On Sept. 21, the Creative Thinking in Epidemiology workshop was run again, this time with researchers associated with Cancer Care Ontario and the Epidemiology Department at the University of Toronto. Continue reading
Today is the first of 20 days of what I am calling a “Learning Road Trip.” Each day’s post will present the planned activity and be revised later to indicate how it went.
5. Alternatives to some statistical conventions: As I have developed my ability to read the epidemiological literature and explain the methods and controversies over methods to others, I have taken note of approaches or perspectives that depart from statistical conventions. The third Appendix includes some items from my mixed grab bag of alternatives. There is no grand theory linking them. Readers might have objections to some of the alternatives and the thinking behind them, but they might also be stimulated to explore their implications further. Continue reading
4. Wider discussion among researchers: As mentioned in the introduction, my Epidemiological Thinking course (http://ppol753.wikispaces.umb.edu) is designed with a view to more non-specialists becoming conversant with the methods, results, and controversies in social epidemiology and related fields. I envisage a form of epidemiological literacy in which specialists can be drawn into conversation or collaboration by other researchers who appreciate epidemiological concepts even if they lack the technical skills to analyze the data themselves. Indeed, I hope my course engages students who would either avoid a biostatistically oriented epidemiology course or would lose their grip on most of the technical details after struggling through such a course. Continue reading
3. Epidemiological thinking in public discourse: We do not fully understand an idea until we are able to explain it to the common person—something to that effect was proposed by, I think, the geographer and anarchist Peter Kropotkin. In this spirit, epidemiologists might try using epidemiological thinking to clarify issues that arise in the media or public discourse. In addition to the deeper or perhaps revised understanding, epidemiologists could build from such exercises a basis for a more public role and that might lead eventually to greater support for epidemiology and public health. Continue reading
2. Tools/processes and connections: Participants in a workshop can expect the processes of the workshop and the connections made among participants to add something unavailable from reading a paper on the same topic—otherwise, why have a workshop? The tools/processes and connections should help participants generate insights about the topic and help them learn from contributions that others make. When the topic is “Creative Thinking in Epidemiology” participants might also hope that the workshop tools/processes and connections can be carried over so that they continue to use them to help generate insights after the workshop and make changes in practice (i.e., not simply continue along previous lines).
Contribution 1. An image: To be interested in creative thinking in epidemiology is to accept that it is “no longer possible to simply continue along previous lines” (to quote a foreign participant in a past workshop). Now, it makes good sense to continue along previous lines—to apply the techniques we are skilled in, seek grants from the sources that have funded us, address the problems we are recognized as experts in, collaborate with colleagues who have worked well in a team before, and so on. Moreover, continuing along previous lines does not mean we do not change, but that change builds on what we are comfortable with. Yet, an interest in not simply continuing along previous lines means we seek perspectives, problems, tools, connections, and audiences that make us feel troubled when we do continue along previous lines.
Question in preparation for the workshop:
- What factors have influenced you in the past to shift your original direction of research or even your career (if this has happened to you)?