Worth a glance #17

by reestheskin on 28/06/2015

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What you need to know before you blow the whistle. You just need to read Private Eye to understand how the NHS bullies those who criticise. I will use that awful cliché: bullying and stifling of dissent is part of the NHS’ DNA. Note the following: If a successful whistleblower loses their career, they may be awarded hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. However, there is no protection against blacklisting by future employers, so a whistleblower’s financial losses may be even greater. The author suggests doctors might contact the GMC, but again, Private Eye reporting (remember Bristol?) would suggest this may not be very helpful.

Peer review: not as old as you might think. Aileen Fyfe in the Time Higher. Even in my professional lifetime I have seen the meaning of the term peer review change, with journals attempting to claim ownership for their own purposes. Of course, editors used to make decisions without external experts, and how silly to imagine that a couple of reviewers could act as a marker of truth. The web should sweep all this aside, with the possibility of returning to the idea of communities of scholars. But the resistance will come from the journals, who are largely about making money; and the universities and grant awarding bodies, who are unable to actually read what people publish, and prefer to view the world through an Excel spreadsheet. This unholy alliance is of course now the substrate that allows performance management and the other  nefarious rituals of verification.

The invention of tradition: how ‘researchers’ replaced teachers. Again, I am feeling that one of the problems of being around awhile, is that you can see history being re-written to justify a particular point of view. There is much you can say and argue with about research in UK higher ed, but nothing compares with the neglect of teaching in many universities, or the lack of value in what students are paying for. As this article quotes, not long ago British academics were overwhelmingly orientated towards teaching rather than research. The marginalisation of scholarship and teaching, is particularly acute in medicine, where the need to have a third string to the bow — clinical practice — makes the problems worse. I used to use a quote from a web page of the late Roger Needham, who was Professor of Computing at Cambridge, but his web pages are no longer there. He said something along the lines of: the main form of tech transfer is something called ‘students’. Our biggest impact as academics is in the form of the graduates we produce.

Ask Doctor Clarke Should I feel guilty about this? Many of our students pay for this sort of extracurricular tuition.How good it is, I do not know. But it makes me feel sad. Reminds me of parents paying for full time private education, then paying for coaching in the evenings. You go to med school, paying fees of 9K with another 10K throw in by the government, or if you are from outside the EU, maybe 30K+ a year, and then you feel the need to pay not just for books, but for tuition.

Seven Questions for Personalized Medicine. This is from JAMA. I don’t think there is anything groundbreaking here, but it is nice to see some degree of scepticism, especially in a US journal. Again, the hype cycle is being remodelled. Its all business as usual.

Capita wins £1bn NHS contract to oversee administration. Private Eye of course refers to them as Crapita. An interesting example of how biased and superficial much of the FT is (just follow the comments, for an account of what Capita are like). This is all about what JK Galbraith called welfare for the rich. Or in the UK, subsidies for the corporate donors to the main political parties. Healthcare along the lines of the ATOS model.