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Train of Thought...
June 2008 - Seeing

I have recently been exploring the distinction between seeing something and actually seeing it. The context has been that of photography and the question "What makes a 'good' photograph?". Of course 'good' in itself is a subjective term and what I perceive to be good is not the same as what you might consider to be good. Perhaps 'effective' is a marginally better term to use.

My trusty dictionary puts a lot of emphasis on discernment as part of its definitions of 'see' and 'seeing'. Of 24 shades of meaning offered for the verb 'see', only 7 lacked reference to discernment, research or deduction. Thus seeing a photograph should suggest to you what the photographer saw in the image, should communicate a deduced message and elicit a response. The message and the response may well be different from what the photographer saw, but I would suggest that only by eliciting a response has the photograph been seen.

The same principle of seeing applies to many facets of our workaday lives. I have always maintained the hardest part of any research project is devising the question and hypothesis i.e. seeing the question that needs to be answered. We all have regular lab management meetings and staff education sessions. At these meetings issues arise and often decisions have to be taken based on experience rather than evidence. There is nothing wrong in this. It is indeed, very frustrating not being able to resolve issues because the evidence is not there to support a decision.

We must learn to constantly seek explanations for things, develop the ability to see through the trappings and identify the core issue whenever a decision has to be made. This ability to go to the root of an issue will lead to better decisions and to research opportunities that, in turn, can lead to advancement of our collective knowledge base, to presentations at meetings and ultimately to publications. The evidence to support the decision will be developed along the way. Being able to see the need for research will lead to the formulation of a question and a hypothesis. Suddenly the ball is rolling.

I have been wrangling with Industrial Relations people within WA Health of late (well, for over 2 and a half years actually) and they recently quoted several decisions of the WA Public Service Appeal Board to me regarding job description forms. The decisions effectively stated that professional development and research activity were integral to being a health professional, did not form part of our work value and hence should not be part of a job description. I happen to agree with this, but interestingly Hospital management appear to disagree when it comes to providing resources for research and for attendance at meetings and workshops that are profession based. The law, however, is on our side.

We are all capable of research and yes, it should be an integral part of what we do. For many of us there is a "niche market" in terms of small but important issues that permeate what we do. There are a lot of procedures we follow that are based on opinion rather than evidence. We need to learn to:

  • See the right question
  • Research the answer
  • Deduce what needs to be done
  • Get the evidence
  • Document the answers.
In short we need to SEE opportunities for research and development as issues are discussed and questions answered. The opportunities are everywhere. Grab them.

'til next time,

K.

June, 2008

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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