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Why I love the learning collaborative model for writing skill development

Published by Richard Pates on 05.04.2020

I was delighted and flattered when asked by Kim Johnson to lead a webinar on a regular basis for ICUDDR. I met Kim in the fun and exotic locations like Prague and Cusco where their conferences were held. When she suggested a learning collaborative, a remote training process offered over a period of months, I jumped at the chance.

The learning collaborative uses webinars about how to publish the research and papers you may write on the subjects associated with substance use and addiction and it fitted with my experience. As the editor of a journal on substance issues (The Journal of Substance Use) for the past 20 years I have run workshops in many parts of the world on how to get your research published for postgraduate students and recently qualified colleagues, so I felt up to the challenge of this new format. I have also run these for junior staff from other disciplines at the university where I hold an honorary position. One of the realities is that degree courses both at undergraduate level and post graduate level do not teach you to write for publication which is very different from writing your dissertation or thesis.

The idea of the learning collaborative was to help young professionals and researchers in developing countries to get their important work published. Work from the developing world is often overlooked by journals because they sometimes think this work is less important than work from Europe, North America and Australia. This is not the case as there is a lot of important work happening here and innovative ideas from researchers. In addition, problems from the developing world will often become apparent elsewhere in these days of cheap air travel and diasporas from poorer parts of the world. I can give the example of the use of hookahs which are widely used as smoking devices in the Middle East, but hookah smoking is now appearing in Europe and North America as a trendy behaviour. Research from the Middle East could inform Europe and North America if we can get more of it published.

The learning collaborative webinars are usually for 1 hour a fortnight with a presentation on some aspect of publishing and then a discussion on a paper that has been submitted by the members. With the efficient organisation of Cary Eyles and Kim we started with a 2-hour webinar with a long presentation on the general principles of publishing, the pitfalls and how to present your work. The following webinars (another 6 so far) have had a presentation on the best way to write a section of your paper then followed by discussion of the paper submitted. We have participants from Angola, Namibia, Kenya, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Slovakia.

The participants have been excellent in their contributions and this improves as they get more confident. All the papers they have submitted have been of high quality and the quality of the discussion has been of a high standard. These are also a lovely group of people to work with, intelligent, considerate and with good experience.

The advantage of the format has been that even in these times of the Covid-19 virus epidemic which has developed in the UK almost in parallel with the webinars (no I am not suggesting causation) we can continue to meet and make progress in the work.

We will do another round in the fall. So let Cary,, know if you are interested or share the information with your students or junior faculty who might be interested in joining.


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