MSF Scientific Day 2013

Does blogging help patients cope with the lengthy and toxic treatment for multidrug resistant tuberculosis? Do humanitarian responses to crises fail to take sufficient account of the plight of elderly people? Is giving money more effective than giving food supplements to tackle child malnutrition? And will global health expert and Ted Talks alumnus Hans Rosling repeat his sword swallowing routine? These are just a few of the questions that will be answered at the 2013 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Scientific day, screened online live all day from the Royal Society of Medicine, London, UK, on Friday, May 10th.

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The agenda is packed with presentations that reflect the diversity of MSF programmes and patients – from examining the experience of bloggers in the MSF TB&Me blog to the use of a cholera vaccine during an outbreak in Guinea to treating tuberculosis in the extremely insecure setting of Somalia. There are innovative tools and approaches, such as seasonal chemoprevention for malaria and large-scale treatment with chelation for thousands of children with severe lead poisoning in northern Nigeria.

Last year was the first year we put the conference online and nearly 1000 people, based in 68 countries, watched the event on the day. We were thrilled to receive comments during the event on the research being presented from the countries where many MSF projects are based. And in the 3 months after the conference, the on-demand files were viewed over 1000 times and the posters in our online gallery received thousands of visitors.

This begs the question – does more people viewing the day and the posters mean that MSF’s research will have a greater benefit for the populations where we work? This year we are focusing on the impact of MSF’s research – what is impact, how do you measure it and how can you show that research leads to measurable improvements in programmes or outcomes for patients? We asked some of these questions via an online survey within MSF and have introduced a panel discussion session to the Scientific Day with participants from within and outside MSF debating issues raised by the survey results. Also on this theme, our keynote speaker Hans Rosling will be talking about the need for humanitarian research to be linked to strong advocacy – but also about some of the potential problems this raises for scientific objectivity.

We are very grateful this year to be receiving sponsorship from PLOS Medicine and BioMed Central. This has covered the extra costs of putting the event online and it is fitting that open access publishers have helped us make the research presented at the Scientific Day freely available to anyone with an internet connection. A poster at this year’s Scientific Day presenting an analysis of the research published by MSF shows that after years of steady increase, open access journals are now the most popular choice for MSF authors.

I hope that you are able to watch the event online and take part in the discussions. For regions with slow internet connection speeds we are streaming an audio-only version of the day. And if you can’t watch on the day, the talks will be available to view on the Scientific Day website after the event. Please join us to help debate and share the findings of research carried out in some of the world’s most disadvantaged populations and on some of the most neglected and urgent issues encountered in MSF’s medical humanitarian programmes.

Sarah VenisSarah Venis is a medical editor based in the Manson Unit at MSF, London, UK. Her role is to advise on and edit MSF research publications and blogs, and to manage the MSF Scientific Day.

Follow @msf_uk and #MSFsci. Twitter question and answer sessions with presenters will be held before and during the day. Live streaming will be at http://www.msf.org.uk/msf-scientific-day from 09.05 GMT +1 on Friday, 10th May. Talks will be available to download from 17 May to end August 2013.

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