Biomedical imaging technologies, professional and lay visions

Month: March 2019

QHRN 2019

Qualitative health researchers are well aware that we work in a world dominated by big data, quantitative research, and the gold standard of randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Upon hearing about a conference focused not only on contemporary health issues, but also on qualitative methods, the RHB team jumped at the chance to participate. Not unexpectedly, we are very glad we did.

The QHRN 2019 conference held last week on March 21-22 in London highlighted the diversity and richness of qualitative methods used by attendees. Our panel, entitled “Critical perspectives and social theory” allowed us to present our work alongside other critical health scholars. The topics discussed included maternal care (Lianne Holten), dieting (Hilla Nehushtan), community health work (Ryan Logan), and LGBTQ+ mental health (Rachael Eastham).

The use of innovative methods was a recurrent theme throughout the meeting. Presenters made me reflect on all the different ways we can use the internet, for example. Stephanie Lanthier’s (University of Toronto) presentation opened up discussions about using online forums for collecting data, while Carmel Capewell (Oxford Brookes University) talked about some of the limitations of online resources for patients with rare illnesses. I especially appreciated Jenevieve Mannell’s (UCL) presentation and thoughts on qualitative data collection in trial protocols. This discussion highlighted how much we still need to push for the integration of diverse methods into mainstream research. The lack of interest in qualitative methods in the RCT world comes as a result of problematic hierarchical approaches to data. Although qualitative researchers do not dispute the need for RCTs, we also believe there is much more we need to know about health outcomes and the patient experience in order to make informed policy decisions.

Last but not least, the conference symposium introduced us to the use of Story Completion in research – a novel topic for many attendees, including me. Naomi Moller from The Open University walked the audience through the exciting possibilities that such a method offers qualitative researchers. What is Story Completion? you might ask. It is a qualitative research method where participants express their views on topics by finishing a story that was started by the researcher. More specifically, symposium presenters talked about projects where they used Story Completion to collect data. Virginia Braun (The University of Auckland), for example, spoke about using the method in research on healthy eating views, while Toni Williams (Leeds Beckett University) used it to explore narratives of disability and physical activity. Although the method might sound straightforward, presenters made it clear that one must pay careful attention to context, characters, and making sure that the story elicits interest and richness in the participant responses. Story Completion is an exciting method that I will surely consider using in the future.

Needless to say, with such a wealth of information and topics discussed, QHRN 2019 was definitely a great start to our conference season!

Our Year in Review

2018 has been a busy year for the Remaking the Human Body team. We are happy to share that we have, so far, conducted observations at 5 sites and have interviewed more than 50 professionals and patients about their views on time-lapse, IVF technology, and add-ons in the UK. This year we are looking to finish data collection and are eagerly anticipating the start of our public engagement activities, generously funded by the Wellcome Trust through an additional grant.

By presenting preliminary findings at several conferences, we have incorporated useful feedback from scholars from various academic backgrounds. This, in turn, has helped us hone our questions and methods. We have greatly enjoyed presenting at conferences ranging from science communication meetings to medically-oriented meetings, such as ESHRE. Below is a short list of some of the events we have had the pleasure to attend in 2018, with presentation title in parentheses:

Science in Public 2018 Conference, Cardiff, December 17-19. (Perrotta, M., Geampana, A., Hamper, J.A. “Predicting success: visual practices and predictive algorithms in IVF.”)

European Society for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) Annual Meeting, Lancaster, July 24-28. (Perrotta, M. & Geampana, A. “Non-invasive predictions: visual predictive tools in IVF.”)

European Society for the Study of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) Annual Meeting, Barcelona, July 1-4. (Perrotta, M., Geampana, A., Hamper, J.A., Giraud, AS. “The ethics of commercialization: a temporal analysis of newspaper coverage of IVF add-ons in the UK.”)

Science and Technology Studies Italia Meeting, Padova, June 14-16. (Perrotta, M. & Geampana, A. “Standardising professional vision in embryo imaging.”)

Visualising Reproduction – An Interdisciplinary Inquiry, De Montfort University, Leicester, June 6. (Perrotta, M. “Remaking Embryos. Time-lapse Microscopy and the Future of Embryology.”)

British Sociological Association Human Reproduction Conference, De Montfort University, Leicester, May 24. (Perrotta, M., Geampana, A., Hamper, J.A. “The IVF add-on debate: from techno-scientific breakthroughs to unproven treatments.”)

The previous year has also been a great one to immerse ourselves in the wider world of fertility treatment and education, through attending various public events:

Progress Educational Trust conference ‘Make Do or Amend: Should We Update UK Fertility and Embryo Law? – London, December 5

Fertility Show – London, November 3-4

40 Years of IVF at the Science Museum – London, July 25

Fertility Fest – London, May 8-13

Progress Educational Trust/ British Fertility Society event ‘The Real Cost of IVF’ – London, April 11

Fertility Show – Manchester, March 24-25

In particular, the Fertility Show and Fertility Fest have provided opportunities for us to learn and reflect on how we might proceed with public engagement activities in the near future. You can read some of our previous blogs for impressions from our work and how it fits into wider conversations on fertility and IVF treatment.

We anticipate a productive rest of 2019 and look forward to keeping you posted about our activities!

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