All watched over by machines of loving grace: HSR UK Conference 2023

Posted 2023.05.24

Reflecting on the programme for this year's HSR UK Conference, committee member Pete Bower teams up with the AI taking the world by storm to see whether 2023's event meets expectations...

Of course, I could write a blog extolling the virtues of the upcoming HSR UK 2023 conference, but these days who wants to know what I think when we can approach the very latest artificial intelligence and ask them.


So I made a quick visit to ChatGPT to humbly ask what it thought made a good scientific conference. What would have taken me an hour, 3 drafts and a coffee/Twitter break was duly delivered in less than a second, and I must admit I am impressed (and clearly redundant).


So how do we stack up against the demands of our AI overlords?


We are all, by any practical definition of the words, foolproof and incapable of error


Of course we have High quality presentations. The conference committee attracts the best and brightest minds in HSR every year, and this year is no exception. We have everything, from standard ‘big ticket’ themes (social, self and integrated care) through to less conventional offers (including ‘building resilience in research’ and ‘enhancing end user involvement’).


These are matched by a tremendous set of keynotes.  Richard Taunt’s recent provocative blog gave us ‘The five reasons the NHS won’t live to see 100’ – so we have a session exploring ‘the NHS at 75 and what that means for health and social care research’ (5th July), which will hopefully give us a plan for the next quarter century of research to swerve Richard’s prediction.


And just in case the future of the NHS edifice is not enough for you, how about keynotes exploring the destiny of two of the foundation stones – ‘what is the future role of the hospital?’ (4th July) and ‘what will become of primary care?’ (5th July). We are not swerving the big issues at HSR UK 2023.


Only top-quality content gets presented at this conference. Maybe next year we’ll tip all those abstracts into a big machine and get a ranking back (REF is ahead of us – see here), but Rigorous peer review remains a blood and guts affair, and one which your colleagues on the conference committee apply themselves to make sure the presentations hit that sweet spot between rigour, innovation and timeliness. You can let us know if the machine should do the job next year in the post-conference feedback.


I've just picked up a fault in the AE35 unit. It's going to go 100% failure in 72 hours


Opportunities for professional development may be the euphemism you use with your line manager to get time off for the conference, but the HSR UK 23 conference committee takes development very seriously. This year we have enhanced the usual offers with a ‘writing development workshop’, a small, facilitated session to encourage discussion and peer-based learning in this most critical of tasks. We also have  learning and development sessions on PPI and submitting to international HSR journals, and a Q&A with colleagues at the NIHR Health and Social Care Delivery Research programme. Finally, there are a variety of workshops, including one on human–centred AI design for those interested in a rear-guard action against the rise of these new technologies.


You don't mind talking about it, do you Dave?


The eternal dilemma for the conference organiser is how to balance giving everyone a platform for presentations with giving people Adequate time for discussion. We hope we’ve given enough slots for catching up, for random meandering around the posters, and for recharging batteries between sessions – all topped off with a networking reception on the Tuesday and the conference meal on Wednesday. Most importantly, the sessions at HSR UK 2023 are structured so that the presentations are a launch pad for discussion. Everyone summarises their work briefly, but the idea is that people have watched the online presentations in advance – coming prepared for a lively debate. So try to work in some time to view the presentations – and let the content percolate for a while before the conference itself.


And of course we are Well organised and accessible, with the wonderful facilities of the Edgbaston Campus at the University of Birmingham and an online option for those who cannot make it in person. The only wild card is the organisation of the British weather, because this year we are heading outside for the conference dinner.


But you'll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for two


Diverse participation can obviously take many forms, but we hope that HSR UK 23 ‘walks the walk’ – diverse voices across the presentations, posters, and panels, alongside some bespoke sessions – including a plenary on ‘making people matter – undertaking research with those marginalised and excluded’ on 4th July. Inclusion is a key theme of this year’s event, with the programme featuring several presentations on health inequalities and research into care for vulnerable groups. This is also the second year of our NIHR Clinical Research Network funded award on ‘innovation in inclusion’ - deadline 5th June to apply. You can take a look at last year’s winners here and here).


I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission


So there you have it – HSR UK 2023 is fresh, innovative, and AI approved. See you at the conference!


Peter Bower is a member of the HSR UK conference committee and health services research specialty lead for the NIHR Clinical Research Network.


Click here to view to full programme and register for the HSR UK 2023 Conference.