a virtual discussion group. As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn also have many groups for linking and raising discussions on public health issues. The possibilities are enormous, so I guess it is mostly a question of trying it out and find out which groups suits one’s needs.

Why use #hcsm, #hcsmeu or #hcsmca when you are on Twitter?

Apart from the scheduled discussions which many of these Twitter discussions groups have, it is also possible to use the hashtags outside the discussions when you are writing about something relevant to the topic health care communication & social media. So why should you do that? Well #hcsmca have listed some of the reasons, which I take the liberty of sharing with the rest of you in a slightly moderated version

  • Share and inform: Tell others about the great stuff you’ve read or are doing.
  • Broadcast good stuff: Don’t be shy. If you’ve got something you want to get out there, leverage the #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu communities and the get the word out about your new initiative, your latest blog post or an upcoming conference or event.
  • Ask questions: Adding #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu to your question lets you tap into the collective intelligence of a community that is further reaching than any single set of followers.
  • Request participation: If you’re looking for people to contribute comments, opinions or ideas, the Twitter discussion groups gives easy access to a broad range of people
  • Expand your network: Participate in #hcsm/#hcsmca/#hcsmeu conversations any time and find people you want to follow and be found by others. This could be a way to connect with people you would normally not have access to
  • Twitter filter: Use it as a Twitter filter to make sure that tweets are relevant to your area of interest
  • Stay current: Get to know of new articles, initiative, projects, news quickly

I am trying to find the balance of which to follow and it is in the beginning a little time-consuming, but interesting indeed and a world one should be aware of. There are lots of people and insights to be found.


Quick follow-up on Twitter Surgery

To those of you who have been reading my posts about the Live-tweet brain surgery, which was performed at the Regional Epilepsy Center at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center (Aurora Health Care) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I myself have been wondering how the patient is doing and what experience came out of the whole Twitter event.

Peter Balistrieri, Manager of Digital Communications at Aurora Health Care have been so kind as to share some of the experiences on my previous post in the comments section and to those that haven’t read that far I thought I’d just link to 10 tips for tweeting a successful brain surgery. The tips are very hands-on and seem specifically directed towards others considering taking up live-tweeting from the surgery room. But there are some interesting aspects also for people outside the world of surgeries and hospitals. For example I find the recommendation of developing a relationship with the patient and doctors and surgeons prior to the Twitter surgery interesting. This is not only of benefits to the tweeters but also to the followers and gives a story-telling feeling to something otherwise very clinical and sterile.

That said I do miss a little bit of post-twitter-surgery-follow-up. Firstly, how is the patient, Geoffery, doing? We were all right there with him on the operation table, and curiosity bids me to wonder how he is doing today? And secondly, I am ver curious to know how the medical staff perceive the whole Twitter situation? Who followed the event and did it have the intended effect? What have the responses been? From patients, from colleagues, from patient organisations? Lots of question comes to mind and the only online follow-up that I have been able to find so far has so far been the before mentioned 10 lessons learned and an official announcement of a successful surgery with a short note that Geoff is doing well and that we’ll hear more from him 2+ weeks. I’m looking forward to that update. But also an update from the medical staff and perhaps for some reflections on the educational effect of the Twitter event, especially when putting on the ‘science communication’ perspective, which I would argue to some extend be relevant for an event like this one.


Even researchers and doctors go to Wikipedia for health information

WikipediaMy general practitioner might just have visitied Wikipedia when he did a Google search on some health topic he came across and needed more information on. A surprise? Well, no not really. I myself use it both outside my professional life and in my public health research life, so why shouldn’t my doctor. However, it is my sense that Wikipedia is still not something researcher talk about when they discuss how they search for information or how they share their own knowledge.

Last week I blogged about Wikipedia trainings at McMaster University in Canada and I seem to have not been able to let go of the topic of Wikipedia. Not having looked that carefully on the relevance of Wikipedia to public health before it wasn’t until now that I came by this article on how Wikipedia can be A Key Tool for Global Public Health Promotion.

The article is published in the latest 2011 volume of Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR), a peer-reviewed transdisciplinary journal on health and health care in the Internet age. The authors , Dr James Heilman et al., are all members of the Wiki Project Medicine and therefore naturally advocates of developing Wikipedia in the field of the health.

Based on a belief that Wikipedia’s potential to work as a tool for worldwide health promotion is underestimated, James Heilman et al. draws attention to and encourages medical professionals, their societies, patient groups, and institutions to help improve Wikipedia’s health-related entries. Using recent statistics on who uses Wikipedia they brings attention to the fact that Wikipedia is a major source of health information, both for many professional and the general public. Below some of the figures from the article:

“Studies have found that 70% of junior physicians use Wikipedia in a given week, while nearly 50% to 70% of practicing physicians use it as an information source in providing medical care [3436]. The junior physicians used Wikipedia more frequently than all other websites excluding Google [34]. Of pharmacists who responded to a questionnaire, 35% admitted using it [37]. The medical articles on Wikipedia receive about 150 million page views per month, with the top 200 most-visited medical articles each receiving more than 100,000 views per month and the top 500 each receiving greater than 60,000 views per month [38].”

Part of the aim of the authors is to get the medical (and this would include the public health community I assume) to see the necessity but also benefits in participating in developing and quality ensuring the medical articles on Wikipedia.

They do this by discussing the intricacies, strengths, and weaknesses of Wikipedia’s health related entries. The listing of weaknesses and limitations of the online encyclopedia are very useful as they provide important background knowledge to be aware of both when using and contributing to Wikipedia.

Another useful listing in the article are a list of reasons why physician should contribute to Wikipedia (they highlights below are my highlights)

  • It may be personally satisfying to provide an important educational service for individuals looking for health information, and to see articles grow that one created or improved.
  • While not having a high scientific impact, Wikipedia’s articles have a high social impact due to its broad readership. In the experience of the authors, a newly created article can often be found among the top Google results within a day, often outperforming review articles in highly regarded medical journals.
  • Editing or adding information helps contributing students or professionals master the subject matter and learn more about the evidence underpinning it.
  • Translating complex ideas into accessible concepts and language is an interesting intellectual challenge, which can help in everyday nontechnical communication with patients.
  • Writing for Wikipedia teaches modern online communication.
  • WikiProject Medicine offers participation and recognition in a Web-based international community.

Reading the list, I couldn’t help thinking whether adding to this list a public health obligation to share knowledge on a media which so many people use. Using the argument that medical professionals by contributing to health related entries live up to a responsibility of providing patients and colleagues with the correct information. Perhaps it is taking it a little too far, but then again my guess is that it could be a motivating factor for many physicians and researchers. In addition, there could be a benefit for researchers in sharing findings, research projects and results with a broader group and thereby live up to the obligation of communicating science and promoting their own research.

Having more people contribute to Wikipedia, however requires increased awareness and training in using it. The idea of familiarizing university students and staff through workshops as they have been doing at McMaster University is a relevant strategy. Perhaps it could even be taken a step further and included in mandatory classes on science communication.


Public health interest in a correct and elaborate wikipedia?

I just thought I’d share with you a short follow-up to my previous post about a Wikipedia training session at McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences. In an article in the online local newspaper TheSpec.com the session, which approximately 30 people attended, is mentioned.

There are some interesting statistics and an insight into how one can almost get hooked on sharing knowledge via Wikipedia. I particular find the reflections by Dr. James Heilman (president of Wikimedia Canada) on public health responsibility in making sure that health and medicine related information on Wikipedia is correct, very interesting:

“Whether we like it or not, the world is going to Wikipedia as its primary source of information … so I see it as a public health measure for physicians to make sure the health-care content is accurately covered.”

According to Dr. Christopher Mackie, assistant professor in the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, it is the hope that the faculty will incorporate Wikipedia in their class assignments. He points out that it would be:

“a huge missed opportunity when you have these very intelligent people doing research papers and learning all about an issue just to have the paper sit on a shelf … we can leverage the knowledge to improve everyone’s knowledge about health-care subjects. We all have an interest in making sure good information is available.”

For Dr James Heilman the project of making researchers and universities explore and contribute to Wikipedia was to continue at University of British Columbia. I believe it was in connection with this event Wikipedia and Higher Education.

I wonder if a similar training session would be something that could be introduced at the University of Copenhagen?