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Are we facing an information overload? 

The number of new articles published every day has long exceeded our reading or processing power (Sacherer, et al., 2019) and so we need filters to help curate the information for us (Sacherer, et al., 2019). The global response to COVID-19 has seen unprecedented international cooperation leading to data collection, dissemination and translation into practice taking place in a matter of mere weeks and months. Pre-COVID, the average time taken from submission of a new article to the actual application in practice, has been estimated between 17-23 years (Morris, et al., 2011). In the future there will be the potential for a greater role for artificial intelligence to do the legwork. Whilst this will increase the speed of dissemination, it still leaves humans to make the decisions that require human insight and interpretation (Ong, 2020). 

How does this abundance of information impact on our research, teaching and professional development? 

The process of transferring high-quality information into professional practice has two strands (Lang, et al., 2007): Getting the information straight and getting the information used.  Blogs and podcasts are easy to create and share, in terms of getting the information used they represent a low threshold of access compared to traditional journals or conferences (Sacherer, et al., 2019). This shortens the translation gap but raises the question of who is the gatekeeper of this information and who is providing quality assurance?  How can we monitor both intention and information in a medium where publication is used to both inform and persuade us?    We need a credibility rating that takes into account the level of pre-publication editorial review and trustworthiness of the organisation publishing the blog.  The CRAAP test for online sources would be a good example that could be modified to address this issue. CRAAP is an acronym for Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose and is easily accessed to use a free tool – add link

In an ideal world the information is carefully researched and published by an expert or authority and the consumers provide the post-publication peer review. But can quality assurance realistically be based on size of readership, references and the popularity of the creator? There is a danger that the popularity and success of an author will lead to more weight being attached to their blog or podcast that it merits.

If asynchronous learning is now both possible and probable, what is the role of the lecture, conference or seminar? 

Academic integrity implies that there is still a role for the carefully researched and written article in peer reviewed journals but we also need to develop new methodologies to suit the emerging technologies. How can reading blogs, watching vlogs and listening to podcasts be used to connect a professional community and stimulate discussion and dialogue?  How can they be used to create a more open, equitable academic community? How do they feed into the debate about Open Access?

Many of these media are already being used to supplement traditional teaching materials and methods, for example, by facilitating a ‘flipped learning’ model where students come to the classroom having prepared by covering some of the basic concepts in advance.

In the current situation it is important that students at all levels are offered a blended learning environment. Resources such as vlogs, blogs and podcasts, which are free of charge and easy to access, are hugely helpful to teachers, trainers and mentors.  As a vehicle for informal professional learning, they offer a way to access current thinking, stimulate further reading and inspire professional conversations which can drive practice change.    In more formal settings this kind of learning environment allows learners to self-determine their study pace and processes (Sacherer, et al., 2019) as well as using links to find additional materials that reflect their own interests.

The Vlog/Blog/Podcast Challenge

We would like to invite our audience to send in their nominations for their favourite vlogs, blogs and podcasts.  They should relate to pedagogy, education, practitioner practice and research or research methodology.  If you have been involved in the production of the article you should not nominate it yourself.

We would also like you to rate your podcast nominations using a score system that we have adapted from an existing validated tool (Chan, et al., 2016) (Lin, et al., 2016).  In this way we are developing an expert-based, crowd-sourced approach to identifying high-quality materials for researchers and practitioners (Min, et al., 2018).  Please use the link provided below to take part in the survey

Your data will be stored securely by BERA and the results will be used to produce a future edition of this newsletter.

You can access the survey here


Chan, T.M.Y., Grock, A., Paddock, M., Kulasegaram, K., Yarris, L.M. and Lin, M., 2016. Examining reliability and validity of an online score (ALiEM AIR) for rating free open access medical education resources. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 68(6), pp.729-735.

Lang, E., Wyer, P. & Haynes, R., 2007. Knowledge translation: closing the evidence-to-practice gap.. Annals of emergency medicine, 49(3), pp.355-363.

Lin, M., Joshi, N., Grock, A., Swaminathan, A., Morley, E.J., Branzetti, J., Taira, T., Ankel, F. and Yarris, L.M., 2016. Approved instructional resources series: a national initiative to identify quality emergency medicine blog and podcast content for resident education. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, 8(2), pp.219-225.

Min, A.A., Jordan, J., Swaminathan, A., Hennings, J. and Grock, A., 2018. Academic life in emergency medicine (ALiEM) blog and podcast watch: renal and genitourinary emergencies. Cureus, 10(12).

Morris, Z. S., Wooding, S. & Grant, J., 2011. The answer is 17 years, what is the question: understanding time lags in translational research. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 104(12), pp. pp.510-520.

Ong, S., 2020. Will robots and AI take our jobs in covid-19’s socially distanced era?. New Scientist, Issue 3303.

Sacherer, F., Zoidl, P., Eichinger, M., Honnef, G. and Heschl, S., 2019. Opinion article: Blogs and podcasts in medical education. Trends in Anaesthesia and Critical Care, 29, pp.1-3.


Alison Fox, Dr

Senior Lecturer at Open University

Dr Alison Fox (BSc, Durham; MSc, Aberdeen; PGCE, Cambridge; MEd, Cambridge; PhD, Open) is a Senior Lecturer in Education at the Open University in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education...

Claire Tyson, Dr

Teacher Researcher at Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre

Claire Tyson is a teacher researcher based at Homewood School and Sixth Form Centre, where she combines teaching science with her research post.  Her PhD was obtained by studying part time with Queen Mary, University of London in Clinical...