writing a journal article? start with the So What question

6 Jan

Originally posted on patter:

I’m running another writing course soon in Iceland and have been sorting through potential pre-reading material. In my file of pdfs I came across an editorial written by Neil Selwyn in the journal Learning, Media and Technology. The piece is called ‘So What?’… a question every journal article needs to answer‘.

It’s pretty apparent that Selwyn was tired of getting papers that weren’t suitable for his journal. In his three years as Editor he’d obviously seen a lot of unsuitable submissions – and he really, really didn’t want to see any more. You can hear his frustration in his very clear delineation of what is and isn’t acceptable for his journal….

These ‘proof of concept’ and ‘best practice’ studies of the application of specific digital devices and practices in particular educational settings are clearly necessary and worthwhile stages in the development of any educational technology. Yet work of…

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Multiple sclerosis, what about the south-north gradient?

4 Jan

Recent researches found that the south north gradient of the occurrence of multiple sclerosis is diminishing in the USA and doesn’t exist anymore in France.
Here are the two articles:

Alvaro Alonso, MD Miguel A. Herna ́n, MD
Temporal trends in the incidence of multiple sclerosis A systematic review
Neurology 71 July 8, 2008
Available in full text here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4109189/pdf/129.pdf

Fromont A, Binquet C, Sauleau EA, Fournel I, Bellisario A, Adnet J, et al. Geographic variations of multiple sclerosis in France. Brain 2010;133:1889-99.OpenUrlAbstract/FREE Full Text http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/brain/133/7/1889.full.pdf

Thus the epidemiology of multiple sclerosis seems to shift toward a less intense south north gradient but in the same time an aggravation of the sex ratio, aggravating the burden that women bear in this inflammatory disease that affects the central nervous system (i.e. the central unit of our body in terms of information technologies).

This tendency opens new interests for more epidemiological studies in this field. All the more because the observational studies aiming to prove the mixed, genetic and environmental, etiology are entangled with the current migrations of populations, the mobility of young people in view of finding a job and the changes in life habits in the populations of the south such as using more protection against the sun rays.

Professor Confavreux had well depicted the stakes in this editorial:

An unchanging man faced with changing times Christian Confavreux
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/aws135 1663-1665 First published online: 24 May 2012
http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/135/6/1663.full

For the present moment multiple sclerosis etiological mechanism is an enigma and risks to remain so if researchers in the domain have no new data to crunch at the populational level.

The Craft of Revision

19 Dec

Originally posted on Explorations of Style:

All academic writers have some sort of revision process, but that process is often either insufficient (just nibbling around the edges) or scattershot (catching some things but missing others). To improve our revision practices, we generally have to both deepen them and make them more systematic.

My starting point here is the near impossibility of crafting reader-ready first drafts. If the material is conceptually complex, if you are still struggling to understand the implications of what you’ve learned, if the internal connections aren’t yet apparent to you, then the first draft is going to be clumsy. At that stage, the text will be something that you are still learning from rather than something that others can learn from. For most of us, making the transition from a text that helps you to a text that helps the reader takes multiple iterations. When I talk about needing to make a commitment to extensive revision, that choice of words…

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The value of identifiable research data

16 Dec

Joel Kallich of Big Health Data wrote me: Over the last 30 years, the government has been reluctant to release identifiable information, first on an

via The value of identifiable research data.

The neuroscience of meditation

16 Dec

Life is a permanent flow: one has to let go the past and present in order to authorize freely the next event of one’s life to happen. If not, a damp will interrupt the flow, which is not a good thing from a sound and balanced living perspective.

One has to live a life which is intrinsically ever changing, and thus which is anxiety provoking.

The only thing that is permanent is one’s awareness of being present in the present moment, which by itself is a blessing one should be grateful for .
At that point meditation, wether by focusing on an action like breathing or walking or by observing with detachment the course of our thoughts and feelings created by our mind or by exercising compassion and loving kindness towards other sentient beings can be of some help.

By the way it has been demonstrated by neuro-scientists that meditation modifies the way the brain functions and even the size of some brain regions.

I read an article on this subject in the November 2014 edition of the journal Scientific American entitled Mind of the Meditator, authored by Mathieux Ricard a Buddhist Monk, Antoine Lutz a research scientist at the Frenh National Institute of Health and Medical Research and Richard J Davidson from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They conclude that
even with the requisite cautions, research on meditation provides new insights into methods of mental training that have the potential to enhance human health and well-being”

Violence and categories

29 Nov
We should not anymore talk about, or show violence in terms of, (or focusing on) the category that the perpetrator of the offense belongs to (eg male vs woman, Jew vs Palestinian, terrorist vs citizen, human vs animal and so on). Because it only aggravates the hate and further divides humankind or sentient beings. Instead of being reduced to categories violence must be shown only as a sin or an offense and a crime each individual should refrain to commit even under certain attenuating circumstances (bad education, unhappy childhood, fear, anger, prior offense …) and everybody should be warned against committing it no mater the category one belongs to (see categories above: female or male and so on..). This kind of perspective aggravates in my view and enlarges the gap between individuals by tacitly defining the perpetrator as a “category” broadly speaking. Hurting someone has nothing to do with the category one belongs to, it is above such a consideration and is an absolute interdict (the bible cites only the neighbor as the unique category encompassing all other categories). If not categories could be used as an excuse or at least an explanation in the mind for the perpetrators. Our modern societies should go one step beyond by denouncing violence against fellow human at large or, even more, against sentient beings at large, without doing anymore any categories in the discourse by doing that.

 

Time series: what conclusions can we draw from ?

8 Nov

Here below is a link toward a time series published by the French Agency for pharmaceutical safety (aka ANSM). Although the method is well described and doesn’t raise any concern, nevertheless the interpretation that is done from the results in the discussion is subjected to caution.

My expression of concern is motivated by the fact that the authors of the study link the lowering of the incidence of pulmonary embolism to the lowering of sales of third and fourth generations of contraceptive pills.

Indeed a cofactor can explain the concomitant lowering of both time series:
the large warning campaign in the medias with messages about a) the risks attached to those third and fourth generations of contraceptive pills AND b) the risks of pulmonary embolism (ie blood clots in the lung) every woman faces under contraceptive pills, no matter the generation of the contraceptive pill.

Thus the practitioners could have been more attentive to the risk for all their patients and stopped the contraceptive pill, even for the first and second generation of pill, in case of any doubt (eg a phlebitis of the leg or a tobacco addiction).

One thing is for sure: the results of this study show that the campaign in the media had an impact in term of public health, but no causality can be formally drawn between the lowering of the sales of the third and fourth generations of contraceptive pills and the lowering of pulmonary embolism from the results of this study.

The study:

Etude de l’impact de la modification récente des méthodes de contraception sur la survenue d’embolies pulmonaires chez les femmes de 15 à 49 ans (07/11/2014) application/pdf (316 ko)

http://ansm.sante.fr/content/download/69461/886199/version/1/file/Etude-COC-Embolie-pulmonaire2014.pdf

Disability is a full time job

19 Oct

For persons enduring a severe disability, daily life is a full time job.
Two bloggers share courageously with us their daily struggles to show the amount of supplementary efforts they have to produce just to save an appearance of fluidity (not to say normality).
One blogger compares disability with an iceberg whose greater part is not visible:
http://atleastihaveabrain.wordpress.com/2014/09/22/invisible-disability/
An other blogger compares disability with an handful of a limited number of spoons. All seems normal to the surrounding peoples who examine her life as long as she has a sufficient number of spoons left in her hand. But each daily life efforts along the day takes one spoon away from her and when there is only one left in her hand she must stop for the rest of the day and all the activities she has still to do must wait for the next day:
http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/

The body of work that economists have done on the field of relationship between happiness and disability shows that not only the disabled persons themselves are less happy but also are their spouses, although this must be tempered by the numerous adaptive strategies that the couple puts in place.
A resume of the scientific literature here:
http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wordpress/adaptation-to-disability/

Journal of Public Economics
June 2008, Vol.92(5):1061–1077, doi:10.1016/j.jpubeco.2008.01.002
Does happiness adapt? A longitudinal study of disability with implications for economists and judges
Andrew J. OswaldNattavudh Powdthavee
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004727270800008X#fig1

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004727270800008X

Social Science & Medicine
December 2009, Vol.69(12):1834–1844, doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.09.023
Part Special Issue: New approaches to researching patient safety
What happens to people before and after disability? Focusing effects, lead effects, and adaptation in different areas of life
Nattavudh Powdthavee
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953609006145

Social Science & Medicine
April 2014, Vol.107:68–77, doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.02.009
Is shared misery double misery?
Merehau Cindy MervinPaul Frijters

We find that the events befalling a partner on average have an effect about 15% as large as the effect of own events.

Quoted from :
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953614001063

Journal of Economic Psychology
August 2009, Vol.30(4):675–689, doi:10.1016/j.joep.2009.06.005
I can’t smile without you: Spousal correlation in life satisfaction
Nattavudh Powdthavee
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167487009000634

Geography

18 Oct

Epidemiology and geography since long ago share common interests.
Epidemiologists have always searched the causes of contagious diseases by locating the very place where the outbreak began. Hence the necessity to develop sophisticated geographical statistical analysis methods in order to localize the point from where the disease originates and then spread across the country. But nowadays those methods are also implemented by searchers to highlight high concentrations of non epidemic, chronic, degenerative diseases in a given country. Here the causal agent is no more a bacteria nor a virus but indeed a spot of concentration of social inequality (or pollution, depending of the research question ). If a geographical concentration exist of lack of knowledge of what a healthy behavior is, or of low incomes restraining access to a healthy life, then the analysis should uncover a higher prevalence of the degenerative disease at less this is the hypothesis. Here below is a link toward a paper very accurate in demonstrating how different geographical statistical analysis methods can lead to a variation in the epidemiological results obtained. This point is crucial to consider because were it Ebola virus or social inequality or educational level context, causes of diseases will always have something to do with geography!
http://jech.bmj.com/content/59/6/517.full.pdf

Web Haiku

16 Oct

Ha-Vinh:

The Beauty of Aging | songs of wisdom: a beautiful writing full of philosophical references about something we all have in common: aging.

http://love-of-wisdom.com/2014/09/06/getting-old-aint-for-sissies/

Originally posted on Wonderings:

web

Woven gossamer

envelops spider and fly

In tensile embrace.

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