Summary: Professor Ronald Harden highlights the review of more than 2,700 abstracts submitted for AMEE 2015 in Glasgow and at the same time talks about the move in a university to a competency-based approach. Description: My time is fully occupied most weeks, but I will be particularly busy over the next two weeks. We have in the AMEE office the reviews of the 2,750 abstracts submitted for AMEE 2015. Each abstract was sent to two or three reviewers who were asked to rate the abstract: definitely accept; probably accept; uncertain; probably not accept; definitely not accept, and to add comments to justify their decision. The challenge now is to make the final selection for inclusion in the programme and to arrange them into themed sections. Conference participants tell us that this organisation into themed topics is important. Some themes are obvious such as lectures, clinical assessment, or problem-based learning, but each year some new, interesting themes emerge.  Trying to identify new themes for sessions is challenging.  For some abstracts where the topic is of clear interest to conference participants and the reviewers are in agreement that it should be accepted for presentation, the decision is easy. For other papers, however, reviewers may have very different opinions expressed ranging from definitely accept to definitely not accept. Experience from previous years suggests that there may be a number of reasons for this: its perceived relevance to the AMEE audience; the publication of reports that replicate previous studies, but do so in a different context; data that is incomplete, but will be complete by the time of the conference; interesting new approaches or innovations not supported by evidence presented in the abstract. The issue of replication of previous work is an interesting one. Concern has been expressed in the education literature recently that there has been to be too little replication of work undertaken in education. Assuming four minutes (the time my electric brush allocates to the brushing of my teeth each day) for reading each abstract, coming to a conclusion based on the reviewer’s recommendations, and allocating the paper to a themed section, 11,000 minutes or 183 hours will be needed to complete the job! Working seven days a week for the next two weeks, this is equivalent to 13 hours per day. Fortunately this is an overestimate as some papers will be able to be dealt with in a much shorter time. Although demanding, I always look forward to this activity as it educates me as to what is on the agenda today in medical education and what people around the world are doing in different topics. I have no doubt that I will find some work described or ideas presented stimulating and I will look forward to hearing the paper in Glasgow – although with my commitments during the conference, this is often difficult. What is encouraging is how the interest in medical education has grown over the years. Even since last year this has been an increase of more than 300 papers.

This leads to my next thought. Integrating different activities into a busy schedule is not easy. A webinar about which I was notified this week claims to explore why work/life balance is becoming more difficult to accomplish and why work/life integration is the new norm. A promise is to deliver three principles that can help us gain control of work and life and help fit and work and life together. I would very much like to take part, but don’t have the time!!

At a teleconference this week on competency-based education, I heard again about the move at Queen’s University, Canada, under the leadership of Richard Reznick, to a competency-based education programme where what is fixed is the competence achieved and what was flexible is the time taken by students to achieve them. This is being implemented not just in the medical school, but in other schools at the university. Richard is well known for his work, as professor of surgery in Toronto, on the introduction of a successful competency based postgraduate orthopaedic training programme. Relevant to this is the recent MedEdWorld poll where 72% of respondents expressed the view that the overall undergraduate and postgraduate training programme should be shortened.

The tumultuous events of the Indians subcontinent’s partition in 1947 are re-imagined in a film to be shown at the University of Dundee this month. A lunatic asylum in Lahore becomes a mirror image of events in the political world, with the same actors playing both inmates and rulers. Adapted from Urdu writer Saadat Hasan Manto's story, Toba Tek Singh.

I was pleased last week to hear more from Trudie Roberts about Leeds University’s inter-collated year option where students study medical education in more depth. Inter-collated years where students can study science-based subjects are fairly common in some contexts and so also are shorter electives or student-selected components in medical education. As far as I know, this is the first full-time one year medical education programme for students. If you are aware of another please do let me know. The course has been running successfully for three years. There is certainly an increasing student interest in learning about medical education. We had a huge demand for the Student ESME Online course. My webinar last week, as part of the course, addressed how learning can be made more effective. I was hugely impressed by the students’ active participation and thoughtful responses during the webinar. The course over 12 weeks is now in its 8th week. A commitment of 5-7 hours is expected each week. Students who satisfactorily complete the work in the course are awarded the AMEE-ESME Certificate in Medical Education.