Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET) in Switzerland

As member of the European Public Health Association (EUPHA) I receive a monthly newsletter with relevant Public Health news from the region. I have previously criticized EUPHA for their lack of focus on public health communication (see blog post “European Public Health Association and the missing communication category”).


I maintain my critic, but must also congratulate them when public health communication does sneak its way into for example their newsletter.

Thus, in the January 2014 newsletter under Upcoming Courses and Conferences attention is made to the Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET), which will take place in Lugano, Switzerland 26-28 June 2014. The conference aims to bring together communication researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds, ranging from healthcare specialities to the human and social sciences.

The first Conference on Communication, Medicine and Ethics (COMET) was hosted by the Health Communication Research Centre at Cardiff University, UK in 2003 and was attended by more than 200 participants from 20 countries. Based on its success COMET has now established itself as an annual interdisciplinary, international event.

COMET is described as using a problem-oriented approach, and places special emphasis on the dissemination of high quality research in interpersonal, mass communication, and practical ethics which is directly relevant to healthcare practitioners.

The 2014 conference will focus especially on the dissemination of ongoing research in Doctor-Patient communication studies, health communication in the media, as well as practical ethics which engages directly with healthcare practitioners. Looking at the list of proposed topics and keynote speakers, it does seem like especially the doctor-patient communication will be given much attention, but I’m happy to note that themes like “Communicating Risk and Uncertainty”; ” Interprofessional Communication and Hospital Management Systems” and “Media and Health Communication” also figures on the list.

Assessing myself unlikely to attend, I do hope that the conference will set up a hashtag for Twitter and encourage social media activity during the conference, so that a broad audience (including me) can be reached.

The organisers of the conference accepted proposals for either panels or paper presentations (oral or poster) within the main themes up until 31st January 2014, so unfortunately the deadline has been passed, but I look forward to seeing the complete programme once it becomes available.

ScienceOnline CLIMATE

scienceonlineclimateI am really not a climate expert or anything close but I am a fan of the ScienceOnline non-conference format, so I thought I’d just promote a bit the ScienceOnline Climate which runs today and tomorrow (15-16 August 2013) in Washington DC, USA.

ScienceOnline is about science communication using social media and other new media to communicate research and science understood in its broadest term. It’s mission is to cultivate the ways science is conducted, shared, and communicated online. It brings together a diverse group of researchers, science writers, artists, programmers, and educators who conduct or communicate science online. The goal is better science communication within the science community, with the public, and with policymakers.

I have only had the opportunity to participate in an ScienceOnline event in-person once, but have followed more online, and I must say I love the concept. ScienceOnline Climate narrows down the focus of science communication to looking at communication of climate related research. According to the planners the event “will explore the intersection of climate science, communication, and the web. Complex scientific concepts will be interwoven with creative communications approaches through the connective power of the internet. It will be an energizing experience for scientists, journalists, artists, policymakers, and attendees from all nodes of the climate communications ecosystem.”

Some sessions will be live-streamed and there will be lots of tweeting too on the hashtag #scioclimate. Take a look at the schedule for the conference to see if anything is of interest to you.

Exploring science communication in… Heidelberg, Germany

When I moved to Bonn, Germany six months ago it was with great ambitions of exploring the German (Public Health) science communication community. Somehow time flew by and different job opportunities, unexpected travels, practicalities and even sickness kept me from getting started on my exploring.

But last week, into my inbox dropped an email with an update from one of the LinkedIn groups I follow (it’s called Science Communication). The headline was Career Day in Heidelberg: Science Communication and Journalism. After orienting myself on a map and finding Heidelberg to be only two hours train ride from Bonn, I decided to sign up for the day.

heidelbergposterThe Career day is organised by Heidelberg University Graduate School (HBIGS) and German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). It’s a one-day event organised as a seminar with presentations and panel discussions and then an opportunity to have a round table lunch with one of the speakers for a more informal chat. I have signed up for lunch with Dr. Monika Mölders, who is working for the medical company Roche.

As I understand it, the presenters are mainly scientists whom have gone on to become professional communicators. Some work at Press and Public Relations Offices others work with Corporate Communication at companies and others are science journalists.

Practically all the names on programme are new to me, so I look forward to meeting them and hopefully get into the German Science Communication community. Coming to science communication from a public health perspective it is also great to see that there is a good representation of people from health related organisations (perhaps not so surprising now that one of organisers is the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)).

Should you want to join, but is not at as easy distance to Heidelberg as I happen to be then they give you the option of “receiving information without attending”. Am not sure what that means, but if you go to the registration page you can check this option at the bottom of the page and see what happens.

Online Science Communication the French way

Science communication and the internet is becoming a topic all over the world. Also France are tuning in on it. A conference next week at the Pasteur Institute brings people together to discuss how science communicated via the internet can help bring science to a wider public.

The conference which is entitled ‘Communiquer la science via internet’ takes place on the 25 September and you can read the programme here.

The conference aims to promote reflection and dialogue between science producers and citizens to improve science communication.

The conference is number three in a series of conferences focusing on communicating science. The initiative for the conference comes from a number of research institutions (Andra, CEA, Genopole, Inserm, Institut Pasteur, IRD, Cemagref), IHEST (Institute des Hautes Etudes pour la Science et la Technologie) and Universcience,

The conference is aimed at producers of science, public communicators, program designers, animators sites, the media, and the Internet.

Thanks to Karine Blandel from for letting me know of the conference.

ScienceOnline2012 – a look at the sessions on students and online science communication

Is it possible to split oneself into several Is? Could I perhaps borrow Hermione’s time turner next week and thus be able to travel back in time? Both would be great solution to this small problem I have. Next week, I’m attending the ScienceOnline2012 conference (see more below) in North Carolina, and the programme is simply packed with super interesting sessions – many of them taking place in parallel.

I will not try to summarize the full agenda of the conference, but encourage you to take a look at it yourself. Even if you can’t attend there will surely be lots of live-tweeting from it.With a masters course in Public Health Science Communication coming up this fall at University of Copenhagen, (mentioned in earlier posts), it seems only relevant to try and make it to some of the sessions that focus on students and science communication. I have listed some of them below. It looks like a great place to get some inspiration on both tools to integrate into the classes (eg. blogs), and topics and themes to bring up. It will also be great to hear from students who themselves have blogged and acted as messengers of science.

Blogging in the undergraduate science classroom (how to maximize the potential of course blogs)

Thursday January 19, 2012 2:45pm – 3:45pm

This session will mainly feature a roundtable discussion of “best practices” for incorporating blogs into undergraduate courses. Possible topics that will be covered: Developing, evaluating, and grading assignments, incorporating blogs into syllabi, how blogging can contribute to learning goals, privacy versus openness, especially with respect to FERPA, and interacting with students with social media more broadly (e.g. twitter, G+, Facebook, etc).

Undergraduate Education: Collaborating to create the next generation of open scientists

Thursday January 19, 2012 4:00pm – 5:00pm

Science faculty and librarians can collaborate on many aspects of undergraduate education – two ideas are the focus of this discussion. First: How can we best help undergrads understand and explore the scholarly information landscape? In addition to formal sources like journal articles, informal sources (e.g., blogs) are of increasing importance/relevance, which raises a question: How do we get students to think about what formal and informal really mean? How do we – faculty, librarians and others – work together to teach students to navigate the disciplinary landscape and become productive and critical consumers of – and contributors to – the disciplinary conversation? Second: How do we introduce students to the great big wide world of open science? How do the various players in higher education communicate to the next generation the incredible depth and complexity of what going on out there? How do we raise (inspire? support?) the next generation of Cameron Neylons, Steve Koches and Jean-Claude Bradleys (not to mention the next generation of Dorothea Salos and Christina Pikases)?

Next generation of Bloggers

Friday January 20, 2012 10:45am – 11:45am

From classroom blogging, to blogging at Nature, these students had quite a year! They’d like to start by talking about their experience with blogging so far, what they’ve learned, where they’ve had problems, and where they’ve been successful. Then, they want to get ideas from the audience on how to start a 1 day conference in NYC for middle/high school students interested in blogging.

Students as messengers of science

Saturday January 21, 2012 9:30am – 10:30am

High school and undergraduate students have a unique place in engaging their communities through science, while becoming the next generation of scientists, science writers, and journalists. As an increasingly diverse pool of students engage their families in their pursuits through mentoring, research and other immersion programs, as well as writing and journalism, they lay the groundwork for making science accessible for the non-scientists in their lives, representing a range of diverse ethnic and socio-economic communities. How as educators and mentors do we nurture them as scientists and communicators? What skills and practices are key for helping young people reflect on learning while also developing effective communication skills? This session will foster a discussion of the barriers, challenges and best practices for creating the infrastructure, mentoring relationships, and building the confidence of students as they experience science to help them develop their voices. The session will also explore how we recruit readers of such sites, and will explore examples of online media connected with science engagement programs geared toward high school and undergraduate students that are creating a local culture of science, among traditionally underrepresented communities, with a local impact.

Some facts

ScienceOnline2012 is the sixth annual international meeting on science and the Web. The participants are scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

ScienceOnline2012 – #scio12 across social media – will take place January 19-21, 2012 on the campus of N.C. State University, with some 450 participants

Comics for public health science communication?

Could Public Health research findings, public health messages or social aspects of health care be communicated through comics? Would it only be relevant if you want to target children?

If you lived, in Japan you would be very likely to answer no to that question. Manga, a Japanese form of comic, is an integrated part of the Japanese population’s every day life. In any convenience store, news papers will be side by side of Mangas and they are not ‘just’ comics. There is actually a Manga newspaper (direct link to Manga No Shimbun) and manga is used for many educational purposes too.

That not only Japan makes use of comics to communicate professional issues, including medicine came to my attention yesterday, when I on Twitter came across an upcoming conference on Comics and Medicine in Toronto in July 2012.

This interdisplicinary conference on Comics and Medicine is the third of its kind and aims to explore the intersection of sequential visual arts and medicine. The upcoming conference will look at perspectives which are often under-represented in graphic narratives, such as barriers to healthcare, the stigma of mental illness and disability, and the silent burden of caretaking. They are currently accepting proposals for scholarly papers and discussions: Comics & Medicine Call for Papers.

Very often science communication is considered as something that takes place only in peer-reviewed journals, international conferences and internal seminars, but the example of Comics and Medicine just illustrates the range of channels and formats for science communication is diverse! This I find exiting!

Al though I do not myself have experience with comics for science communication, I feel like highlighting a Japanese Manga that I myself have become quite hooked on. Oishinbo is a Japanese manga about Japanese food, traditions on how to prepare it, the philosophy behind it etc. It is extremely educational, interesting and fun. Have you got just the slightest interest in the Japanese cuisine, I can only recommend that you dig into the universe of Oishinbo!

First steps taken by online-public-health-discussion-facilitator-legs

My online-public-health-discussion-facilitator-legs have now taken their first steps – and I survived it and would even call it succesful. It is definitely not a discussion that will stand out in history, but it was useful for me and I believe a good introduction of the potential of using social media at seminars, to the people who were exposed to it.

As I blogged about last week, I was asked by the Danish Alumni for Candidates in Public Health (FKFSV) to facilitate an attempt to do some online discussion at their annual meeting [in Danish].

The meeting was live-streamed and people outside the meeting room could therefore participate in the discussion via Facebook and Twitter (using #fkfsv).

I thought I’d share my experiences and reflections on the whole online event and my facilitation thoughts in bullets. So here we go:

Introducing social media to the Danish Public Health community

  • The meeting confirmed what I already expected: that the Danish Public Health Community is not well acquainted with using social media for professional purposes and therefore the number of actively participating online participants was very limited (in addition to me as facilitator 6 people took part).
  • Facebook is the main social media platform for the Danes. Twitter is still unexplored and thus very few have an account, and those who do hardly uses it. The discussion on Twitter was therefore very limited – which was a shame. Facebook was more active, despite the fact that it is not optimal for live discussion. Both because the discussion easily becomes fragmented (taking place as comments to different statuses etc.) and because it allows people to just type away resulting in very long questions. The 140 characters from Twitter is definitely not something people are used to.
  • Posing questions to the experts and politicians through Twitter and Facebook was very effectual. Making a point out the fact that the question came from someone following the discussion from outside the meeting room (at some point even questions from Berlin) was good. Both in terms of making people aware of what social media can be used for but also in interacting with the online participants and making them feel as part of the seminar.
  • Although the actual online discussion was very limited and perhaps could not even be characterised as a discussion but rather a channel for posing questions to the speakers and the political panel, I believe we made a good splash for social media. People participating in the meeting itself expressed that they found it ‘cool’ and useful. There were even people signing up for a Twitter account during the conference!

Facilitation requires participation

  • Having the discussion take place on two platforms is, as I expected, not optimal. However, in a situation where not that many people are present online and the objective primarily is to interact with the live seminar, it was essential to have both Facebook and Twitter going. The linkage between the two when using # on Facebook updates was helpful (although it doesn’t apply to comments on Facebook statuses). We could probably easily have had only Facebook going, but I found it important to introduce Twitter as a useful and appropriate alternative.
  • I had prior to the seminar decided that my role was to facilitate and not do live-tweeting of the discussion. This choice was based on two factors. 1) I thought it  was better not to both report of what was happening and be a facilitator; and 2) the meeting was being live-streamed so most people would be able to get the “full” content of the meeting, making live-tweeting a bit redundant. After the meeting I still think this was the right choice, especially if the discussion had been more lively. Live-tweeting is great, but should be assigned to someone other than the facilitator or just happen impulsively from the participants.
  • I didn’t participate much myself (mostly because there was not really a discussion going on), but it was clear to me, that it was important to have a clear distinction between Nina-the-facilitator and the public-health-Nina. This meant that using different accounts for the two identities was important.
  • The seminar took place on a Friday afternoon/evening . Starting at 4pm and ending around 8pm is perhaps not the best conditions for an active online discussion. It was clear that the most participation was between 4 and 5.30 after which it almost died out. Understandably I would say, so no critic there. Just a lessons learned that timing of the event if you want an active online environment too is important. It could be fun trying to establish some online event during working hours and see how that goes.
  • Introducing the possibility of sharing links via Twitter and Facebook was good. In this particular case it didn’t contribute much to the discussion, but as facilitator it was nice to be able guide and qualify the discussion by introducing that element of using social media for online discussions.


All in all I think it went well. The most important thing was for me to introduce social media as an element in seminars such as the annual meeting and hopefully also beyond the meeting room. It was my sense that some of the people who had never considered social media as something relevant for their work (and there are many of these if you ask me) were shown in a good way that social media may have a role to play. It is a small beginning and tiny first step, but perhaps people will be just a little bit more alert to it next time they come across cases of social media used as a tool in relation to practicing, discussing or researching public health. For me personally, it was fun trying to foster some communication, and especially keeping attention to how you make what happens in the meeting room and online come together. I look forward to trying it again sometime – hopefully with a few more active people online. My online-public-health-discussion-facilitator-legs can definitely take more steps before they are stable.

A facilitator of an online public health seminar discussion – me?

So, on Friday I will for the first time be trying out my online-public-health-discussion-facilitator-legs. I have never tried this before and must admit that I am still a little bit in the dark on how to go about it. I have a few times in real life and in informal manors facilitated discussions, but I am certain this will be somewhat different.

It is the Danish Alumni for Candidates in Public Health (FKFSV) that in connection with their annual meeting (in Danish) are hosting a discussion on new public health initiatives after the recent change of government. The meeting will proceed with three presentations by experts in public health and related disciplines and then a panel of four politicians. So far 75 people have confirmed their attendance. As the meeting will be live-streamed, it is the hope that more people will follow it from home. And this is where I come into the picture. In an attempt to give the people joining from home a chance to take part in the discussions, the wish is to let them share their opinions, reactions and questions via Facebook (which is the dominating kind of social media in Denmark) and Twitter (using hashtag #fkfsv).

Me? an expert?

One (or at least I myself) could wonder why I have been asked facilitate this discussion. This is unfortunately not because I am a powerhouse of knowledge and experience, but more an indication of how small a role social media still plays in the public health field in Denmark. Thus, it seem that I am the person in the Danish Public Health Community who has the most experience with using Twitter and other kinds of social media in relation to public health… This also means that what I expect will be the biggest challenge for this particular online discussion is that so few people are used to discuss professionally through social media. It does however also imply that part of the whole exercise and success criteria is not just a fruitful discussion but perhaps just as important, to introduce the use of social media in Danish public health related events.

Connecting the seminar discussion with the online discussion

In trying to prepare for my facilitator role I searched both online and asked through Twitter for some inputs. Colleen Young (@colleen_young) and Andrew Sponge (@andrewsponge), both from the world of #hcsms and facilitators of the weekly discussions on social media and health care, were so kind to share some tips via Twitter. Their main advice was to focus on, in as many ways as possible, to connect the online conversation with what happens in the actual seminar. This could include requesting questions in advance, polling opinions during sessions via Twitter and perhaps projecting a Tweetwall, so that it is visual in the room. They also suggested inviting speakers/panels to reflect on the Twitter discussions perhaps even with a separate session. Colleen Young also drew my attention to a #hcsmca discussion earlier this November on using online support during conferences & workshops. Reading the transcript was very useful. It confirmed some of the benefits of social media in seminars/conferences which I myself have found useful, eg.

  • the possibility of sharing links with each other
  • the possibility of broadening the scoop of audience
  • the dynamics of incorporating Twitter feeds in questions to panelists,
  • the possibility  to engage in conversations beyond the podium, in and outside the room.
  • the engagement of those who are not comfortable to stand at the microphone
  • the transcripts which can help shape future conferences if organizers listen

The role of an online facilitator – a guide, not an expert

Some inputs on what is specifically required from an online facilitator I also found online (however I’m surprised of how little I could find). Al though quite basic and, one could argue, obvious, som of the points from the Facilitating Online Discussions Tool from the Australian website are useful.

They describe online facilitation as “the act of managing a discussion through an online medium, such as a chat room or online forums that can be hosted on your own site or one that is external to yours” and point out that as in any other kind of discussion facilitation, an online facilitator is a guide and not an expert. The role of the facilitator is to engage the participants, know when to let discussion flow and when to step in and moderate, create a positive atmosphere and keep people motivated to participate. Some of the tips include:

  • Be clear about your expectations to the discussion and don’t be afraid to put rules in place to keep the online discussion a safe and positive space for all involved. Moderation makes people feel safe, so be willing to do so if things get out of hand.
  • Have specific questions ready to ask your participants throughout the session, however don’t dominate the discussion. You want people to keep the conversation flowing, and for them to ask questions amongst themselves, so be open to this.
  • Give people notice that the discussion will be occurring, so that you can get the maximum number of attendees possible at the time.
  • Be aware of talking in the language that your participants are using. Language is something that can help build trust and rapport amongst your participants, so be flexible in the language you use when facilitating a discussion online. 
  • Give your participants a chance to give feedback about how the online discussion went after it has been completed. This allows for you to find out where things can be improved for the next time, so make sure you allow some time for this to occur.

Expectation to the discussion

As said, my expectation to and hope for the discussions on Friday can be divided into two parts. Naturally, I hope that there will actually be people present online and that it will be possible to engage them in the discussions. However, more importantly, I hope that this first attempt from FKFSV to introduce online discussion, will not scare of people from using social media at future public health seminars/conferences/meetings, but rather open up people’s eyes to the media and its possibilities. I look forward to trying out my online-public-health-discussion-facilitator-legs and welcome all your advice on how to best go about the facilitating role!

Blog post recommendation: How to use Twitter at your next medical conference

I have a few times now written about Twitter and its use in relation to research (eg. the post 10 Ways Researchers Can Use Twitter and my own Twitter experiences at Science Online London 2011). Following up on this I thought I’d just recommend a blog post I came across today. The post is entitled How to use Twitter at your next medical conference.

In the article, Christian Sinclair, a blogger at, gives a quick overview of how Twitter can be used at medical conferences, but the list applies to any kind of conference. Twitter can for example be a good initiator of discussions and to interact with eg. the moderator of panel discussions. It can be a useful tool to identify people working in the same area as yourself and set up meetings during the breaks, but also as a tool to capture information during the presentations and share it with not only others but also yourself after the conference where you can refer back to your tweets.

Admitted, it is hard to explain and understand how using Twitter during a conference actually works, but I think this blog post highlights some good points, and most of them reflect very much my first experiences with the recipe of Twitter+Conference.

I look forward to seeing this used in Public Health conferences. Perhaps it will even play a role at the upcoming European Public Health Conference which will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, 9-11 November 2011. At least they have a Twitter account (with so far 10 followers), and who knows there might even be a hashtag for the conference at some point….

Public Health 2.0 Conference in Toronto

It seems like Canada is the place to be when it comes to public health 2.0 at universities these days. University of British Colombia offers graduate classes on Social Media in Health and Medicine and University of Toronto is 23. September hosting a one-day conference on Public Health 2.0. The conference is led by graduate students from at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health as part of an annual student led conference event.

According to the conference website Public Health 2.0 will examine the use and implications of participatory technologies in public health. The conference will create a forum for students, community members and organizations, academics, and public health professionals to share their knowledge and concerns about the role of participatory technologies in public health and the practical skills required to effectively use these technologies.

Being a one-day conference it is of course limited how inclusive the programme can be, but also challenged by the fact that Public Health 2.0 is a broad topic – primarily because Public Health in itself covers so many disciplines and areas of work. The programme illustrates this very well by touching upon many different areas of public health 2.0.

The conference website has a lot of good preparational stuff. There a nice list of examples of Public Health 2.0 activities from around the world and informative background information on the different speakers.

I myself will unfortunately not be able to join, but hope that there will be some Twittering going on. Is there an assigned hashtag?

You can also follow the conference on Facebook and Twitter