Goals for 2019

Yesterday I published a post reflecting on 2018 – a massive year for me that encompassed huge highs (hello PhD!), and some very real lows as well. Many of those lows were in relation to my personal life, and this blog is not the place to talk about them. That conscious decision to only include professional things in my reflections made it look like 2018 was essentially made up of achievement after achievement; good thing after good thing. Lots of good things did happen in 2018, but there is room for improvement to make 2019 the year that I want it to be – enter, goals for 2019!

A side note before I get into my goals: this year it feels like there’s an awful lot of people rubbishing the idea of the new year being a trigger for change, but for me it works. It’s an obvious time to refocus and reassess what I want out of both my professional and personal lives, and looking back gives me a boost to kick start the year with positive intentions. This isn’t about turning supposedly bad habits into good ones, or that whole ‘new year, new me’ bullshit, it’s just about making some tweaks to make sure that I have realistic expectations for the year ahead.

So, some things I’d like to do in 2019…

Refocus my career aspirations and invest my time accordingly
As I said in my reflections post, I spent a huge amount of time doing public engagement and science communication activities in 2018, but that’s not my job. I am not a professional science communicator or a public engagement professional, I am a researcher that communicates my science and works to engage the public with my science, because I am passionate about my field of science. I would like more people to know that research on research is a thing, I would like more people to understand just how important it is for us to get research methods right, for us to optimise and ensure our methods are as efficient as possible so that we can get good quality evidence from ‘traditional’ research (here I mean the scientific research that is being done to cure a disease or improve the way we diagnose etc, rather than research on research which is what I do).

Towards the end of 2018 my research work started to suffer because I was spending too much time on public engagement activities. Before I left work for Christmas it was becoming really clear to me that I needed to make some decisions about how I approach public engagement. I’ve said before that I don’t want to be a science communicator, I don’t want to make a living from doing public engagement; that’s still true, so it’s time for me to refocus and set some boundaries to make sure that I’m investing my time and energy in projects that are reflective of my future career aspirations – to stay in academic research that aims to improve the way that we do clinical trials.

Publish 2 papers from my PhD
This goal links in with the point I made earlier about spending a lot of time doing public engagement. Just after I submitted my thesis in June, I told my supervisors that I wanted to have drafts of 2 papers complete and ready to submit before Christmas. That didn’t happen, but in 2019 I want those two papers drafted, revised and submitted. This shouldn’t take a huge amount of work – I had one draft done and sent to supervisors before Christmas, so I need to spend some time editing that and cutting text down etc to send round for comments again, and the other one is currently sitting as a thesis chapter that needs to be reshaped. I’d really like to have both of these submitted and with journals for peer review by April this year, which I think is realistic.

Wind down my freelance work
I’ve talked about being a freelancer on this blog before – there are definite good bits and bad bits, but this year I’d like to continue winding down my freelance activities. When I first started to do freelance writing I liked the flexibility of it and the additional money I made enabled me to live more comfortably. Now I’m in a very fortunate position where I have a full time contract for 2 years when I start my new job in March, I’ll be on an actual grown up person’s salary and during those two years I don’t want to be spending my ‘spare’ time on freelance stuff. Instead I want to use it to put my absolute all into my research career – finding fellowships, making connections with people and doing some bloody good research. I enjoyed freelancing at times, but in recent months it has become yet another thing on my to do list; even during the final weeks of thesis writing I was writing copy for businesses, and this year it’s been a pretty relentless schedule of two blog posts (that require a decent amount of time to research before I even start writing), every single week. In 2019 I want to spend that time in other ways.

Rediscover a love of fitness
Linking into public engagement and all of the extra things that I’ve done along side my research, I have not been to the gym in months. I don’t mean like a month or two, I mean probably about 9 months now. I’ve been paying for use of a pretty high end gym for that entire time, and I have booked classes, but I’ve then gone on to cancel them because something else came up – Science On A Postcard orders needing to be packed or freelance projects had tight deadlines etc. In 2019 that needs to change. I used to go to the gym 4 or 5 times a week, and I loved it. It was a normal part of my routine, and one that kept my mental health in check just as well as my physical health. Recently I’ve been experiencing really bad tiredness – I’m hesitant to call it fatigue because I don’t think it’s been that bad, but I have been sleeping a ridiculous amount, and feeling too tired to do things like going to the gym. Starting the year with a holiday and some much needed stress free time has been great, and I now have some supplements that will hopefully help the tiredness to reduce over the coming months, so I’d like to stat re-building my gym habit, and start going to hot yoga classes again. Whilst I’ve been out of the UK I haven’t had access to a gym (nor have I wanted it to be honest), but I’ve been walking lots which has been a great way to see new places whilst also keeping my body moving.

Those are the 4 main things I want to focus on during 2019, I have some little things I’d also like to do or get involved with, but I’ll update those as and when they (hopefully) happen! What do you think of setting new goals at the start of a new year; does it help you? If so, leave a comment and let me know what you plan to work on this year – I always find that putting my goals ‘out there’ and telling someone gives me more of a boost to pursue them so let’s share and encourage each other šŸ™‚

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Setting New Goals: Non-Work Related

Towards the end of last week I had an annual review with my Line Manager at work. He was my primary PhD Supervisor so he’s known me for over 3 years now, and he’s pretty good at sensing when I need a kick up the backside, well, that and the fact that I’d literally blogged about the post-thesis hand in slump the day before our meeting… Anyway, we had a really good discussion about his experience of the post-PhD slump, what he did to combat it and what I could start doing too. His exact words were ‘avoid work-related goals for the next 6 months’, which was both shocking and comforting. Shocking because, he’s my Manager and therefore explicitly stating that I should avoid big goals at work was weird, and comforting because oh my God, thank GOD he said it. Obviously, I’ll be working away as I’m expected to, but I’m going to make an effort to focus on things outside of work too.

I’ve had a few days to think about what I want to do over the next few months, and thought I’d share them here. Just as with work-related goals, writing things down in a relatively public place is a way to help keep me accountable.

Rediscover my love of reading
Last year I read an average of a book a week, this year it’s week 28 and I’ve read 21 books. I thought I’d be a lot further behind given that I wrote the majority of my thesis this year (yes, I’m still going on about it), but I have a huge pile of books waiting for me to read them. Over the next few months I’d like to get to the fiction books I bought from Powell’s City of Books (a selection of the pile shown on the right – I know, I buy too many books) when I was in Portland, and also some books that were released this year (Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy, and Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon).

Learn how to ride a bicycle

Hi my name is Heidi, I am 26 years old and I cannot ride a bicycle. I can drive a car and walk and both roller skate and ice skate to the extent that I rarely fall over, but I cannot ride a bike. I remember learning to ride a bike – my Dad did that thing that Dads do where they tell you they won’t let go of the saddle when in fact they do, and as soon as I realised I was actually riding the bike myself I stopped and my Dad did proud-Dad tears and then we went home. I was about 6 or 7 I think. Since then I have needed to ride a bike once when I was on one of the National Trust for Scotland’s Trailblazer Camps aged 17. I tried and I couldn’t do it first time, so I stopped and admitted defeat. This has now become a shining example of my ‘if at first you don’t succeed.. give up’ mantra – it spread also to tap dancing, playing the keyboard, and various sports. Now I’ve proven to myself that I can write a whole thesis and actually do a PhD (which I will always argue is more about tenacity than intelligence), I figure it’s time I give the bike thing another shot. Also, I really want a bike with a basket on the front that I can fill with picnic food and gin, and if I can’t ride it then that dream is never going to happen.

Do something new and creative
A few months ago I bought the ‘How to be a Craftivist’ book by Sarah Corbett (right) after listening to a podcast that she did with Leena Norms, I haven’t yet read the book, but just listening to the podcast gave me tonnes of ideas about how I could use craftivist ideas to spread awareness of scientific concepts. All of those ideas are still in the back of my mind but I haven’t had time to do anything with them, now I do have some time and I think this could be a brilliant little passion project before Christmas. Not sure what the creative project will be just yet – maybe a zine? Not sure.. I’ll likely update the blog as the project (whatever it is) progresses, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Now I’ve written this down it seems a bit weird that I have had to go to the effort of setting goals in order to force myself to relax. I guess that’s a product of academic life though – this is the first time since I was a young child that I haven’t had an exam or assessment of some kind to work towards! Hopefully once I get used to having more free time this will all come a bit more naturally šŸ™‚

 

Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

At the beginning of 2017 when I first started this little blog, I published a post on my goals for this year. Now we’re in that weird time period between Christmas and New Year, so I thought I’d reflect on what progress I made with those goals, and then set some new ones for 2018.

Reflecting on 2017

2017 goal: Begin piecing together the thesis
How did I do? I’m pretty happy with this one, and with 6 months to go until I hand in I’m not feeling tooooo terrified. I attended my first writing retreat and finished a full first draft of my systematic review chapter (currently sitting at over 30,000 words), which is a really nice foundation to work from – much better than beginning to tackle the thesis with a blank page in front of me. I’ll go into more depth about where I am with my thesis in a post over the next few weeks, so there will be more details there. Overall though, I’m feeling relatively happy with the progress in made in 2017.

2017 goal: Read more widely, and more frequently
How did I do?
This year I have been doing the #365papers project – reading a paper every day (on average) for a year. I did a decent job with this, but let my reading slip in December meaning I haven’t finished the challenge. In previous years, I’d have forced myself to finish the project and completed the whole thing, but this year I just don’t want to. I’ve taken a proper break over Christmas – I don’t go back to work until January 9th, and I haven’t opened my laptop for anything work related since I left the office on December 22nd. Over the next few weeks whilst I’m off I’llĀ  start getting myself organised for going back, but I’m not going to force myself to spend my Christmas break reading papers. I kept up with the project until the end of November which was pretty good though! Outside of academic reading, I’ve read 52 books this year – a mix of non-fiction and fiction, and I think that’s helped with my writing too.

2017 goal: Seek out opportunities to publish
How did I do?Ā One thing I’ve learned this year is that publishing takes AGES. Really, it takes a very long time. This year I’ve been involved in lots of different projects that will give me publications, but it looks like they’re all going to come in a bundle in 2018. To be honest, that’s no bad thing – I’m really excited to see them coming out, and I feel like lots of hard work on this goal has paid off.

New goals for 2018
Rowena Murray’s ‘How to Write a Thesis’ – a book that I’ll be carrying everywhere with me for the next few months!

Finish the thesis, become Dr Gardner
This one’s obvious – it’s the biggest and most important goal of 2018! I am aiming to hand in my thesis on June 30th 2018. So far I think I’m on track to meet that date, but there’s a lot of work to be done over the next few months to make sure that things work out.

Secure funding for after the PhD
This is the goal that I’m most terrified about. Academia is a competitive game, and I want to stay in health services research after my PhD is complete – this means finding funding. Keeping all of my fingers and toes crossed for this one.

Get involved with some new, innovative science communication and public engagement projects
I have a few ideas for projects and ideas that I’d like to put some work into, but the bigger ones will need to wait until after my thesis is handed in. Between now and thesis hand in, I do want to keep up with public engagement work – but on a smaller scale. I’m thinking of creative projects linked to Science On A Postcard, collaborations with other makers (I’ve already got 2 lined up for the beginning of 2018!), and small-scale projects that I can do alongside the thesis.

2018 is going to be a big year for me, and I’m looking forward to sharing it on this blog – hope you all have a wonderful break and a productive year ahead too!

#365papers November Update

In my first post on this blog, I set myself 3 PhD-related goals for 2017. One of those goals was to read more widely, and more frequently, and I decided that doing the #365papers challenge would be a good way to do that.

This reading a paper a day is so difficult when there are a million and one things going on and a thesis to write! I think it’s safe to say that I won’t be doing the #365papers challenge in 2018, but I’m determined to complete this year’s challenge. I’ve enjoyed this month’s reading, but I’ve been doing it in little bursts – meaning I’ve only just finished November’s reading list as this blog post goes live at the beginning of December.. Next month’s reading has to be finished on time because there’s no way I’m panic reading piles of papers on new year’s eve – I’m committed to finishing this thing on a high!

November’s reading:

  1. Research Involvement and Engagement: reflections so far and future directions
  2. The impact of involvement on researchers: a learning experience
  3. Power to the people: To what extent has public involvement in applied health research achieved this?
  4. Factors associated with reporting results for pulmonary clinical trials in ClinicalTrials.gov
  5. A systematic review and development of a classification framework for factors associated with missing patient-reported outcome data
  6. The treatment in morning versus evening (TIME) study: analysis of recruitment, follow-up and retention rates post recruitment
  7. Can routine data be used to support cancer clinical trials? A historical baseline on which to build: retrospective linkage of data from the TACT breast cancer trial and the National Cancer Data Repository
  8. Network methods to support user involvement in qualitative data analyses: an introduction to Participatory Theme Elicitation
  9. A systematic literature review of evidence-based clinical practice for rare diseases: what are the perceived and real barriers for improving the evidence and how can they be overcome?
  10. Improving readiness for recruitment through simulated trial activation: the Adjuvant Steroids in Adults with Pandemic influenza (ASAP) trial
  11. The marketing plan and outcome indicators for recruiting and retaining parents in the HomeStyles randomised controlled trial
  12. Advancing ā€˜real-worldā€™ trials that take account of social context and human volition
  13. Impact of a deferred recruitment model in a randomised controlled trial in primary care (CREAM) study
  14. Framing the conversation: use of PRECIS-2 ratings to advance understanding of pragmatic trial design domains
  15. Lessons from the field: the conduct of randomised controlled trials in Botswana
  16. Participant recruitment and retention in longitudinal preconception randomised trials: lessons learnt from the Calcium and Pre-eclampsia (CAP) trial
  17. A framework for the design, conduct and interpretation of randomised controlled trials in the presence of treatment changes
  18. Peak Gender Gap: Women at the top of science agencies
  19. Survey of risks and benefits communication strategies by research nurses
  20. The fractured logic of blinded peer review in journals
  21. Choosing wisely: How to fulfil the promise in the next 5 years
  22. Catch-22, clinical trial edition: Protecting women and children
  23. Insufficient recruitment and premature discontinuation of clinical trials in Switzerland: qualitative study with trialists and other stakeholders
  24. Rebranding retractions and the honest error hypothesis
  25. Participation and retention can be high in randomised controlled trials targeting underserved populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis
  26. Rheumatoid arthritis patients treated in trial and real world settings: comparison of randomised trials with registries
  27. Prevalence, characteristics, and publication of discontinued randomised trials
  28. Clear obstacles and hidden challenges: understanding recruiter perspectives in six pragmatic randomised controlled trials
  29. The intellectual challenges and emotional consequences of equipoise contributed to the fragility of recruitment in six randomised controlled trials
  30. Patient enrollment and logistical problems top the list of difficulties in clinical research: a cross-sectional survey

#365papers October Update

In my first post on this blog, I set myself 3 PhD-related goals for 2017. One of those goals was to read more widely, and more frequently, and I decided that doing the #365papers challenge would be a good way to do that.

Last month’s #365papers update was late.. again. This month though, I’m perfectly on time! I’ve caught up on reading thanks to a burst of motivation, reading for a writing retreat I’ve booked on to for the beginning of December, and reading for potential fellowship applications over the next few months. I’ve enjoyed this month’s reading more than previous months – I think it’s because I gave myself a bit more freedom to read papers that weren’t clearly and obviously linked to my PhD work, and allowed myself a bit more exploration within the subject of recruitment.

October’s reading:

  1. Writing retreat as structured intervention: margin or mainstream?
  2. ā€˜Itā€™s not a hobbyā€™: reconceptualising the place of writing in academic work
  3. Time is not enough: promoting strategic engagement with writing for publication
  4. Increasing academic output and supporting equality of career opportunity in universities: can writersā€™ retreats play a role?
  5. Developing a community of research practice
  6. An integrated conceptual framework for evaluating and improving ā€˜understandingā€™ in informed consent
  7. Specific barriers to the conduct of randomised clinical trials on medical devices
  8. The necessity of randomised clinical trials
  9. When are randomised trials unnecessary? Picking signal from noise
  10. The James Lind Library: explaining and illustrating the evolution of fair tests of medical treatments
  11. What is the best evidence for determining harms of medical treatment?
  12. Comparison of evidence of treatment effects in randomised and nonrandomised studies
  13. Evidence based medicine: what it is and what it isnā€™t
  14. The crisis in recruitment for clinical trials in Alzheimerā€™s and dementia: An action plan for solutions
  15. Alzheimerā€™s disease therapeutic trials: EU/US task force report on recruitment, retention, and methodology
  16. Participation in dementia trials and studies: Challenges and recommendations (whitepaper)
  17. Dementia trials and dementia tribulations: methodological and analytical challenges in dementia research
  18. Obstacle and opportunities in Alzheimerā€™s clinical trial recruitment
  19. Recruitment of subjects into clinical trials for Alzheimerā€™s disease
  20. Commentary on ā€œA roadmap for the prevention of dementia II. Leon Thal Symposium 2008.ā€ Recruitment of participants for Alzheimer’s disease clinical trials: The role of trust in caregivers, clinical researchers, regulatory authorities, and industry sponsors
  21. Recruitment rates in gerontological research: the situation for drug trials in dementia may be worse than previously reported
  22. How redesigning AD clinical trials might increase study partnersā€™ willingness to participate
  23. Number of Alzheimerā€™s clinical trials almost doubles in 3 years
  24. Comparison of recruitment efforts targeted at primary care physicians versus the community at large for participation in Alzheimerā€™s Disease clinical trials
  25. Addressing the challenges to successful recruitment and retention in Alzheimerā€™s disease clinical trials
  26. Are biomarkers harmful to recruitment and retention in Alzheimerā€™s disease clinical trials? An international perspective
  27. Recruiting community-based dementia patients and caregivers in a nonpharmacologic randomised trial: What works and how much does it cost?
  28. Attitudes toward clinical trials across the Alzheimerā€™s disease spectrum
  29. Why has therapy development for dementia failed in the last two decades?
  30. Predictors of physician referral for patient recruitment to Alzheimerā€™s disease clinical trials
  31. Recruiting to preclinical Alzheimerā€™s disease clinical trials through registries

#365papers September Update

In my first post on this blog, I set myself 3 PhD-related goals for 2017. One of those goals was to read more widely, and more frequently, and I decided that doing the #365papers challenge would be a good way to do that.

I ended last month’s #365papers update by saying ‘hopefully September’s reading won’t be quite so late as August’s was…’ – and here I am 13 days late. September was a really busy month and though I was reading, it was snippets and abstracts and posters from conferences, rather than entire papers. I’ve now caught up – and I’m determined to make sure that October’s update is back on track time-wise!

This month’s reading has been a big mix of things because I’m working on my literature review, and also getting involved with some new projects. I’ve really enjoyed this month’s reading – when I had time to do it at least, so hopefully there’s some interesting papers in this list for others too.

September’s reading:

  1. The ethics of underpowered clinical trials
  2. The ethics of underpowered clinical trials
  3. Informing clinical trial participants about study results
  4. Womenā€™s views and experiences of two alternative consent pathways for participation in a preterm intrapartum trial: A qualitative study
  5. Recruiting patients as partners in health research: a qualitative descriptive study
  6. Identifying additional studies for a systematic review of retention strategies in randomised controlled trials: making contact with trials units and trial methodologists
  7. Methods for obtaining unpublished data
  8. Clinical features of Parkinsonā€™s disease patients are associated with therapeutic misconception and willingness to participate in clinical trials
  9. Health research participants are not receiving research results: a collaborative solution is needed
  10. Health research participantsā€™ preferences for receiving research results
  11. Why is therapeutic misconception so prevalent?
  12. Recommendations for the return of research results to study participants and guardians: a report from the childrenā€™s oncology group
  13. Oncology physician and nurse practices and attitudes regarding offering clinical trial results to study participants
  14. Search for unpublished data by systematic reviewers: an audit
  15. Patient and public involvement in data collection for health services research: a descriptive study
  16. Health researchersā€™ attitudes towards public involvement in health research
  17. Patientsā€™ and cliniciansā€™ research priorities
  18. Public involvement at the design stage of primary health research: a narrative review of case examples
  19. The impact of patient and public involvement on UK NHS health care: a systematic review
  20. Involving South Asian patients in clinical trials
  21. No longer research about us without us: a researcherā€™s reflection on rights and inclusive research in Ireland
  22. Willingness to participate in pragmatic dialysis trials: the importance of physician decisional autonomy and consent approach
  23. How important is patient recruitment in performing clinical trials?
  24. Recruiting hard-to-reach subjects: is it worth the effort?
  25. Fundamental dilemmas of the randomised clinical trial process: results of a survey of the 1,737 Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group investigators
  26. The research-treatment distinction: A problematic approach for determining which activities should have ethical oversight
  27. Leaving therapy to chance
  28. Use of altered informed consent in pragmatic clinical research
  29. A framework for analysis of research risks and benefits to participants in standard of care pragmatic clinical trials
  30. Public engagement on global health challenges

#365papers August Update

In my first post on this blog, I set myself 3 PhD-related goals for 2017. One of those goals was to read more widely, and more frequently, and I decided that doing the #365papers challenge would be a good way to do that.

July’s post for #365papers was too cocky – I finished July ahead of schedule and then skipped off on holiday. August’s reading was not so good. It’s currently Saturday 9th September and I have only just caught up with August’s reading, so still a bit of catching up to do from the start of September!

This month when I did get round to reading I was concentrating on qualitative studies; I was doing my own qualitative analysis through August and it’s nice to get an idea how different people write and look at their own studies. I also managed to have a really good look at the literature on user-testing and think aloud protocols. On September 10th I’ve off to Cape Town for research trip – I’ll be going to the Global Evidence Summit (blog post(s) to follow for more info!), and then I’m staying in Cape Town to meet with clinical trialists based with the South African Medical Research Council. These trialists will be user-testing evidence-presentation formats – this work makes up part of my PhD project so i’ll do a more in-depth blog post another time. Anyway, hopefully September’s reading won’t be quite so late as August’s was…

August’s reading:

  1. Supporting positive experiences and sustained participation in clinical trials: looking beyond information provision
  2. How many interviews are enough? An experiment with data saturation and variability
  3. Barriers to the conduct of randomised clinical trials within all disease areas
  4. ā€˜We knew it was a totally at random thingā€™: parentsā€™ experiences of being part of a neonatal trial
  5. What are funders doing to minimise waste in research?
  6. J Guy Scadding and the move from alternation to randomisation
  7. UK publicly funded Clinical Trials Units supported a controlled access approach to share individual participant data but highlighted concerns
  8. Why do we need evidence-based methods in Cochrane?
  9. Receiving a summary of the results of a trial: qualitative study of participantsā€™ views
  10. The rights of patients in research
  11. Using routinely recorded data in the UK to assess outcomes in a randomised controlled trial: The Trials of Access
  12. The impact of active stakeholder involvement on recruitment, retention and engagement of schools, children and their families in the cluster randomised controlled trial of the Healthy Lifestyles Programme (HeLP): a school-based intervention to prevent obesity
  13. Evaluating the efficiency of targeted designs for randomised clinical trials
  14. Improving clinical trial efficiency: thinking outside the box
  15. Stratified randomisation for clinical trials
  16. Factors associated with online media attention to research: a cohort study of articles evaluating cancer treatments
  17. Feasibility of a randomised single-blind crossover trial to assess the effects of the second-generation slow-release dopamine agonists pramipexole and ropinirole on cued recall memory in idiopathic mild or moderate Parkinsonā€™s disease without cognitive impairment
  18. Improving the process of research ethics review
  19. Retrospectively registered trials: The Editorsā€™ dilemma
  20. Cancer Research UK: Taking a broad view of research impact
  21. Getting access to what goes on in peopleā€™s heads?: reflections on the think-aloud technique
  22. A description of think aloud method and protocol analysis
  23. How to study thinking in everyday life: Contrasting think-aloud protocols with descriptions and explanations of thinking
  24. Think-aloud technique and protocol analysis in clinical decision-making research
  25. The use of think-aloud methods in qualitative research, an introduction to think-aloud methods
  26. User-centred design
  27. Interpreting the evidence: choosing between randomised and non-randomised studies
  28. The use and abuse of multiple outcomes in randomised controlled depression trials
  29. The unpredictability paradox: review of empirical comparisons of randomised and non-randomised clinical trials
  30. Are randomized clinical trials good for us (in the short term)? Evidence for a ā€œtrial effectā€
  31. The ethics of underpowered clinical trials (Reply – Janosky)