Summary: After attending the ASME 2013 conference Professor Harden reflects on new approaches to knowledge. Description: I participated last week in the ASME meeting in Edinburgh. The Lord Cohen lecture was given this year by Charles Friedman. He argued that educating health professionals is very different in the era of ubiquitous information. He envisaged three competencies as being essential components of health professions education:

1. Knowing what you do and don’t know and knowing when to ask.
2. Performing with support of the knowledge cloud which he envisaged by 2020 will have all the information required by a doctor.
3. Evaluating and weighing evidence.

There will still be a need for clinical judgment and clinicians will be discriminating users of the cloud. In the era of personalised medicine, more than a thousand pieces of information would need to be taken into account when coming to a clinical decision – impossible without the aid of a computer. Napier University offered a good location for the meeting and the weather was dry and warm – almost too warm!

Best Evidence Medical Education (BEME) will feature prominently at AMEE 2013 in Prague this year. There will be meetings of the groups formed last year to include the BEME Board, the BEME International Collaborating Centres (BICCs), and the BEME Congress – to which this year anyone with an interest in evidence-based teaching and think they might contribute in some way is invited. There will also be the first meeting of the newly-created BEME Systematic Review Editorial Board. We spent some time this week with Marilyn Hammick and Trevor Gibbs looking at the planning for the meeting. This included a conference call with Dale Dauphinee who is chairing the BEME Congress and who is organising a think tank session on BEME which will complement the evidence-based teaching symposium.

I sent out last week an invitation to national associations for medical education for them to be represented at a meeting of representatives of national associations for medication education to be held at AMEE 2013 in Prague. The aim is allow an exchange of ideas and to explore potential collaborations. There has been an excellent response and there is obviously a need for such a meeting.

At the beginning of the month the BMJ organised in London a competition for young web developers. The third prize was for the “The Open Access Button (OAB)”. This counted the number of times a user hit an Internet pay wall when trying to access an article. Readers could then click on a button and location data helps to build a real time “Map of Frustration”. Given the launch of MedEdPublish, this was of particular interest to me. The app also aims to identify sources where a paper is readily available, perhaps as a pre-print version on an author’s website. An interesting idea!

Chris Reed working in social sciences at the University of Dundee has been given a grant of £188,834 to develop a dialog-based exploration of argument and mediation space. The project aims to build a model on the mediation process to serve as the foundation to develop software tools to provide practical support. It will develop an argument-mapping tool. It will also develop models of dialog for the approach, depending on factors such as the willingness of the parties to participate and the exact stage of the process. Although being developed for a very different purpose, I wonder whether with suitable modifications the model could be used to address controversies in medical education and encourage debate on new approaches.

I was interested to see a report in Perspect Med Educ of an interview with John Hall, Chairman of the Department of Physiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and author of the world-famous “Guyten and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology”. He was asked the question, “How relevant is physiology as a basic science to clinical practice? Do you need to be aware of physiology to be a good doctor?” I was somewhat disappointed with his response - in the AAMC survey each year graduating medical students expressed the view that physiology is highly relevant and important to their clinical training. I thought there should surely be more impressive evidence of the importance of physiology. I was interested to read that whenever something new is added to the textbook he also takes something out so that the volume of material does not grow too large for the students to use effectively. He doesn’t give hints, however, as to how he decides what to take out.

Four perspectives on MOOCs” featured at the Sixth Conference of MIT’s Learning International Networks Consortium. If courses online are so good why is participation in them not accredited in the same way as for participants in the same courses face to face? This was one of the items discussed as can be seen on the recording of the session. The debate starts 3 hours and 6 minutes into this video.