What would we do without antibiotics?


At one point antibiotics were a cure-all. Go to the doctor for any little ailment, antibiotics were prescribed and then you’re cured. Overprescription, patients not finishing their full course of antibiotics and some very clever evolution on the part of bacteria has led to antibiotic resistance becoming a wide-spread problem.

Discovery of penicillin
When Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928 it changed the world. Common diseases with no cure were suddenly treatable. Antibiotics have saved countless lives and I think we’ve nearly all taken them at some point. I know I have.

I had a sore throat as a child and although on my first visit the doctor said I would be fine in a few days, I soon developed a …

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Health Services Research conference – Highlights from Day 1


Our Health Services Research conference kicked off yesterday at King’s College London. But what were the highlights of Day 1? What did we learn? Guest bloggers, Jay Shaw and Anita Kothari, round up the first day with their key moments:

Day 1 was packed full of speakers focused on Health Systems issues. We present some highlights:

Keynote speaker Professor Nicholas May, Professor of Health Policy in the Department of Health Services Research and Policy at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, started the day by discussing the relationship between research and policy in today’s climate. He argued that there has been a widespread call for policy evaluation as the way to engage with evidence-based policy making. …

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Welcome to Health Services Research: Evidence Based Practice 2014!

HSR logo

Guest bloggers Jay Shaw and Anita Kothari kick off the 2014 Health Services Research conference with some conversation starters.

Leading up to this conference, Jay Shaw wrote about the importance of connecting with new colleagues for a better understanding of how various disciplines conceptualize problems to health services issues. He also wrote about the need for a globalized perspective regardless of where you actually conduct your research – global forces influence local trends, and vice versa. This perspective involves looking to places you might not typically turn to in the face of complex health challenges. Jay’s arguments for more cross-disciplinarity in our global context was done in the hopes that you might be inspired to reach out and meet new …

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EASE-ing into an Editors’ conference in Split

Folk dancing at the Welcome Reception at Mestrovic Gallery

I recently attended the 12th European Association of Science Editors (EASE) Conference in Split, Croatia. The meeting was based at the University of Split School of Medicine and included a reception in the beautiful Mestrovic Gallery and a dinner with delightful Croatian dishes to try, all of which provided a relaxing setting to meet conference delegates. The atmosphere was friendly and informal, and on each day a newsletter “Split Infinitive” was issued with news and gossip about the conference events.

At the conference I gave a presentation on “How can a Publisher support its Editors? A perspective from BioMed Central”. At BioMed Central we try to support our Editors in ways that suit them (every …

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Word of caution: a new method to study RNA-seq biases

Shaury Nash CC BY-SA

As next generation sequencing methods quickly become ubiquitous tools of genomics, more and more effort is directed to understand what are the limitations of these approaches. These limitations present themselves quite often in the form of coverage biases.

Last year Genome Biology published a study from David Jaffe and colleagues that looked at coverage biases in DNA sequencing. The authors used a suite of computational tools for bias assessment and applied them to a number of commonly used technologies. It turned out that, for instance, PacBio coverage is the least biased; and that high- and low-CG regions and long runs of homopolymers are very prone to coverage biases. They emphasized that the presence of such biases may lead to …

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Creating impact – a game of two halves

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This is a guest blog by Prof Jonathan Grant, Director of the Policy Institute at King’s College London and Professor of Public Policy. He tells us about his recent experiences publishing with BMC Medicine.

Two weeks ago I was involved in the publication of a research article in BMC Medicine that attempted to measure the economic returns from cancer research.  It showed that for every £1 invested by the UK government and medical research charities you got 10p back in terms of the value of health gains every year thereafter, and if you combined that with previous estimates of the ‘spillover’ (or broader economic effects), the return was 40 pence in the pound.

The work built on a previous …

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Are your sunglasses really protecting your eyes from UV?


Happy sunglasses day!

Not usually the highlight of the year, but sunglasses deserve this day of celebration. Our favourite shades make us instantly photogenic (please see ridiculously cool dog photo on the right) and, most importantly, they protect our eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

Sunlight is Earth’s primary source of energy and UV is just one form of this energy. Too much UV exposure has been associated with many long-term eye issues.

The most well known of these is cataracts; over the years, UV rays damage the lens inside the eye, it becomes cloudy as the proteins unravel and tangle. These cloudy lenses have to be removed surgically. Plus we have short term problems like photokeratitus (AKA snow blindness); where …

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A new test to predict breast cancer risk

Image credit: Danvasilis/Wikimedia Commons

A simple blood test is currently in development that could help predict the likelihood of a woman developing breast cancer, even in the absence of a high-risk BRCA1 gene mutation, according to research published today in Genome Medicine. So what was found, and what could this mean for future cancer prevention and treatment?

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, and it’s highly likely you’ll know someone close to you who’s been affected by it.

My partner’s mother, soon to be my mother-in-law, was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly three years ago. What was particularly scary for all of us when we found out about her diagnosis, was that her sister had died of the same disease around …

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Research in the UK: A week of contrasts

Westminster Hall in the early 19th century

Last Monday I started the week admiring the beautiful and impressive 900 year old Westminster Hall, with its medieval timber roof, at the Palace of Westminster in London, UK.

I was there not as a tourist, but to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Medical Research Summer Reception, entitled, A Healthy Future for UK Medical Research. At the event, a report on ‘Medical research: What’s it worth?’ was presented which finds that every pound invested in cancer research returns 40 pence to the UK each year, and I was there as a representative of BMC Medicine where the original research was published. The report can be downloaded here and further discussion of its implications can be found

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GigaScience: Helping reviewers get credit through Publons


Being open is what GigaScience is all about – open access, open data, open peer review; giving credit to authors and peer reviewers. But now GigaScience peer reviewers can get further recognised for their efforts through our formal partnership with Publons –an exciting, innovative approach that gives peer reviewers due credit for the work that they do.

Publons works by taking a copy of an open peer review report from a journal website, reviewers are then informed that they have the option to ‘claim’ their review on Publons and create their reviewer profile. The benefits of which is that individuals are able to add extra information about reviews they have completed across different journals and publishers –constructing an …

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