All 6 entries tagged Research

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November 02, 2010

The Autism epidemic

When we set off to do our PhD at the University of Warwick, both my wife and I had no idea that during the process, we would face something that would change our life forever. Our son was diagnosed with autism when he was around 2 years old even though we had realised that something was wrong much earlier.

All the professionals we saw told us that there were some therapies could help them (autistic children) to some extent “but ....” and they would trail off.

We got that it was a lifelong condition and there was nothing much we could do about it but just accept the fact and live with it.

At first we were in shock and as it sunk in, came extreme depression. We didn’t have anyone to turn to. However, my wife was not willing to accept the opinion of the professionals – that there was no cure for autism – after all it was just their opinion. I mean no offense to all “autism experts” reading this. She couldn't concentrate on her PhD work for a year and instead focussed on researching on autism. 

Anyway, during our research we came across different alternative therapies and several parents who claim to have successfully treated their autistic children who were now normal. Later on we even met a few people who claimed that they had once been diagnosed with autism and were now considered neuro-typical (normal). Of course, we were really sceptical but as experienced researchers we were not going to just ignore these claims without checking them. And what we found was astonishing; several of the children had actually been diagnosed with autism once and had now lost their diagnosis. However, whenever we asked the professionals, including our paediatrician, they straightaway rejected these claims or simply told us that there was not enough evidence.

After depending on the NHS and Coventry city council for around a year and not seeing any progress, we decided to explore various alternative therapies with amazing results. We were not going to hang around for the evidence to emerge. You can read our experiences in our Journey with Imaan.

According to official reports, 1 in every 100 kid now falls in the autism spectrum. However, according to Lilias Ahmeira, a practitioner of complimentary therapy/energy medicine and mother of a child with autism, 1:54 children born in the UK will have a spectrum disorder.

We also recently found out that out of all the kids starting reception this year in Coventry, around a 100 have been diagnosed with autism. No one is sure about the number of kids without a diagnosis.

Given these fact, it was really surprising that so little research has been carried out in this area. Is this apathy from both the medical community and the politicians alike due to the fact that unlike AIDS, cancer or other medical condition, the issue of death does not normally come up for the people diagnosed with autism and is thus not seen as a priority? If we look at the definition of an epidemic, it does look like we now have an autism epidemic. Moreover, what does this mean for the society in the future especially since it is estimated that the figures given above will increase every year - double approximately every five years according to Lilias? What is the long term impact?

I can understand the ignorance of politicians but the lack of interest from the medical community is baffling. I put this question to my own father who a professor of Pathology. He was surprised himself when he did some research and found a lack of literature on this area. He guessed that this may be related to funding issues – something I am well aware about. Most of the big funders of medical research are the pharmaceutical companies and according to him, they are probably not interested. Another reason I guess, may be because of the fallout of Dr. Wakefield and the autism-vaccine-mercury controversy. And talking about Dr. Wakefield, even though it had been ruled that he acted unethically in carrying out his research and his co-authors all washed their hands off, this does not mean (contrary to news reports) that their research results are incorrect.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this epidemic facing us or is it even an epidemic?


January 14, 2010

Which statistical test to use

If you are going to statistically analyse your data, knowing the right statistical test is absolutely essential. However, even if you have taken a couple of statistical courses, it is often difficult to decide which ones are the most relevant or correct tests.

If you are in that position you might find these links useful:

1. http://www.whichtest.info/index.htm

2. http://www.ats.ucla.edu/stat/mult_pkg/whatstat/default.htm

3. http://www.graphpad.com/www/Book/Choose.htm


Don't be surprised if your data can be analysed in many different ways depending on your objectives and hypotheses.




December 13, 2009

Unsolicited emails in the name of research

I hate sending out unsolicited emails but as the data collection for my research draws to a close and no where near my targeted number of respondents, I realise that sometimes in life, you have to do things you hate to achieve your goals or target.

So here I am sending out emails to bloggers all over the UK via email addresses gleaned form their blogs and cringing every time I press the send button. I won't be surprised if some send me back nasty replies and even get my email branded as a spammer. However, I have no choice. My entire PhD research is at stake and I am just hoping that these people would look kindly at this poor PhD student and the fact that this is an academic research. Hopefully the holiday spirit will help as well.

Of course there is the fact that a 50p donation will be made to Cancer Research UK for every completed questionnaire plus there's a prize draw for all participants who provide their contact details - an opportunity for you to suggest a donation of £100.00 to a charity of your choice or take the cash prize for yourself (your choice) and 10 other respondents will win Amazon vouchers worth £10 each.

Please feel free to distribute this information to anyone you think may be interested - an email or a mention in your blog would be really appreciated. You can access my online survey here: http://www.surveymk.com//blogs

Thanks and Merry Christmas

(update 14-Dec-2009: Noticed so many typos. It's appalling)


September 18, 2009

A Survey, Prizes and Charity

Update 18/09/09: Noticed several silly typos while reading the post today. Sorry about that. It was past midnight when I initially wrote it.

----------------

This is it - the real thing. In fact my whole PhD degree literally depends on it.

I am referring to my final research questionnaire. I have made several changes to the questionnaire that I used in my pilot based on the feedback from the respondents and the results of the analysis. My supervisors have also given their seal of approval and my online questionnaire is now live.

I would appreciate it very much if visitors to my blog could please spend a few minutes of their precious time to complete the survey. There are fabulous prizes to be won as well:

  • £100 cash prize. You can also choose to have it donated to a charity of your choice.
  • 10 Amazon vouchers worth £10 each.

Besides that, I pledge to make a 50p donation for each completed survey, to Cancer Research UK.

I would appreciate it very much if you could please spread the word as well.

Thanks a lot.

Please click here to take the survey.


August 02, 2009

Mantra of the academics

From the first day I entered the World of academia, I heard a mantra being chanted by a number of people all the time. It was some variation or other of "publish or perish".

By now, I have come to realise that it is absolutely essential to have some publications under your belt even before you finally get to have the title "Dr." in front of your name.

And not any publication will do. Writing books and book chapters will help you a bit and as for magazine articles, academics will look down their nose at them, no matter how many people you have reached out to. Blog posts don't count at all.

What matters is getting into journals and not just any journal. You have to get into the "top ranking" journals. Previously when I was working with a public university in Malaysia, I used to subscribe to the 'quantity rather than quality' mantra and my aim was to get as many publications out as possible, never mind even if the journal was in it's first volume and not even ranked. It kind of worked because my evaluation was good every year and I got to keep my job as a contract lecturer.

It's a bit different now and I aim to get into the top journals in my field. However, I never realised how tough that was.

Every country has their own rankings for a particular field. Here in the UK, one of the rankings most followed is that by the Asociation of Business Schools (ABS). According to them, the top 5 journals in the field of Marketing (the 4 star journals) are as follows:

  1. Journal of Consumer Research
  2. Journal of Marketing
  3. Journal of Marketing
  4. Journal of Retailing
  5. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science and
  6. Marketing Science

I was really surprised when I learnt at a recent conference that in 2007, only 4 authors from British Universities had managed to get into the top 5 marketing journals. I may be wrong but I am only aware of two British authors who managed the same in 2008.

Anyway, if you want to get a job as a lecturer in any University in the UK or for that matter in any top University all around the World, that is what you have to always keep in mind. Some argue that this results in lecturers focussing on research and publications rather than on teaching.

This focus on academic journals is also putting off academics from writing magazine articles. There are so many wonderful research being carried out in various universities all the time but in the end the findings in the thesis do not get published and end up in a lonely corner of the library. Those which do get published in journals end up being read by a few academics and thats it. An example is the work of a friend of mine who developed a 3D programme to teach dental students. She won a few awards for that and when I enquired about it some time back, she told me that she's moved on and now working on a new project. The programme was not commercialised or used by any dental college. What a waste of time, energy and money.

Magazine and blogs enable academics to reach out to more people including the lay man on the street but I don't think many of them are going down that road in the near future.


March 07, 2009

Why do you visit blogs?

My research looks at Blogs as a model of consumer collaboration. More specifically I plan to emperically test a conceptual model which I developed.

This model seeks to describe the social, technological, and individual factors that influence consumers to  blogs. Furthermore, I plan to study consumers' attitude towards sponsored posts in blogs. 

I though that Warwick blogs might be the best place to test out some of my concepts and would be highly obliged if you could spare some minutes to think about the reasons you visit blog.

  1. What motivates you to visit blogs?
  2. Why do you like some blogs more than others?
  3. What do you feel about advertising on blogs?

Thanks.


Dilip Mutum

This blog records some of the thoughts and experiences of Dilip Mutum at the University of Warwick. He has been blogging since 2003 and this is but one of his many blogs.

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