Minor frictions 3: virtual wards, real exclusions

Categories: research notes
Categories: research notes

– things I’ve read this week

How do the public and NHS staff feel about virtual wards?

Two highlights from a new Health Foundation Report on virtual wards – the idea to extend hosptials virtually into people’s homes via digital technologies:

NHS staff in our survey were, on balance, clearly supportive of virtual wards (by 63% to 31%). When asked what will matter for making sure virtual wards work well, their top two factors were the ability to admit people to hospital quickly if their condition changes, and the ability for people to talk to a health professional if they need help.


Those in socioeconomic groups D and E are on balance unsupportive of virtual wards, so it will be important to understand and address needs and concerns here. Notably, survey respondents in these socioeconomic groups who said that they would not want to be treated through a virtual ward were also more likely to say that their home would not be suitable for a virtual ward compared with those in other socioeconomic groups.

What’s this telling us? Well one thing might be this: that people who already feel excluded from the UK’s best healthcare services might have some reservations about new kinds of treatment that rely on digital and place based infrastrcuture – which we know us distributed unevenly throughout the country

Dispositions: measuring the impact of public research spending

“REF impact case studies are fairy stories that preclude a serious understanding of causality”

That was the gist of one of the lines of arguments at a recent debate on impact evaluation at SPRU.

This is an important issue. Not least because of the £400m+ spent on the last Research Evaluation Framework exercise ($). Much of it spent writing impact case studies that rarely take causality seriously when it comes to complex social and technological change brought about by short-running research projects.

So here’s a lovely paper from from David Budtz Pedersen and Rolf Hvidtfeldt that starts deals with real world causality head-on. They tell us that if we’re serious about impact, we need to start taking the micro foundations of impact seriously. What I most like is the attention to absorptive capacity and dispostions. That is, the need to set up the organisational, collective and invididual conditions for new knowledge to flourish.

Four links

  • How Silicon Valley is helping the Pentagon in the AI arms race (FT)
  • How Amazon Taught Alexa to Speak in an Irish Brogue (NY Times)
  • Community wealth building in an age of just transitions: Exploring civil society approaches to net zero and future research synergies (Energy Policy)
  • Data science skills in the UK workforce (Parliamentary Office for Science and Technology)