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Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Teaching Junior Doctors the Benefits and Barriers of the Social Web - Presentation from Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference

Image of Andy Tattersall
Andy Tattersall
Last week I attended the second Social Media for Learning in Higher Education Conference held at Sheffield Hallam University. I'd been lucky in being accepted to speak at both conferences with last year's talk about my Research Hack videos. The conference is a lively and engaging event for anyone involved in teaching and learning with an interest in social media.

The day started with a key not, (not keynote) which was an introduction to the theme for this year's conference - The Empowered Learner?
Image of conference
Giving my presentation in my Christmas jumper
After that we were rushed off in several small teams to carry out our own hack projects to create digital resources to support digital learners. Thankfully we had been given the full run of the new and impressive Charles Street Building so quickly located a desk with a large screen in one of the many open learning spaces. Along with four other team members we set to work on creating an Adobe Spark video that explained how students and academics should seek for online information in a 'Post-Truth' world. We had just short of an hour but managed to create a three minute video that explained the problem of poor quality information and how to critically appraise and avoid it when learning and conducting research. I'm pleased to say that our group was one of the winners and as a result we won a gold chocolate medal each, which my daughter happily accepted to eat and share in the celebrations.

My presentation was one of six Thunderstorm sessions and was about my Masterclass ILA which I have run for the last couple of years for fourth year medical students. The abstract is below.


Image of sketch note by Deb Baff
Sketchnote of my talk @debbaff
The purpose of this presentation will be to showcase the teaching I deliver to 4th year medical students at The University of Sheffield. The series of five two hour classes called Masterclass ILAs (Inquiry Based Learning Activity) focus on the social and mobile web and how the students can gain a better understanding of it as junior doctors. The sessions are an opportunity for students to build upon their own experiences of social media in a personal and professional setting and how they can use these and other technologies to their advantage once they qualify as a medical professional. The sessions explore the problems large organisations such as the NHS have in staying up to date with such as social media and how they can negate potential problems they can cause. The feedback from running these sessions has so far been excellent and more are planned for later this year.

The short set of slides from my talk can be viewed below.




Image of Conference delegates
One of the winning teams - me on the right
Delegates were encouraged to attend and wear their best Christmas jumpers, which I gladly did. Sadly though my DJ Santa top didn't sway judges and I missed out on a second prize for the day, you win some and lose some. The conference was a great opportunity to see what colleagues from around the UK were doing with social media in Higher Education. I'm already looking forward to next year's conference as it seems this popular event can only go from strength to strength as more educators discover the benefits of using social media as part of their teaching.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Identifying evidence for economic models - notes from a workshop

Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes
Mark Clowes recently attended one of ScHARR's short courses, a one-day workshop entitled "Identification and review of evidence to inform cost-effectiveness models".

I've only been working in health technology assessment for 18 months but the big difference from previous roles I've held is that I'm often working alongside colleagues from very different professional backgrounds; and I hoped that this course would help me to understand their work better and see where my contribution fits in.

The participants were from a wide variety of backgrounds: technology assessment centres, university, pharmaceutical companies and private consultancies.

Suzy Paisley explained how during her time at ScHARR she had progressed from searching for clearly focussed systematic review questions of clinical effectiveness to the infinitely more complicated universe of economic models.  Models typically involve a wide range of different parameters in an attempt to reflect the complexities of real life, and identifying evidence for them is therefore much less "black and white".  Rather than producing a single comprehensive search strategy to find all the evidence, a model is likely to draw on many different types of evidence from different perspectives; and while a systematic approach is still required, it would be impossible for an information specialist to find (or a modeller to use) ALL the evidence.  Instead, transparent judgments should be made about what is included or excluded; there is no perfect model, but a "good" model will be explicit about the choices and decisions and sources of evidence which have informed it.

Paul Tappenden gave us an introduction to modelling, beginning by quoting George Box's famous maxim that "all models are wrong... but some are useful".   He argued that any model should always begin with a conceptual stage, at which decisions are made about the disease logic model (considering the "natural history" of the disease and taking into account factors such as the likelihood of progression, different risk groups etc.); the service pathway model (the patient's journey through different stages of treatment - which may be subject to geographical variations) and the design-oriented model (what type of model will best address the decision problem?  This may also be influenced by the availability of evidence and the previous experience of the modeller).

A group exercise in which we attempted some conceptual modelling around a topic quickly made us realise the complexity involved as, in order to calculate whether a fictional drug was cost effective, we would need a wealth of information: not only the obvious (evidence of its clinical effectiveness and cost) but information on its possible adverse effects to be weighed up against quality of life studies of patients living with the condition; information on resource use (cost of administering comparator treatments / best supportive care) and mortality (indicating how many years it would be likely that the treatment would have to  be provided.

Some of these data are unlikely to be found in traditional trials, and so over lunchtime we were given worksheets to explore alternative sources (including disease registries, statistics and official publications, and our own ScHARR-HUD database for studies around health utilities).

The most challenging part of searching for evidence for economic models may be deciding when to stop.   How much evidence is enough, and how comprehensive is it necessary to be when you may need to conduct multiple miniature reviews to answer one main question?   I know from personal experience critiquing the searches run to inform manufacturers' economic models submitted for NICE appraisal how contentious this topic can be, but in a recent paper for the journal PharmacoEconomics, Suzy has attempted to define a "minimum requirement" for this type of search.

The final session of the day came from Prof. Eva Kaltenthaler, who heads the Technology Assessment Group at ScHARR.   Eva helped us understand how reviewers make judgements about which identified studies to include.   Frequently there is a tension between researchers' desire to be thorough and comprehensive in their coverage, and the needs of the decision makers who commission the review for the results to be delivered in a short time-frame.  Where this is the case, rapid review methods may be called for.   This might mean prioritising certain selection criteria over others, although which are deemed most important will depend on the context.  In some cases the geographical setting of retrieved studies may determine how relevant they are; in others the study type, or the cohort size.

Overall this was a useful and thought-provoking day, although for any librarians/information specialists who thought they had already mastered comprehensive searching, there was some "troublesome knowledge" to take on board.   As we work more closely alongside researchers we understand better that they don't want to be overwhelmed with mountains of evidence; they want to ensure all perspectives are covered but to avoid wasting time on studies which do not make any difference to the final decision.  How information specialists can best support this information need remains a challenging question.  Will the boundaries will become blurred between our role in finding information and that of reviewers in sifting and evaluating it?  Are those of us without a previous background in medicine, economics or statistics (and let's be honest, very few of us are knowledgeable about all three) able to acquire sufficient skills in those disciplines to succeed in these shifting roles?


*NEWSFLASH* This course will be running again on 23rd March 2017 - find out more / book a place or see other short courses available from ScHARR.


Read Suzy Paisley's PharmacoEconomics article (2016): "Identification of Evidence for Key Parameters in Decision-Analytic Models of Cost Effectiveness: A Description of Sources and a Recommended Minimum Search Requirement"


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Small library? You need to think big: 10 top tips on how to use open days to promote your small but perfectly formed library service!

As a small, specialist library, we have to work hard to make sure our users (and potential users) know about the constantly changing range of services and collections we offer. Over the years we've run an occasional series of one-off  'open-day' events, including one just a few weeks ago (read all about it here)! If you work in a small (or even not-so-small) library, here are the 10 top tips, based on the lessons we have learned over the years, about how to host a successful library open day!




1. Plan, plan, plan. Organise a few meetings if you have a small team, and think first about what you want to achieve from the day- more users? better use of the collection? awareness of a new/underused service or resource? Make sure the day has a theme or focus of some kind.

2. Set a budget and find funding. Our open days have always been run on a shoestring, but it is worth thinking about whether there is any source of funding to support costs for food, drink, decorations, promotional materials or new things for the library. If there is no money to be found, at least planning in advance gives you time to beg, borrow and steal what you need!


Yes, we lure people to our library with cake. 
There, I said it.
Photo © Claire Beecroft
3. Allocate roles. We all have our particular strengths, so let the library team, however small, play to their's. Some might want to run the infoskills sessions (see tip 4), some might be great at decorating and giving the library a little makeover for the day.

4. Offer helpful, short infoskills sessions throughout the day. These were a huge success at our most recent away day. The trick is to keep them short, specify a time for each one, describe the topic of each one in a single sentence, and then promote them well in advance to ensure people can put them in their diary.

5. Bake. There is nothing, nothing on earth, like the lure of cake to get people through the door. Our whole team contribute by baking or buying- mostly by baking. Its worth planning this aspect too- we usually have a Google doc where people can list what they are baking, and this means we can make sure we have a nice variety and can cover all the bases- gluten free, dairy free, etc.

6. Call it what you want, but call it an 'Open Day'. It might sound strange, as the library is always open, right? But still, there is something about the phrase 'Open Day' that seems to work. It conveys the idea that all our welcome, even those who might not usually use the library, or who might not think that the library is really for them.

7. Tidy up the library and bring out the bunting if possible! Its really worthwhile putting up some decorations. Bunting is easy, as are ballons, banners etc. We have been known to make our own decorations, and lots have been brought in by the team or sourced cheaply from poundshops or eBay.

8. Showcase what's new. If you have some mobile shelving, trolley or stands, make sure the latest stock is on display prominently. If you have new electronic resources or websites that you want to draw attention too, fire up the PC/s and have these loaded and ready for people to try out.

9. Promote the heck out of it. Don't be afraid to use every possible channel to let people know what you are planning and that they are MOST WELCOME. Twitter, VLEs, Facebook, the library web page, flyers, etc are all good, and remember to promote the event well in advance AND on the day.

10. Put on your happy face and keep it on all day! This isn't usually hard for the IR gang at ScHARR- we LOVE a good open day, but just remember to keep smiling and send out good vibes from the library.

Posted by Claire