Friday, 29 August 2008

NHS Evidence mentioned in HSJ

HSJ (21/8/08) mentions NHS Evidence (p7):
"Health minister Lord Darzi's plans for a web portal called NHS Evidence, for clinicians and managers to share best practice, would spread the take-up of NICE guidance, [Dr Gillian Leng] said.

NICE will lead work in establishing NHS Evidence, filling it with information on clinical care, drugs and research, in addition to help for commissioners in planning care pathways.

Dr Leng, who is also interim Chief Operating Officer for NHS Evidence, said, 'It will provide an efficient access point for staff to find out about evidence. We want it to be as easy to use and as used as Google'."

Information prescriptions

E-Health Insider reports on the use of information prescriptions and accredited information via NHS Choices:

"Mr King said: “The government intends to expand NHS Choices so that it has a directory of quality accredited information – a single sophisticated database covering all the long term conditions, linked to care pathways and accessible by users and health professionals.”

The first six LTC [long term condition] information packages on asthma, coronary heart disease, diabetes, dementia, depression and stroke are already on the website with more in their way."

Government web sites

"Government Should Focus on Data Feeds, not Web Sites, Researchers Say"

From Princeton Uni so focused towards US government but still relevant over here

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Interesting thoughts on Google..

including, from Ashley Highfield, from Kangaroo:
"The future's going to be in layering on top of Google more understanding of the context of the user and the question - the 'semantic web', without getting too cyberbollocks about the whole thing."

Gartner hype cycle

Just came across this blog entry on the latest Gartner Hype Cycle ...

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Everything is miscellaneous - David Weinberger

Finally got round to reading this... some snippets below:

"Instead of everything having its place, it's better if things can get assigned multiple places simultaneously.

[...] we're no longer forced to carefully construct a single shared path through memory.

[...]the digital order ignores the paper order's requirement that labels be smaller than the things they're labelling.

knowledge is diverse, changing, imbued with the cultural values of the moment."

Weinberger argues that for the web to work, given the volume of information it now contains, that social tagging is the most feasible way to "organise" the content. But I'd argue that this assumes that all information is equal - and it's not.

Weinberger covers the different ways we've developed of organising information - from library catalogues and Dewey through to Amazon's "planned serendipity" and collaborative filtering (customers who bought this also bought x). He suggests that Amazon's offering of multiple routes (top-down categories, user generated lists, filtering etc) is an ideal combination of top-down and bottom-up.

How we organise information depends on the purpose of organising it in the first place - i.e. simply to map knowledge or to prioritise certain information above others. He mentions faceted classification "that dynamically constructs a browsable, branching tree that exactly meets your immediate needs". He also explores controlled vocabularies and thesauri - although controlled vocabularies can be too static, they can express relationships between terms. Weinberger points out the weaknesses of different forms of classification - either you are limited by the number of classification terms you can add or the terms chosen by the creator are not necessarily those used by the reader. There is also the question of how we name "things" - e.g. cancer is a broad term used to describe 100s of different diseases.

Weinberger argues that a system for organising information has to add value e.g. the periodic table. He suggests that bottom-up tagging adds value - in fact, the more tags there are, the more value. Tags can be shared and clustered - visualisation tools can help the user navigate the clusters.

The main thrust is that we can do more in the digital world than we could in the paper world. We're not constrained by the fact that physical objects can only be in one place at any one time. Digital objects can have multiple tags attached:
"How their [Delicious, Flickr, BBC, Wikipedia] content is actually arranged does not determine how that content can and will be arranged by their users [...] These examples are miscellaneous because users don't need to know the inner organisation, because that inner order doesn't result in a preferred order of use, and because users have wide flexibility to order the pieces as they want, even and especially in unanticipated ways."
To enable this "unanticipated use" what should identifiers point to? At the BBC, they've been exploring this - should the identifiers be at programme, series, episode, segment, frame level? Weinberger refers to IFLA's FRBR which has been designed to help with this problem.

Weinberger also gets into some detail about organising user-generated content, such as the reviews on Digg and Reddit. Some of these issues have been tackled by Wikipedia - although I guess the jury's out on how well they've succeeded in achieving accuracy (although it apparently measures up to Britannica). Wikipedia has developed a list of labels for non-neutral articles - kind of like a crude confidence interval, almost. He also looks at the explosion of mashups, with Google Maps inevitably getting a mention. User-generated content is growing at a phenomenal speed - Weinberger suggests that the more metadata (in the form of tags), the better we can manage this huge volume. He does mention the semantic web and the gulf between the vision and what can practically be achieved. The task now is not so much to build knowledge but to build meaning.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Patient views - mashup

E-Health Insider last week reported on the mashup developed by Patient Opinion to incorporate patient feedback from NHS Choices:
"This means that patients and carers can find comments about hospital care posted on either Patient Opinion or NHS Choices, using Patient’s Opinion’s site. And subscribers can generate reports using feedback from both sites."
Content from NHS Choices is clearly marked with a link back to the original content (organised by NHS organisation) thus providing context. Patient feedback is an important theme in the Darzi review so it'll be interesting to see how this develops. At the moment, there are 7234 opinions listed - there is a postcode and keyword search but it may need some work to better direct users as the site grows.

Various bits of news

Trying to keep up to date with reading during time off...

- Cheap laptops make me cheerful from BCS blog : some questions about the wider implications of cheaper laptops e.g. software, interfaces : "When the operating system license accounted for 10% of the total cost (and was ubiquitous) it was easily swallowed. When it could potentially double the cost of the purchase, that's a different matter. Then, adding on standard productivity software like word processing, spreadsheets and email, and Houston, we have a problem. Most of the leading lights from the new line in low cost laptops are running versions of Linux, OpenOffice and Firefox to provide the core set of functionality - all of which have zero-cost licenses. "

- Article in THES on journals specifically targeted at the undergraduate market - some arguments for and against although not in any depth - although may be useful for initiatives like Equator to target such journals to reach researchers and practitioners earlier in their careers

- pushes £50,000 fine for online copyright infringement

Moving my blog

New job, new blog address! I'm moving back to the health sector after a couple of years away so the focus of this blog will shift a bit from eResearch to health information although the underlying theme of data/information/knowledge will still be there...

Thursday, 7 August 2008

LHC goes live

Computing has a front page story on the LHC going live tomorrow: and the implications for data management

Friday, 1 August 2008

Project failure in NHS

Interesting article on BCS about reasons for project failure - based on IT projects in University College London (UCLH) in the last 3 years ...much of it is common sense really, though interesting to see that projects following PRINCE2 are more likely to succeed that those which don' some useful recommendations