Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Best Laid Plans

Sorry to say, no new blog for this week. After trying to come home yesterday from California, by flying from San Jose to Minneapolis, and then to O'Hare in the midst of a huge set of storms, after being kept on the tarmac at O'Hare for hours waiting for the storm to clear so we could go the gate, and then having to drive home at 2am, getting there at 5:30am, and then coming to work to give make-up exams, I find I have no lesson to impart, except that one should never ever travel anywhere with me. I am the black hole of travellers...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Some Nuances about IRB Processes

I am always grateful that we have so many people at our campuses willing to conduct research. And I know that for those that are new to it, the IRB and its procedures and processes can seem a bit mystifying, as well as look like an impediment to what you wish to do. Since all IRB submissions initially are sent to me, I have noted some continuing issues that occur fairly frequently, and I thought I might here describe them to you.

On Initial Submission: When you first submit an application to the IRB, please make sure that you do complete every question on the form. Many will require no answer at all, so just put an NA as your response (for example, if you are conducting a survey, the entire series of questions related to the use of ionizing radiology are not applicable). And make sure you get the last page signed by your immediate supervisor. This ensures that your supervisor is okay with the time that you will need to do your research. When you submit, you will need to provide the IRB secretary with proof that all investigators have up-to-date certificates of Protection of Human Research Participants training, and that you send a roster as well. Forms for this are found on the IRB website ( And take time to complete the application and provide detail. We cannot move your application forward without these pieces of information, and ensuring you have them at initial submission will smooth the process of approving your application.
Amendments: Any time you make a change in an approved protocol, you need to submit an amendment form to the IRB. This is for any change at all, since your project was approved only for what you initially told us you would do. So, if an investigator left the college and you added someone new, send the form. If you decide to change a question on a survey, it needs an amendment. And if it affects the consent document that was already approved, it will need to go back to the IRB for reconsideration.

Renewal and Termination: All approvals for projects are good only for one year. At the end of that year, you must submit a renewal form, so that the IRB can take another look at your work and okay its continuation. This is your responsibility; if you get a note from the IRB reminding you about this, you are already late and in danger of having your work stopped until such time as you complete the renewal application. This is a legal requirement. Also, when you are done with your work, you are required to send a notice of termination to the IRB so that it can remove your project from those which are annually tracked. This uses the same form as the renewal request.
I know this may at times seem arcane and complicated, but it really isn’t. It takes just a bit of time and some thoughtfulness to ensure your work is handled correctly. And all of us working with and for the IRB thank you for that.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Three New from Biomed Central Journals

Hofman B, Myhr AI, Holm S. Scientific dishonesty—a nationwide survey of doctoral students in Norway. BMC Medical Ethics 2013, 14:3 doi:10.1186/1472-6939-14-3

Background: The knowledge of scientific dishonesty is scarce and heterogeneous. Therefore this study investigates the experiences with and the attitudes towards various forms of scientific dishonesty among PhD-students at the medical faculties of all Norwegian universities.

Method: Anonymous questionnaire distributed to all post graduate students attending introductory PhD-courses at all medical faculties in Norway in 2010/2011. Descriptive statistics.
Results: 189 of 262 questionnaires were returned (72.1%). 65% of the respondents had not, during the last year, heard or read about researchers who committed scientific dishonesty. One respondent had experienced pressure to fabricate and to falsify data, and one had experienced pressure to plagiarize data. On average 60% of the respondents were uncertain whether their department had a written policy concerning scientific conduct. About 11% of the respondents had experienced unethical pressure concerning the order of authors during the last 12 months. 10% did not find it inappropriate to report experimental data without having conducted the experiment and 38% did not find it inappropriate to try a variety of different methods of analysis to find a statistically significant result. 13% agreed that it is acceptable to selectively omit contradictory results to expedite publication and 10% found it acceptable to falsify or fabricate data to expedite publication, if they were confident of their findings. 79% agreed that they would be willing to report misconduct to a responsible official.

Conclusion: Although there is less scientific dishonesty reported in Norway than in other countries, dishonesty is not unknown to doctoral students. Some forms of scientific misconduct are considered to be acceptable by a significant minority. There was little awareness of relevant policies for scientific conduct, but a high level of willingness to report misconduct.

Burr SA, Brodier E, Wilkinson S. Delivery and use of individualised feedback in large class medical teaching. BMC Medical Education 2013, 13:63 doi:10.1186/1472-6920-13-63
Background: Formative feedback that encourages self-directed learning in large class medical teaching is difficult to deliver. This study describes a new method, blueprinted feedback, and explores learner's responses to assess its appropriate use within medical science teaching.

Methods: Mapping summative assessment items to their relevant learning objectives creates a blueprint which can be used on completion of the assessment to automatically create a list of objectives ranked by the attainment of the individual student. Two surveys targeted medical students in years 1, 2 and 3. The behaviour-based survey was released online several times, with 215 and 22 responses from year 2, and 187, 180 and 21 responses from year 3. The attitude-based survey was interviewer-administered and released once, with 22 responses from year 2 and 3, and 20 responses from year 1.
Results: 88-96% of learners viewed the blueprinted feedback report, whilst 39% used the learning objectives to guide further learning. Females were significantly more likely to revisit learning objectives than males (p = 0.012). The most common reason for not continuing learning was a 'hurdle mentality' of focusing learning elsewhere once a module had been assessed.

Conclusions: Blueprinted feedback contains the key characteristics required for effective feedback so that with further education and support concerning its use, it could become a highly useful tool for the individual and teacher.

Stuber K, Bruno P, Kristmanson K, Ali Z. Dietary supplement recommendations by Saskatchewan chiropractors: results of an online survey. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2013, 21:11 doi:10.1186/2045-709X-21-11

Background: Chiropractors receive training in nutrition during their education, previous surveys have found that chiropractors frequently provide recommendations to patients relating to nutrition and dietary supplement intake. However, it has not been ascertained which specific supplements chiropractors recommend or the types of health conditions for which supplement recommendations are made.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine which dietary supplements are most commonly recommended by chiropractors in the province of Saskatchewan,Canada and the health conditions for which supplement recommendations are made.

Design: An online survey of licensed chiropractors practicing in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada was distributed three times following online and in-person notifications of the survey.
Statistical analyses performed: Descriptive statistics were reported, predominantly in the form of means and proportions.

Results: A response rate of 45% was obtained. All of the respondents (100%) indicated providing nutritional advice or counselling to patients, while nearly all (99%) indicated providing dietary supplement recommendations to patients. Respondents estimated that they provide nutritional advice or counselling to 31% of their patients on average, and recommend dietary supplements to an average of 25% of their patients. The most commonly recommended supplements were glucosamine sulfate, multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. The most common reasons to recommend dietary supplements were for “general health and wellness” (82% of respondents), “bone health” (74%), “rheumatologic, arthritic, degenerative, or inflammatory conditions’ (72%), and “acute and/or chronic musculoskeletal conditions” (65%).
Conclusion: The majority of respondents indicated providing nutritional counselling and recommendations for dietary supplements to their patients. Respondents generally recommend a small number of dietary supplements and provide these recommendations and counselling to fewer than half of their patients on average, while tending to focus on conditions most closely related to the scope of practice of chiropractors. The findings of this study may have been limited by selection bias owing to the low response rate and as those who respond to surveys are often more likely to respond positively.


Monday, May 6, 2013

Atomic Learning Revisited

Several months I purchased a site license to the Atomic Learning website.  I am gratified to know that those of you have used it have found it a worthwhile resource. My goal here is entice those of you who have not used to consider doing so.  I thought that by simply letting you know of what is on there, you may wish to investigate further.

As an example, the site has training videos dedicated to developing student resources using iBook Author. The following sections can be found there:
  • Getting Started
  • Basic Procedures to Master
  • Templates and Layouts
  • Chapters, Sections and Pages
  • General Info about Objects
  • Working with Text
  • Graphics and Shapes
  • Tables and Charts
  • Widgets
  • Previewing, Sharing, Publishing and Archiving
Each one of these general topics can be expanded to link to as many as 10 individual video clips demonstrating more detailed information about each major topic section. No clip is more than a couple minutes long, meaning that you can take these at your leisure, and you can in relatively short order be provided what amounts to a full program demonstrating how you can create classroom resources using iBooks Author. And this is but one program topic on a website that links you to literally hundreds of such programs.

Among the programs that can find resources for are the following: Access, Acrobat, BlackBoard, Camtasia, clickers, Dragon Naturally Speaking, EndNote, Excel, FileMaker, Firefox, Google Docs, HTML, Internet Explorer, moodle, Office, Outlook, Photoshop, PowerPoint and Word. And for each, you can pick various versions of the program, matching whatever you have on your computer.
This is a wonderful resource, and as you explore the site, you will also find that it has a separate area for education-related topics, such as plagiarism, copyright, collaborative learning and so on. I implore you to play with this, have fun with it, and learn from it.