Stuff that occurs to me

All of my 'how to' posts are tagged here. The most popular posts are about blocking and private accounts on Twitter, also the science communication jobs list. None of the science or medical information I might post to this blog should be taken as medical advice (I'm not medically trained).

Think of this blog as a sort of nursery for my half-baked ideas hence 'stuff that occurs to me'.

Contact: @JoBrodie Email: jo DOT brodie AT gmail DOT com

Science in London: The 2018/19 scientific society talks in London blog post

Saturday, 31 March 2012

The #CharityDigital tweets

Note, this page may take a moment to fully load.

This event took place in London the other night - I didn't know anything about it until it was well underway as I'm not a 'Head of Digital' but once I got wind of it I enjoyed reading the tweets. I've captured them using (it lets you grab 50 tweets at a time and there are fewer than 100 tweets here so it was a pretty quick process for harvesting them) and then used the embed code that is generated for each Chirpstory.

These are also in chronological order (again, one click) and I've kept in the RTs though they can be quickly removed. Towards the end - ie nearest in time to now - the blogposts start appearing as the event's ended and people post a few hours later with their reflections.

The event was co-hosted by CharityComms and CogApp.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Tuning fork therapy - it's not very likely is it?

Update: 25 November 2019
Apparently Marie Kondo (of joy-sparking decluttering fame) has started selling her own range of products, including a miniature tuning fork with a crystal. For $75. The tuning fork alone is $50 and emits a frequency of 4kHz (4,096 Hz) which, according to the Classic FM article pondering the baffling existence of this product, is "about the pitch of the highest note on a piano (C8)."

Update: 15 August 2012
I've noticed a few blog hits coming in along the lines of "does tuning fork therapy work" and "what is tuning fork therapy?". Just to be absolutely clear - it's a made-up therapy and does absolutely nothing of use whatever. I'm sure it will be fun and pleasant to listen to / play with tuning forks but anyone telling you they can use vibrational medicine to 'locate health problems' and then 'correct them' is (a) mistaken and (b) possibly breaking trading laws by making claims about health and diagnosis. There are no such things as chakras, or 'energy blocks'. Reiki is also fanciful nonsense but a kindly chat to someone can sometimes make you feel better anyway so if you want to waste your money, go ahead :)

Tuning forks are great fun and I don't believe there's a person alive who, if they meet one, isn't tempted to whack it on the nearest hard surface and then hold it next to their ear as the vibrating sound decays. You can get ones that are set at different pitches and growing up in a musical household meant I got to play with them fairly regularly. If you don't have one to hand here are some online tuning forks.

Recently there was an advert for a Sunday newspaper which went round the country and got different people to sing "The sun'll come out tomorrow...". I thought this advert could have done with more tuning forks because all the clips were sung at different pitches. Probably it was meant to indicate some homely charm or British eccentricity... but a tuning fork would have sorted that out.

Meanwhile tuning forks have cropped up in this advert I recently saw, for tuning fork therapy with bonus reiki.

I've cut out the contact details but the text reads:

Vibrational Medicine
Our bodies resonate biomagnetic frequencies
Vibrational medicine is a Sound Therapy
using tuning forks to locate health problems
and correct them with the right frequency.
It is effective at cleaning static energy,
releasing energetic blocks, balancing chakras,
healing specific problems.
Light-touch or no-touch therapy
into the body to enable healing
physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Reiki will bring awareness to where problems lie,
and why they are there.
While this is nonsense I did wonder how tuning forks might be used in real medicine, for example I know that they're to be found in clock mechanisms so possibly they feature in some way. No idea what though.

Update 3 June 2014
I've found an example of tuning forks being used to diagnose broken bones

"During a field evaluation, a tuning fork and stethoscope can be useful in evaluating potential fractures. However, this method should only be used in conjunction with a thorough assessment and sound clinical judgment."

COMMENTS ARE MOSTLY CLOSED ON THIS ENTRY.  Unless they're really comical. So far they've been mostly tedious.

Science communication jobs in Europe - where to find info?

The ScicommJobs Posterous blog and accompanying Twitter feed occasionally has a job that's outside of the UK but mostly they're in London / UK because that's where I live and so that's what I tend to hear about or look for.

Is anyone doing a project that's similar to mine but in different countries around the world? I'd be keen to link up our respective scicomm jobs blogs in some sort of networking fashion.

Anyway I've been asked by someone from outside the UK where they can hear about jobs that are specifically in Europe. Do you have some helpful suggestions to add to mine?

1. Pick a country you like the look of and make a note of their scientific institutions, universities, museums, industries, government bodies etc and investigate their vacancies pages. That's pretty much what I began doing here: Science Communication Vacancies Pages.

2. Find out where jobs are advertised (eg newspapers, jobs sites, mailing lists that cover a particular geographic area). This will also help you find out more resources for (1).

3. Embassies might be a useful resource although to be honest I don't really know how they work. If you are French and want to work in Italy then I wonder if the Italian Embassy in France can help you - perhaps not with finding you a science communication job but certainly with practicalities. We also have the British Council which promotes British talent and expertise around the world. I'm assuming there are equivalents for other countries, in different countries. 

So... if you wanted to work in science communications in a European country - where would you start to get an idea of the scicomm landscape there?

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"Accuracy, Completeness, and Transparency in health research reporting" Fw: EQUATOR Scientific Symposium 11-12 October 2012

This came to the Critical Appraisal Skills mailing list on Jiscmail which is a low volume discussion list the purpose of which I'm sure you can easily guess :)


ACT now: Accuracy, Completeness, and Transparency in health research reporting
11 - 12 October 2012; Freiburg, Germany
We would like to invite you to the scientific symposium and 4th EQUATOR Annual Lecture organised by the EQUATOR Network and the German Cochrane Centre.
The symposium will be of great interest to health research scientists and clinicians, journal editors and peer reviewers, reporting guideline developers, publishers, research funders and other professionals involved in research education, research governance and the publication of medical research.
The focus of the meeting is:
Highlight critical issues in health research reporting and its wider consequences
Present key findings from relevant scientific research; topics include:
Reporting quality of research studies in all areas of medicine
Common problems in research reporting (e.g. publication bias, selective reporting, inconsistencies between protocol and publication, misinterpretation of research findings)
Impact and consequences of poor reporting on systematic reviews and clinical guidelines, clinical practice and patients' care
Development of robust reporting guidelines
Increasing awareness and knowledge of principles of rigorous research reporting and available guidelines
Implementation of reporting guidelines in journals, and by research and funding organisations
Development and delivery of educational and training programmes on research reporting
Discuss potential solutions for improvement of health research literature and share experiences
To make sure you do not miss the event please email to register your interest.
When the call for abstracts and registration opens we will contact you directly.
More information is available on the EQUATOR Network website

Friday, 16 March 2012

What is all this crap Google adds to my search URLs?

I am a habitual URL hacker* - tinkering with the bits in a web address to try and find a page that I want. For example if I'm on I might prune off the bit at the end and see if there's anything at - it's often brought up loads of great stuff (not always, sometimes you don't get permission to view intermediate bits).

Whenever I run a search on Google and share the results with someone else I've noticed that I always paste the results URL into notepad and clip off all the stuff at the end that appears to be completely irrelevant to the search. I've only just started noticing that I do this although I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I do it for everything though - if I'm sharing a link to an article on a news site and it has a bit at the end that mentions the referrer link (something like utm=twitter I think) then I prune that out too. I'm not exactly sure why, unless it turns out that I'm a purist and only want to share the minimum of alphanumerics needed to direct someone to the right page on a site.

The URL clipping itself is the work of seconds as I always have a notepad document open for that sort of thing and use keyboard shortcuts Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V to copy and paste and Alt+Tab to ping into the notepad window.

I've just searched on my work website for info about 'diabetes networks' using this exact search: "diabetes networks" - the site: bit means it just searches within our website and the bit in "" marks means it searches that exact phrase.

Wanting to send the results to someone else I copy the URL from the address bar and, as always, note with surprise the random string added to the end - what is all this guff that Google adds to my search string?

The URL above contains a duplicate of the search string (in dark red) and a whole load of apparently non-contributing filler (in green).

Deleting all of that pares it back to this much smaller web address: - which works fine. The %22 is the way web addresses render ", so you need to keep those (%3A = : - the colon between site and www).

The aqi / aql / gs_sm stuff is occasionally useful - if you click on the image search for example, you're given in return an address that looks a bit like this and removing these bits of text from the URL just resets it to the regular web search (meaning if you send the amended link to someone else they'll just see the regular results, not the image results).

But what do all those numbers and letters in green mean?

*solely for benign purposes!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Medical research charities at the Science Communication Conference

I've been a medical research charity science communicator since 2003 and have been attending the British Science Association's Science Communication Conference since 2004. In all that time there have always been a few other charity science communicators at the conference, many of them contributing to sessions, but I don't think (correct me if I'm wrong) there's ever been a session with so much research charity scicomm packed in it.

For several of those conference-going years I've been thinking that there should really be one and so late last year I wrote a blog post and then shared it on the "Science communicators in medical research charities" LinkedIn group (1) which currently has over 100 individuals who've signed up. Then Jess Smith from Alzheimer's Society got to work organising things and lo and behold three of us from medical charities are getting together with a couple of other people to hold a joint panel session on communicating tricky topics (2).

Fairly predictably I'll be talking about diabetes-related matters, including islet cell transplantation and possibly the issues of cord blood storage, perhaps with a minor detour into dodgy stem cell cures abroad. Perhaps I'll take requests ;) I expect I'll have a bit of a 'great big think' about this over the next few weeks and whack up another blog post on the topic.

The overarching theme of this year's conference is about the impact of communicating research. My job is actually more about communicating research that's nearer the bedside than the bench, and there are many different kinds of science communicators in medical charities / patient groups (3).

There are also a fair number of different medical charities for any disease or condition you might think of. I've been trying to persuade everyone to go and work for one of them by keeping a list of their vacancies pages here (and see also here) and it's a major impetus behind the creation of @ScicommJobs.

Also, about 100 charities are members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) which has its own Science Communication Awards every second year. The next awards will open in September this year and the awards will be made next year.

Some other posts I've written about this sort of thing

(1) More on the "Science communicators in medical research charities" LinkedIn group
"The group is primarily aimed at people who are working in* medical research charities or patient groups based in the UK† and who use and communicate scientific and health information in their jobs. OK that's not really a 'rule' but hopefully it puts things in context. I am expecting this group to be largely populated by AMRC charity folk but all are welcome 
Depending on the context I probably take a dim view of commercial postings or anything overtly promotional. Topics that don't appear to be relevant to the discussion will be removed (but text saved for later in case you convince me I'm wrong in removing it).
* or who would like to work in
† or global charities that have a UK chapter"

(2) British Science Association: Science Communication Conference 2012 draft programme (on p17 of the 19 page PDF)
Give me your brain: Communicating tricky topics
Session format: Panel discussion followed by group discussions
Jess Smith, Alzheimer’s Society
Kelly Edwards, Motor Neurone Disease Association
Jo Brodie, Diabetes UK
Jenny Gimpel, Freelance
Amir Gander, University College London 
Medical research charities and institutions play a fundamental role in communicating science to different audiences, but how do they tackle tricky issues such as appeals for body donations, or unscientific claims for ‘miracle cures’? Case studies presented at the start of this session will highlight lessons learned from public engagement projects and charity publicity work on sensitive subjects. In round table discussions held in the second part of the session, charity and science communicators will further share their successes and experiences in tackling taboo topics, exploring with delegates the challenges faced by all and inviting suggestions for improvements in public engagement and communication on sensitive subjects. Delegates will be rotated through these round tables in a ‘mad-hatter’ manner to explore the plethora of ways that controversial topics can be handled publicly.

(3) In thinking of who the LinkedIn group was for I came up with the following examples of roles.
Medical research charities and patient groups employ several different types of science communicators (although they might not necessarily use that term in the job title).
Depending on the size and needs of the charity, science communicators will do any or all of the following (and I'm sure I've forgotten stuff!):
• write and edit content for websites and magazines (for members of the public as well as professional audiences)
• work in press teams
• manage research portfolios and give talks about the work that is funded
• provide a science enquiry service to people affected by a condition or to healthcare professionals
• develop policies on animal or stem cell research (or other controversial issues)
• respond to external consultations
• fact-check statistics and provide evidence-based information to colleagues and critically appraise literature etc.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Looking for constructive criticism of the idea of getting websites to have a /jobs redirect page

For background history see "New readers start here" below
My plan is to make it easier for people to find an organisation's job vacancies page on their website by persuading everyone to adopt a web address convention. I'll be contacting a number of companies and asking them if they could point their homepage + /jobs (eg to wherever their job vacancies page is (the page itself doesn't have to be located at the top level of the site - this is just a 'page redirect'. I made a start on this a couple of weeks ago by writing a blogpost outlining what it was I thought could be better regarding vacancies pages and so far I've had some really positive feedback and no negative feedback, which is nice. Now I'm looking for the negative feedback so that I can refine any ideas. Not too negative I hope.

Here is my list of companies / organisations that do already have this /jobs thing going on. It's mostly science communication but I'm keen to encourage any company to do this!

If I'm planning on asking companies to make this tweak to their site I'd like to know more about what it is that I'm asking them, and whether or not there might be good objections to my request that I should be aware of before I go annoying people.

1. Does having a page that's rarely updated 'hurt' SEO?
Loads of sites don't have job vacancies pages at all, some of these may be small companies who don't have a high turnover of jobs, or they might only use agencies to get vacancies filled. 

I'm asking organisations in this situation to add a page (so that people can bookmark the redirected URL) even if they only update it once a year if that.

Does having a 'dead' page like this have a negative effect on one's Google ranking? Possibly smaller organisations can't necessarily afford to buy Google keywords or whatever it is that people do, so I don't want to be asking anyone to do aything that actually reduces their ambient visitor number. Anyone know if it makes any difference? I get that keeping fresh content keeps the site lively and all that, but does one page matter much? Is it better, from an SEO perspective, not to have the page at all?

2. How difficult is it to create a redirect?
Assuming they've added a page or have one anyway how technically fiddly is it to set up a redirect? I've got some ideas on how to do this but couldn't just go off and do it. Is it something that most people running a website could do (I run a website, I don't know how to do it yet) or are there technical pitfalls? For example it might be helpful and speed things up a bit if I write a 'how to do this' guide. Seems fair!

3. Even if everyone does /jobs do site visitors know to find it themselves?
Non-techy folk use the internet in ways that are quite surprising to techier minded folk. For example I recently discovered that, according to a Google survey of users, 90 per cent of people didn't know about the Ctrl+F, Command F, F3 or the / key could be used to bring up the 'search this page' function (I was genuinely amazed, quite gormlessly unaware that "everyone" didn't know this). 

A few years ago I read Snyder Consulting's page on 'Seven tricks that web users don't know' which similarly surprised me (and this was back in 2007!). One of the items was that people hadn't twigged that the logo of a company's page often acts as a 'return to homepage' clickable icon.

So it's entirely possible that people won't even know about the /jobs thing even if it becomes commonly used.

I'm not sure that this matters though because if people are searching for jobs I think they're more likely to find it if there's a page on the site with that name.  

Any other criticisms?
One will undoubtedly occur to me on the bus to work tomorrow but I'll add in any others that people think of.

New readers start here
For the last two years I've been collecting job vacancies pages from organisations in London that look like they might employ science communicators of one type or another. Alongside this I periodically run a search of the pages and post any relevant jobs to the ScicommJobs Posterous (which pings them out to a Twitter bot called @ScicommJobs).

Finding the vacancies pages in the first place seemed quite a challenge. Assuming an organisation has such a page each of them might place it in a different section of their website, or call it something different from plain old 'jobs' (I think I've probably seen every synonym for that word) making it marginally harder to find. 

I know that most people who are looking for (or receptive to hearing about new) jobs probably keep an eye on things like Guardian Jobs and other online places. They'd also find them on the psci-com mailing list among others. But so many science communication jobs don't seem to make it onto psci-com perhaps because the organisation doesn't know about it or because they don't really think about it in terms of being science communication. One of the two  jobs I do was advertised (in 2003) in all the librarian and information professionals' networks but not on any science communication networks. I found it by accident from looking at the website (at that time I was using my list to find jobs for myself) and immediately spotted its potential. 

So I'm keen to find science communication jobs and release them into the wild and also to 'trap' their job descriptions so that people can easily refer to them - there are two years' worth at the blog, most effectively searched via Google - add your search keywords to

When looking at a new site with the intention of trying to collect its vacancies page the first thing I do is type /jobs at the end of the homepage address url. Quite often this brings up the relevant page (or it redirects to wherever the page is located which is also common) but sometimes I get a 'page not found', which means I have to try the 'About us' (one of the more common locations) or just get searching those synonyms. 

I'd like to encourage ALL organisations to (i) add a vacancies page to their site, (ii) make sure that their homepage url redirects to it using the style or and if they're feeling really kind (iii) add an RSS feed to it so that every time a job is added it's pushed to people who've subscribed to receive info about jobs from that organisation.

Is there a Songkick for films?

Short link for this post is

Because the utterly wonderful Radiolab introduced me to sound designer / sound editor (and film editor) Walter Murch (hear also their "Blink" podcast) I went to see The Conversation a year or two ago at the Birkbeck Film Society with more aware ears. Similarly I'd quite like to go and see Apocalypse Now on a big screen with a good sound system [mission accomplished, thank you Somerset House, Summer 2012] - but what's the best way of finding out when it's showing in London?

There's a bit of software called Songkick which works as a smartphone app and is embedded into YouTube. As far as I can tell it's rather clever. I noticed it because I was listening to the theme tune from Jurassic Park and it told me that John Williams was doing a concert in London (it turned out to be a different John Williams but we all have our glitches). What interested me was that I hadn't gone looking to find out if the conductor / composer was 'on tour', I just wanted to hear a piece of music, and this software had pushed interesting information at me.

Bruce is on tour apparently.
This seems like an efficient way of doing things. Rather than a band's promo people releasing news of a tour on an official website, fans picking it up and sharing it on forums and others gradually getting to hear about it, it seems much simpler to place information on a central Songkick hub which can then disseminate it much more widely.

One thing that Songkick does is scan your music library and automatically let you know if any of the bands have tours - this means that you don't have to enter the name of a band you're interested in manually.

I'm not sure if this format could work well for films though. Probably most people still have their movies in a physical format (DVD, VHS) though of course plenty have videos and films on smartphones and tablets too - as it happens I don't have too many digital versions, it's mostly DVDs.

Probably I'd have to type in the names of films I was interested in seeing, or directors and sound editors I might want to hear from (I recently went to hear director Terry George and film editor Nick Emerson at separate events at the Belfast Film Festival talking about their work - they both worked together on the film Whole Lotta Sole aka Stand Off if you're in North America).

RadioTimes has a watchlist which lets you know when a particular programme (TV or radio) is going to be broadcast on UK channels, but you still have to type in the name of the programme to search for it, then add it to your watchlist (and of course be logged in to the system).

Would any of this help me find out when Apocalypse Now is next showing at a London screen (or any screen in some geographically defined area)? [Edit: it's showing in August at the Somerset House open-air screening. It did in 2012, it was fab]

I'm probably going to either miss it or hear about it quite coincidentally as the only way I can think of to spot it is to keep a close watch on the amazing LondonNet's A-Z list of films showing in London (this is an immensely useful resource). If this page had an RSS feed I'd hear too frequently about updates on films I might be less interested in, so I need something at the fine-grained level of an individual film.

IMDb is a great resource for film in general but I tend to think of it as an after-the-fact type of resource in much the same way that I don't go to Wikipedia for news. Also, useful as IMDb is it's not really a hub for news or film listings (though if you stick /releaseinfo after the web address of any new film's page you'll find details of when it will be released, but this depends on that information being filled in of course) and I'd not think of going there to see if anyone's posted about Apocalypse Now playing in London. It's pretty unlikely because IMDb's a global thing and if everyone did that it would probably have to have listings of every film to be comprehensive and currently these would all have to be manually entered. If YouTube can pick up stuff automatically from Songkick I expect IMDb could be tweaked to do so for the film equivalent as well.

If a band is playing a series of gigs then probably quite a lot of people will go along however if an older film is shown as a one-off (eg Night of the Hunter, or the 1960s version of Bedazzled that's showing today at BFI) then probably the potential audience is much smaller, so perhaps it's not really that viable. 

Has anyone heard of an equivalent hub site for film listings or know if one's in the pipeline? Perhaps it's too niche... Anyway I'm afraid I've no idea how to create one so can't contribute very much.