Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Now wash your hands please

When I was visiting the countryside last summer I happened to walk through a field that was being used by a youth organisation as a camp site. The youngsters were having a great time, cooking up lunch with great enthusiasm. I'm sure that the adults in charge had drilled them in safety procedures, the dangers of using camping stoves and so on, but I wondered whether they had also considered the risks from the innocent-looking cows and sheep grazing nearby. Our latest policy and practice note has some stark messages about the dangers of E coli O157. We read a lot of headlines about outbreaks that are traced to contaminated food, but increasingly there are dangers lurking in the environment. This source of infection tends not to result in large numbers of cases at any one time, so perhaps receives less coverage in the media, but the dangers are just as great. Children and visitors to the countryside are at higher risk, because they have lower levels of immunity. The bugs come from farm animals, but they are not affected themselves, so those innocent cattle and sheep could very well be carrying the bacteria. Their faeces are all over the field and it doesn't take much imagination to see how infection happens. I wanted to tell those young people to be sure and wash their hands with soap and hot water before touching any food. But I don't suppose it would have had any effect. I suspect that when all the water you use has to be carted from some distance away, there is a temptation not to bother with such precautions.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Relu in seventeen syllables

The only one of my colleagues who looked delighted at the prospect of writing haikus at our Centre for Rural Economy strategy day on Friday was our visiting Japanese professor. There was a slightly hunted look in everyone else's eyes. However, as they later admitted, it wasn't just fun, it also turned out to be a surprisingly good way of learning about each other's research. Working in pairs, they were forced to explain what they do in simple and basic terms so their partner could get to the essence of it into 17 syllables. I think they have come to expect this kind of apparent eccentricity (I would call it originality of course) from Relu. And our Relu haiku?
Mix people know-how
With a medley of research
For rural progress.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Sharing sustainable learning

Projects in the Relu programme are putting knowledge exchange into practice all the time, and creating new resources to share expertise. The Sustainable Uplands project has a Sustainable Learning blog at http://sustainable-learning.org/?p=290 and the current posting gives some insights into the Relu experience of innovation in knowledge exchange.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A happy, interdisciplinary 2012

January 2012 marks my fifth year with the Relu programme. Moving to Relu from the NHS meant a huge change for me in many respects. But working with the team at Relu has been very enjoyable and entirely positive. There were a couple of aspects of my previous experience that helped. The NHS is made up of people from different disciplines: medics from many different specialties, psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, managers and so on. So interdisciplinarity seemed quite natural to me. The NHS also values stakeholder involvement, and this has been particularly well-established for many years in mental health. So I did feel that I had some insights to offer, having spent more than fifteen years working in communications within mental health trusts in North East England. It has been fascinating seeing how academia has begun to take this ethos of involvement on board. Few, I think, would now deny that the users of research have something to offer the research process itself and engagement makes knowledge transfer much easier. Like so many things in life, it seems pretty obvious once you think about it. Oh, and did I mention that working on the Relu problem has been fun? So having another year to look forward to seems pretty good. Happy new year.