Summary: In his latest blog Professor Harden looks at the issue of the cost of open access publishing, the use of the FAIR principles, Alt-metrics, lifelong learning, failed predictions and more. Description: Open access publishing free for authors
Open access publishing continues very much on today’s agenda. The discussion includes who should pay for publication. I was pleased to hear that Taylor and Francis, the publishers of Medical Teacher, have arranged that authors from 24 institutions in the Netherlands will now not need to pay any charges to make their article open-access in Medical Teacher.

An introduction to papers
In looking at the 30 or more papers we receive each week submitted for consideration for publication in Medical Teacher I initially look at four things – the title, the abstract, the take-home message in the discussion/conclusions, and the introduction. Some introductions, however, are disappointing and fail to communicate to me the purpose and significance of the paper. Writing introductions was the theme of Pat Thomson’s Patter blog ( She sums up rather nicely the issues, “Introductions have to do a lot of work in a short space of time. The beginning of the conventional journal article, for instance, has to tell the reader what the paper is about and why it is important. And do that very quickly and persuasively. In a few paragraphs the opening gambit must establish a warrant for the paper - and its significance. It is crucial to establish at the outset that the reader will know something important, good and/or useful by the time they reach the conclusion.” This is what I like to see in an introduction. She goes on to quote Steven Pinker’s book The Sense of Style: the thinking person’s guide to writing in the 21st century. Pinker highlights that authors need to identify in an introduction the real world problem they are studying. Pinker’s book was well reviewed and is worth looking at.

Use of the FAIR principles
Jennifer Laidlaw and I described some time ago the FAIR principles for effective learning – Feedback, Activity, Individualisation, Relevance, and have featured these in our communications, including the 2nd edition of Essential Skills for a Medical Teacher. We also highlighted them in our ESME courses. ESME course participants not infrequently base their assignments on the adoption of the FAIR principles in their practice. I was interested to see a different set of FAIR principles referred to in a presentation by Martin Delahunty Digitally-enhanced publications – the dawn of “interoperability” at the European Medical Writers Association meeting in Vienna. They had been published in 2016 by Wilkinson et al in Scientific Data, the FAIR guiding principles for scientific data management and stewardship. The principles are Findability (the resource and its metadata are easy to find), Accessibility (the resource and metadata are stored for the long term and are easily accessed), Interoperability (the metadata should be ready to be exchanged, interpreted, and combined with other data), Reusability (the data and metadata should be sufficiently well described to allow data to be reused in future research).

I am not yet sure how to interpret Alt-metrics’ scores. An Alt-metric score is a high level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that an individual article has achieved. The score is based on relevant mentions from social media sites, newspapers, policy documents, blogs, Wikipedia, and many other sources. The Alt-metric score is published for papers in Medical Teacher. The top Alt-metric scoring article in Medical Teacher last year was a paper by Danial C R Chen et al Characterising changes in student empathy throughout medical school ( The score 394 put it comfortably in the top 5% of all published articles covered. The authors report that empathy for patients waned as students advance in clinical training, particularly those entering technology orientated specialties.

Lifelong learning is common in Sweden
The Yidan Prize forecast: Education to 2030 is produced by the Intelligence Unit Research team of The Economist. It has some interesting information. Sweden is the leader for life-long learning and 40% of adults in Sweden take part in continuing education. Lifelong learning is also common in Norway. India has dramatically stepped up its engineering programmes producing approximately 1.5 million engineers a year amid fast-growing demand for low-end software engineers to do web maintenance. The US by contrast produces an estimated 100,000 engineers annually. It is argued that engineers and scientists need to be educated more broadly as they increasingly must consider the political, ethical, and moral implications of new technologies they work on.

An associated report Worldwide Educating for the Future Index 2018: Building tomorrow’s global citizens looked at the effectiveness of education systems around the world in preparing students for the demand of work and life in a rapidly changing landscape. It focused on the 15-24 age band in 50 economies around the world. Finland emerged as the world leader in future skills education, followed closely by Switzerland. Included in the top 10 were New Zealand, Sweden, Canada, Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, France, and the UK.

Failed predictions and the use of computers
Three decades ago Larry Cuban in his book Teachers and Machines: Classroom Use of Technology Since 1920 discussed, from his perspective in 1986, the future use of computers in classrooms. He predicted only limited uptake of computers in education with their use not exceeding three hours a week. As noted in his recent blog on school reform and classroom practice, contrary to his prediction in 1986, he acknowledges the use of computers in classrooms has soared. He still has reservations, however, and argues that despite the increased use of technology and software there is no evidence that this has boosted students’ critical thinking and school performance (

Mobile devices outnumber people on the planet
The Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) review of March 28th 2019 addresses social media and seamless learning. It contains some interesting statistics. It reports that now mobile devices officially outnumber people on the planet. The number worldwide of social media users is expected to reach more than 3 billion monthly active social media users by 2021, around 1/3 of the earth’s entire population. By 2022 an estimated 750 million of these users are expected to be from China and about 250 million from India. Adoption rates, however, vary widely between countries. 36% of Germans have active social media accounts while the figure is 61% in North America.

Why successful innovations fail
This was the theme of an article referring to a blog by Stewart Mennin ( Stewart has extensive experience in medical education and his writings are all well worth looking at.