Category: Science writing

Annual review: Summaries, essays and productive conferences

The post on 27 deaths out of 100 people receiving methadone in primary care over 17 years was the most frequently visited of the year but also the gloomiest.
I’ve had an inspired year here at the Be-seen, with a brilliant string of posts about new research articles ranging from a progressive post from the Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine on improving writing groups for addiction researchers, to emerging treatments for cocaine addiction, and along the same theme a series covering my topic of interest in drinking by people who also use other drugs. Here’s the list of new paper summaries in chronological order:
Summaries of new papers 
* First or senior author papers
In sum, the main themes of this year were not only summaries of new papers but also essays on writing and conference reports.
Conferences April-June

With three new entries on academic and cultural meetings, these may be of great interest to my readers fascinated by communication in science and art and blending the boundaries between the two disciplines:

Write well
The fastest start is to listen to patients’ stories – make evidence based responses part of your toolkit, whether it’s responding to the iatrogenic overdose epidemic or writing effective paragraphs.  Secondly, consider making scientific writing something that sticks to the brain. Have a try at writing groups or writing classes – they can help. Have the courage to promote simplicity of writing in your field. I’m positive this is not all that I will have to say on the topic – watch this space.
Essays

Literary editors who helped
Adam Nanji, Vancouver is Awesome http://vancouverisawesome.com/
Tara Siebarth and Ashleigh VanHouten, University Affairs www.universityaffairs.ca
Stephen Strauss, Canadian Science Writers http://sciencewriters.ca/4072583
Journal editors who helped
Twelve addiction journal editors helped with publishing 16 papers:
Roger Jones, BJGP www.bjgp.org
Jeffrey Samet, Addict Sci& Clin Practice https://ascpjournal.biomedcentral.com/
Richard Saitz, J Addict Medicine www.journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/Pages/default.aspx
Richard Pates, J Substance Use www.tandfonline.com/loi/ijsu20
Tim Rhodes, J Int Drug Policy www.ijdp.org 
Michael Morgan, Addiction www.addictionjournal.org
John Lyne, Irish J Psychol Medicine www.journals.cambridge.org/article_S0790966700017535
Pedro Ruiz, Addict Disorders& Their Treatment www.journals.lww.com/addictiondisorders/Pages/default.aspx
Donata Kurpas, BMC Family Practice www.bmcfampract.biomedcentral.com
Axel Klein, Drugs and Alcohol Today www.emeraldinsight.com/toc/dat/15/4
Wim van den Brink, European Addict Research www.karger.com/EAR/
Jelle Stoffers, Eur J Gen Practice www.tandfonline.com/loi/igen20
In the meantime, I also continued to write in Slovak magazines and in my community of writers. In Slovak, I wrote for Slovo and Zpravodaj edited by Jozef Starosta and Marta Jamborova, respectively.
Early in the January and late in December, I wrote poems with my community of writers from the Thursdays Writing Collectivefacilitated by the fantastic Elee Kralji Gardiner and Amber Dawn. During the year, I wrote with the writers from the Writer’s Studio. Some of those poems landed on stage of the Vancouver Poetry Slam and on their video channel.
Thanks to all of my readers. It’s been over four years for the Be-seen blog now and I owe a lot to the editors and readers. I hope readers will continue to feel that this is a resource for them to visit and engage with.


Optimizing writing schemes for addiction researchers

The “coolest” science writing isn’t necessarily found in the science press.

– Surgeon and New Yorker contributor Gawande in The Best American Science Writing 2006

Writing constitutes a significant challenge for junior addiction researchers. Writing support programmes appear to improve writing skills and enhance productivity. However, addiction researchers have not benefited from writing support groups to the same extent as other professions, mainly due to the lack of support for and considerable variation among these programmes. 
Given a lack of research about the contribution of writing support programmes to publication productivity among early-stage addiction researchers, this article offers critical insights into the process and outcomes of such programmes, based on the substantial experience accumulated from taking part in several writing support programmes, including the scheme of the International Society of Addiction Journal Editors (ISAJE). 

A better understanding of what makes writing groups effective may help build evidence for writing programs and universities to equip addiction investigators with the skills they need to improve the health of people with substance use disorders via better writing. Read more in the Journal of Substance Use  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14659891.2016.1235735 

From stage to studio – one poet’s journey

Spoken word poetry slams can be exhausting. Although the live feedback from interested audience re-charges most poets’ batteries, sometimes it’s good to just take time off and go back to the studio; more precisely, the Writers’ Studio (TWS). Don’t be confused. This isn’t a special recording studio for writers, but a year-long, part-time postgraduate certificate in creative writing at the Simon Fraser University, Department of Continuing Education
I “went” to the studio to learn how to write longer poems and how to edit poetry. 
The studio offered to:
  • Get hands-on creative writing training
  • Study under published authors
  • Make creative writing part of your life
  • Be part of a community of writers
As with every profession, there are many communities and sub-communities of writers. The studio made me part of a very special community of people who were published authors or who wanted to be published, but very few spoken word poets.
There were two main parts to the studio. First were the didactic lectures. Published authors lectured on theory and practice of writing. Second were the fortnightly workshop meetings. Each genre group met separately, about 8 students per group. As poets, we submitted our poems to everyone in the group one week before the meeting and read poems from classmates.
Workshop
The group feedback was the main vehicle of the workshop. When we got the poems from our classmates, we’ve read them, prepared a one-paragraph summary of our impressions on each poem and brought printed copy of each to the workshop night. At the meeting, a poet read their piece followed by oral feedback summary from two classmates. In this way, the structure of the workshop was similar to the writers’ taskforce group at UCLA. Later, we’ve abandoned the 2-reviewer model and let everyone say one good thing and one bad thing about the poem. All received written reviews from classmates and mentor.
Saturdays
Saturdays were killing me. Having a full-time job and a kid to raise, I’ve realized the high toll that weekend courses put on families. Because the whole cohort came to the Saturday classes, connecting with the rest of the class was very nice and well-earned gain of taking the time away from my family.
Readings
Mondays were for readings; in-class preparation for the real world readings in the Cottage bistro where the TWS community gathered. Tutors modeled reading style and gave pearls of wisdom to students.
Lessons learnt
Halfway there, I found that the Studio helped me to “see” into my poems more. However, the most useful learning came from realizing what I didn’t want to do:
I don’t want to write alone only.
I want to write with others regularly.
I don’t want to chase poetry publications.
I want to speak poetry out loud.
I’m not a page poet.
I’m a stage poet.
I don’t want to write concrete poetry.
I want my poems image full.
I don’t want to analyse poems too much.
I want to share instant thoughts on poems.
I don’t like long, elaborate prompts.
I like short, spontaneous prompts.
Watch this place for my views on the 2nd semester in the Writers’ Studio.

Discovering Thursdays Writing Collective

Thursdays
When I first arrived in Vancouver, Canada, I was desperate to join a writing collective. My experience with the Dublin’s Writers Forum and the Oregon’s Write Around Portland taught me the power of writing groups. I observed that collective writing fosters motivation and provides a way out of the isolation that this solitary activity can otherwise induce, making writing communal. It shows that though we’re able to write alone, we don’t have to. We can write together, too, and this changes the stereotype—and daunting nature—of being a solitary writer!
 
 
photocredit: thursdayswritingcollective.ca
 

Time to write simply

How junior researchers can write effectively and simply? Use simple style in all your writing, whether it’s an email, an invitation or a reference letter.

 

photocredit: universityaffairs.ca

I am so tired of reading badly written science. I barely finish reading articles that runs over one page. None of my friends read (my) articles. The feeling of failure spreads in me like cancer. Firstly, I’m worried that we have failed everyday people who need our answers the most. Secondly, I fear that I, my colleagues and my mentors have failed future scientists by passing our bad writing habits on to them. How junior researchers can write effectively and simply?

Read my latest article in the Career Advice section of the University Affairs magazine website:

http://www.universityaffairs.ca/career-advice/career-advice-article/

 

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