The Open University

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Merryn writes…

When I was growing up I was always intrigued by the Open University, whose lectures introduced me to huge new ideas, from civil society in Ancient Greece, to gravitational waves (unfortunately neither of which I can claim much more knowledge of now than then). However, I had never visited in person so was really pleased to be invited by Erica Borgstrom to speak at the Death and Dying seminar series she convenes. Erica has done some great work, for example relating to the problematic ways in which choice at end of life is framed within contemporary UK policy discourse, and it’s always good to talk palliative care with a fellow social scientist.

I managed to navigate Milton Keynes without seeing one of their famous concrete cows (pictured above), but at least I got to the right place at the right time.  Given the complexity of navigating their sprawling (but very scenic) campus, combined with my limited map reading skills, this was not a given. My presentation provoked discussion about the importance of enabling the expertise of family caregivers to be more widely drawn upon in palliative care, as well as the need to recognise the limits of health service contributions at the end of life. As ever, there was interest in the bicultural approach of our research group and we are working at the moment on publications that elucidate the benefits we believe this approach brings to all our research, not just that with Māori.

If you are a social scientist working in palliative care (or are interested in what we get up to and, perhaps crucially, what value social science methods can bring to the discipline) and are in the UK in November, I’d really recommend going to the two day workshop Erica is convening on researching end of life from a social science perspective. My ex-colleague and friend Jane Seymour is presenting, along with Alan Kellehear and I wish I could go, but I’ll be back in New Zealand by then. I’m sure Erica will tweet the highlights.

Finally, it was great to catch up with Rebecca Jones, a Senior Lecturer at the OU, doing really interesting research on sexuality in later life. I first met Rebecca when finishing my PhD and she remembers me giving a presentation on my PhD experience to the British Society of Gerontology student network and urging everyone to ‘hang on in there’. All I can think is that the pressure of completing my PhD wiped my memory as I can’t remember having presented at all! But, still, I think it remains good advice, both for PhDs, and most other aspects of academic life.




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