Monthly Archives: April 2012

Health in Transition conference and preparing for a new start

I’m delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this year’s Health in Transition conference, being held in Bucharest, Romania in June. As well as presenting my own paper in panel 3, I am also down to be both chair and discussant for panel 6. The entire conference looks fascinating, I’m really looking forward to it – plus as well as the conference, I am looking forward very much to being back in Romania, a place very dear to me. Hopefully my language skills won’t be too rusty and forgotten! I have really enjoyed getting back into my PhD thesis as I prepare my paper for the conference. There is still a lot there I want to get ‘out there’ and known more widely, so this conference is a great opportunity.

By the time I get there I will have been in my new post just over a month and immersed in the new research project; I start my new job next week. I am really excited about starting, although I am also a little nervous and hope that this ‘imposter syndrome’ feeling doesn’t last too long! I am going to have to hit the ground running, and after the conference in Bucharest I will be starting the ‘fieldwork’ aspect of the new research almost straight away. Actually I think doing interviews in English is going to be quite a novelty! 🙂

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Useful blogs on central/eastern Europe

I haven’t yet got round to sorting out a blog list for the side of this blog, but wanted to alert readers to some blogs and other sources which I find useful and interesting. For this post I’ll concentrate on the central/eastern Europeanists.

First up, Dr Catherine Baker blogs on teaching and research on nationalism, culture and identity. I’ve discovered her blog relatively recently, but think it’s well worth a read.

Secondly, one of my partners-in-crime when I was doing my PhD at Glasgow University. The Thesis Whisperer blogged recently about PhD topics that give everyone else research envy and that everyone wants to talk about, and Dr Paul Jordan’s research certainly fit that bill – here he blogs on nation branding and the Eurovision Song Contest. Sexual and reproductive health felt like the world’s most tedious topic in comparison to that 😉

For the politics/history buffs, Dr Sean Hanley from UCL and Dr Kelly Hignett from Swansea University are worth a read, as is the Transitions Online Editors’ blog, East of Center. Dr Caterina Preda from the University of Bucharest writes about the links between arts and politics. More specifically Romania-related, Professor Lavinia Stan from St Francis Xavier University in Canada blogs on politics, religion, memory and all sorts and is always worth reading.

I’ve not found too many CEE/FSU health related blogs yet (I’m sure they’re out there!) but will mention Dr Kate Thomson‘s blog. Kate lectures at Birmingham City University, and more relevantly for me was my PhD external examiner.

The Southeast European Studies Association has a blog with calls for papers and information on their activities.

Finally, not a blog but I recently discovered an interesting website from Romania (primarily in Romanian) which describes itself as a ‘social, intellectual and political critique group’, coming from a mainly leftist perspective. It’s not primarily an academic group of writers, but they do write on subjects of interest to academics. Critic Atac.

I would love to find out other good central/east European academic blogs (local and international) – please leave any others you know and rate in the comments.

Using blogs as sources

I’ve been musing about writing a post about following up tangents encountered during research which aren’t strictly relevant to the research project but are interesting and worthy of further attention; I might come back to that at some point. However, whilst musing about this my mind went off on a tangent (did you see what I did there?!) and I was reminded of an issue which came up during my PhD, namely the use of blogs as sources.

As part of my PhD I did a pretty extensive media review, concentrating on online newspapers and other mainline media (such as TV/radio station websites and local news agencies). I also came across a number of blogs which were relevant to my topic, but although I collected quite a lot of relevant blog posts I chose on that occasion not to include them in my final analysis – they were useful to give me a feel for the various views of people on the street, but I felt that the writers of a personal blog would not necessarily have any expectation that their blog would be used and quoted beyond the scope of the blog audience. On the other hand, I had no problem using the personal comments made under articles from online newspapers – it seemed to me that in a national more public forum like that people would feel differently about the use of their comments (they strike me as being in a similar vein to ‘letters to the Editor’) than they would a blog post or comment. In fact I even remember one comment on a TV station website discussion under the article which directly said “someone should collect these comments and write an article about it”!

However, I am now collecting data for a journal article I have wanted to write since I came back from my PhD fieldwork, which I used a bit in my PhD but nothing like to the extent that the amount of data could have merited (I think this is my link to my original musings about following up tangents), and as well as the extensive online newspaper, TV stations etc articles I am coming across a significant number of relevant blog posts which if I were to include them would, I think, make a significant contribution. I did read one article (a chapter by Shannon Woodcock in this book) which used a lot of blog posts as part of the analysis, and it seemed to make a lot of sense using them (I highly recommend the book, by the way, for anyone interested in issues around sexuality in central and eastern Europe).

So my questions are, how do you feel about using the personal blog posts of strangers as part of your data? Am I being over-cautious in limiting myself to online public newspapers etc? Have you come across any good sources arguing convincingly one way or the other? What would *you* do?