Summary: Professor Hardens highlights new projects and looks ahead to AMEE 2013 in this fortnight’s Blog. Description: We are in the final stages of preparation for AMEE 2013 in Prague. With more than 3,200 participants already registered, we have 180 boxes with conference bags and other resource materials and a further 150 boxes with conference programmes leaving tomorrow by lorry for Prague. Included are some exciting new resources for the AMEE stand in the exhibition hall, including two “stresses”– one is a cube with the FAIR principles of effective learning and the other cube highlights the SPICES continuum for curriculum planning. For the first time, this year we have a conference app. I have seen apps at various other conferences, but this one is much more exciting and user friendly and I look forward to seeing it in practice. At AMEE conferences, I feel we have a responsibility to push the boundaries of conference organisation and we are trying to do this in a number of ways, including the use of ePosters which are truly interactive.

Lambert Schuwirth, who is now at Flinders University in Australia, told me this week about a new project with which he has been engaged that focuses on the role of human judgment in clinical assessment and how to help junior assessors quickly gain the necessary expertise to become expert assessors. Apparently this work, which is funded by the Australian Office of Learning and Teaching, has attracted much attention in Australia. I certainly very much like his approach, which is completely different from the mainstream ideas about objectivity and standardisation. It is built on the thought that human judgment is indispensable in the assessment of students. We hope to feature some of the training materials he has produced on both of the AMEE and MedEdWorld websites.

Commercial companies are now better able to predict consumer behaviour than ever before with customers’ personal details increasing online. Sam Barnett, founder and CEO, Struq, writes in Management Today (July/August 2013, page 52), “The skills needed for marketing are chaging now. Marketers used to be these creative guys. Now, more and more have maths degrees. Marketers need a skill set which is more analytical and can analyse databases to make quick decisions. Organisations which are data driven are the ones that will thrive in the future because of the way the market’s evolving.” There may be messages here for us too in education.

We are looking at which Master’s in Medical Education programmes will give credits for students who complete the AMEE-ESME Online Course and receive the AMEE-ESME Certificate in Medical Education. We have found that a number of course participants developed an interest in medical education and want to go on with their studies, but want to get acknowledgment for the work they have done on the AMEE-ESME Online Course. This is potentially an important source of course participants for those organising master’s programmes. In looking at the websites of some of the master’s programmes available, including the courses at The University of Michigan, The University of Calgary, The Karolinska Institutet, and The University of Pittsburgh, I was interested to see that our book, A Practical Guide for Medical Teachers, is quoted as a course text.

I was honoured and delighted to receive this week an invitation to be the keynote speaker at Georgetown University Medical Center’s Sixth Annual Faculty Convocation in November and to have bestowed on me at the convocation the Medical Center’s Cura Personalis Award.

The need to be cautious presents doctoral researchers with a dilemma, suggests Pat Thomson in her blog of July 22. She writes, “The need to be cautious presents doctoral researchers with a dilemma. The requirement to hedge your bets’ – not to over-claim on the basis of the research that’s been done – creates one of the underlying difficulties doctoral researchers face in writing the thesis. The thesis is meant to be an authoritative argument. The doctoral researcher must make the case that their work represents a contribution to knowledge. They must show the expertise and depth of knowledge they have after spending all that time on the one single problem. But because doctoral researchers know the limitations of their work, and are often also encouraged to address them in the thesis text, the way that they write about their work can sound unduly tentative.”

I was interested in Des Spence’s as usual provocative column in the British Medical Journal (July 6, 2013) on “Reefer madness training”. He argued that too much time is focused on prescribed drugs at the expense of recreational drugs, including their use, the complications, and the implications for society. Recreational drugs, he argues, are endemic: this is the reality rather than a moral comment. Should this be reflected in the curriculum?

Finally a web page that might interest or amuse you (www.dundee.ac.uk/memo/timevideos.html). This is an attempt to engage the public in clinical research by asking, “What time of day is it best to take blood pressure lowering medicines?”