Category: Science writing

Answer to Ethan #38: how to write a science blog

Ethan Siegel posed challenging questions in his post about science blogging. They prompted me to think about my own blog. If you’d ever been thinking about your own blog too, my thoughts might help.
Figure 1 Ethan’s blog. Photo credit scienceblogs.com

1) What is it that you’d like to write about?
I started my blog without careful planning. Shortly after the start, I’ve read someone else’s blog and I realized that I could write about the research I’m doing and about our research group. Blogging was my way of publicising and highlighting my research work. There wasn’t much research to write about at that time. Or, perhaps, as a starting writer, I didn’t see the writing opportunities as I see them now. I started to write about many other topics, including my personal life, hobbies and interests. Sometimes midway my evolution as a blogger, I took stock and divided my topics into three main categories: science, academic and creative. The science and academic categories differed mainly by the language and style of writing. Creative group was everything else. For instance, travel, concerts, poetry, etc.
2) Who is your audience?
Figure 2 William Zinsser, photo credit: npr.org

The first time I have been asked this question was when I talked to Rachel Dresbeck, PhD. I didn’t like that question because I was reading William Zinsser and he said to forget about writing for somebody. “Write for yourself”, I’ve read in his book (On writing well). I told Rachel that I’m writing for academics and psychiatrists who get bored on conferences and who check social media for amusement. She laughed. I laughed too. But there’s a grain of truth in that answer. I write for everybody who likes my posts and who shares my passions. As I grow, my passions develop too. With them, my target audience changes too – from enthusiast researchers and potential researchers to free spirits, artists and life lovers.

3) what are the goals of your writing?
To write a lot.
Some writing leads to more writing. It’s an amazing discovery; one topic leads to another.
To enjoy writing and like its results.
Some topics are easier to write about – on some days, my thoughts flow better. I find it really surprising to read posts that were difficult to write and see that I like them.
To share my ideas and see whether they spark some discussion.
In agreement with my point #1, I don’t write for a particular person or group. Nevertheless, I still want, need, and urge to share my writing with someone. Maybe it’s just the residual momentum from my blogging youth, or a continuing need for highlighting my work/life. Regardless of the motivation, I continue to write a public blog and assume that the silence of commentators = agreement and that “the vast majority of them simplywon’t comment or engage you.

Figure 3 Portland, Oregon guide by Rachel Dresbeck
photo credit abebooks.com

4) what else is Ethan advising to science bloggers?
This is merely a summary of  Ethan’s useful tips, some of which I mentioned above:
  • write often
  • be self-critical and honest about your own writing
  • find your own style
  • share your work with the online community
  • be a real person
  • be prepared for the kind of negativity that only the internet can heap upon you 

Tantalizing exhibition: A night when I was a doctor, an artist and a winning writer

On the night of July 3rd, 2014, I was a doctor, an artist and a winning writer.

An artist

After 30 weeks of laborious drawing and preparing our final show, a group of 16 illustrators and picture book makers exhibited their work in the Culture box, Dublin. We were led by Adrienne Geoghegan. The night before, we hanged our show as illustrated by the photos at the bottom of this post. An illustrator Mr. Clarke opened the night with a story about a British writer who once told him that people talk shite at the openings of exhibitions; it’s such an Irish thing. Wine was pouring, but it was just enough to not make people drunk. The DJ Doolittle played hits from the 60’s.

A Doctor

When Mr. Clarke attended to his keynote duties, he chatted with the artists. I told him that I was one of the people that he mentioned in his opening address. I had great difficulties in fitting the drawing into my day as a scientist. “Are you the doctor, then?” he asked. “Well, I’m a psychologist by background, but I work with doctors.” He wished me well in trying to integrate both careers. Combining Art& Science in one life is like churning 2 things at the same time. And yet, I felt a sense of worth, success at the exhibition. I realized that I have an impact on people, they like me and my work. I’ve never fully realized this until that night. “Are you one of the artists?” Somebody asked me at the end of the night. “Yes,” I replied proudly.

The 2014 Aindreas McEntee awarding ceremony: Dr Coughland and Dr Klimas. Photo source: irishmedicalwriters.com

A winning writer

The 2014 Aindreas McEntee prize, is open to members of Irish Medical Writers, a group of doctors and journalists specialising in healthcare. I’ve submitted my entry on the day of the deadline, expecting little more than introducing myself to the arena of Irish medical writing. The third place came as a surprise. The award ceremony was on the same night as the tantalizing illustrations exhibition. Thankfully, they gave me the prize at the beginning and release me to go for the exhibition. At the end of the night, everybody has won and we all got prizes (dodo bird effect).

76th Annual Conference of College on Problems of Drug Dependence: Decide to be fearless& fabulous

Not one, but two conferences in Puerto Rico made my trip fantastic. As usual, the NIDA International forum happened for the 15th time on the weekend before the Conference of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence. The lines below offer some insights from these meetings.

Integration of addiction treatment into primary care: the portals of entry

Is abstinence related with good health? Is decreased drug use related with good health?
Tae Woo Park and Richard Saitz asked these questions in a secondary analysis of data from a clinical trial of 589 patients using cocaine or cannabis with very low dependence proportion among the sample (ASSIST score >27). To answer their questions, they used clinical measures of good health, such as, SIP-D, PHQ-9, and EUROQoL. Health outcomes were associated with decreases in illicit drug use in primary. However, abstinence and decreased use may represent very different magnitudes. Self-reports related dysphoria could also play a role in the differences. It takes a long time to make improvement in those consequences? 6 months of follow up observations may not be enough. Patient-preferred outcomes are paramount: do they want to have a score lower than XY on PHQ-9? What outcomes are important for them?
The TOPCARE (www.mytopcare.org) project implemented guidelines for potential opioid misuse (Jan Liebschutz). Her slides blew up half-way through the presentation but she delivered the talk excellently. Nurse care management was a component of the guideline implementation trial. Academic detailing (45min, with opioid prescribing expert) included principles of prescribing brochure and difficult case discussion. Is academic detailing effective? The Cochranesystematic review of literature found small-to-medium variable effects. The preliminary results of the project show that the nurse manager programme is a no brainer.
Rich Saitz commented on the sad state of affairs in the addiction treatment, where only 10% of people with addiction are in treatment. Integrated care is the best thing since the sliced bread, but where’s the evidence? His research showed no added benefit of integrated versus care as usual. Why? Maybe, addiction is not a one thing, but we treat it like one thing. Dr Tai provoked the audience with a question: “Do our patients with addiction have the capability to participate in the treatment planning and referral?” If they seek medical care for their broken leg and we refer them to an addiction specialist, will they go? most likely not.
But it is the same with hypertension. Referral is a process and not a once-off thing. Although they may not follow our advice at the first visit, a rapport built by a skilled professional over a series of discussions can help them get the most appropriate care.

Does the efficacy of medications for addiction decrease over time?

An old saying among doctors states “One should prescribe a new medication quickly before it loses its efficacy”. Elias Klemperer pooled the data from several Cochrane systematic reviews on addiction medicines, such as, NIRT gum, Acamprosate, or Buproprion. Their effectiveness decreased over time. The changes in methodologies might have caused the decline; also the sponsorship of trials, target populations or publication bias.

Write, wrote, written

Primary author is in the driver’s seat, others are passengers. Primary author pulls the train. Dr Adam Carrico(UCSF) asked us “What are you really passionate about?” Find it and use your passion for those themes to drive your writing habit. Decide to be fearless& fabulous. Develop a writing routine. Put together a queue of writing projects and don’t churn out 2 products at the same time, one of them will suffer. Schedule writing retreats with colleagues. Set Timelines for writing grant and programme time for reviews by trusted people, give people a warning that this is what you’re planning to do. The JAMA June 2014 issue offers useful tips on how to write an editorial.

Dr Knudsen reported on the editorial internship of the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment – JSAT, which started in 2006, with Dr McGovern (current editor) and Knudsen as the 1stfellows. Success rate of the fellowship applications is 2/30-45, prior involvement is appreciated (peer reviewer, submission). The new 2014 fellows are: Drs Madson and Rash. In the one year of the fellowship, the fellows typically review 12-15 manuscripts, some years, as a managing editor of a special issue. The Drug and Alcohol Dependence journal has a similar scheme.

Check out the http://www.cpddblog.com/

HORIZON 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Information Day: Mobility is part of their job description

Being able, ready and happy to move for work enhances academic career. On 4th June 2014, in the Gibson Hotel, Dublin, Ireland, the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office hosted an information day on the individual fellowships. Guest speaker on the day was Alessandra Luchetti, Head of the EU Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Unit (Figure 1). The event, co-organised with InterTradeIreland introduced the new opportunities for researchers in the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions under Horizon 2020.
In the past, the Marie Curie Actions programme was one of the big success stories of Irish participation in FP7 funding programme, representing almost €100 million of the €600 million drawn-down by Ireland from FP7. The Actions have funded researchers from industry, community and academia to build their research capacity, with a strong focus on international mobility and strengthening careers for researchers.
 

Figure 1 Guest Speaker: Alessandra Luchetti, Head of Unit, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions, European Commission: – you are lucky that I do not have to talk in Italian, I’m talkative, so I am genetically modified
More than 25 years ago, it was only the EU mobility scheme; it is the oldest and the most famous. Today, the cutoff for a successful application is 92%. The focus of the fellowship is on career development. UK and USA are the most preferred countries for the European and for the Global schemes, respectively. Ireland has funded identical twins in the FP7 programme (one of them through reserved list).
The fellowship has many benefits. Researchers have the opportunity to go to a centre that is top of their field. The social capital increases, you meet politicians, high-level academics. The fellowship gives leverage to link in with community. The label of MC fellow at the end of the email opens many doors. The postdoctoral researchers, who are normally stuck in Limbo – because they can’t apply for solo-funding – can use this first individual fellowship grant to demonstrate capability of attaining further funding. For the principal investigators, the fellowship offers to do more research with bigger teams. For example, an Irish-EU funding stream – Inspire – funded 21 experienced researchers in 2 calls at the UCD Energy Institute.

Two years on blogger Today

Time to celebrate and take stock of my blogging activity

Join me and have a look at my top posts, page views and the audience.
All posts
62
Pageviews last month
229
Pageviews all time history
3,870


Top Stories

Entry
Pageviews
3 Dec 2012
162
4 Sep 2012
148
8 Aug 2012
144
20 Jul 2012, 2 comments
137
18 Jul 2012
64
15 Jul 2013
56
23 Jun 2012
56
17 Jul 2012
55
5 Aug 2013
37
16 Dec 2013
37

Audience



Country
Pageviews
United States
1228
Russia
591
Ireland
400
United Kingdom
151
Germany
138
France
133
Ukraine
87
Romania
42
Australia
40
Canada
39