A Newcomer’s Viewpoint of the Diabetes UK Conference

3 min read
First Published: 
Nov 2016

The Diabetes UK Professional Conference (DUK) is a major event, highly anticipated by its delegates. It has been running for over 20 years and for 2017 (April) it will take place in the Manchester Central Convention Complex. Rx Communications was in Glasgow in March 2016 to contribute to DUK’s objectives of

"caring, connecting and campaigning alongside and on behalf of all people affected by and at risk of diabetes"

by determining what was the level of understanding of health economics and outcomes research (HEOR) in diabetes among participants. Our aim was to assist education with an innovative booklet on Health Economics and Diabetes.

An astonishing number of delegates were present in Glasgow to educate themselves on the latest developments in diabetes research, to grasp how the landscape in diabetes care is changing, and to interact with diabetes key opinion leaders.  Scientists from all over the world gathered to share their findings and presented more than 600 abstracts, posters and oral presentations. As it was my first time at the DUK Conference, I took some time to wander around, absorbing hundreds of bits of data and information. Clinical and basic science projects were presented (all available for the public in the Congress’s abstract book http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/dme.13049/epdf) in considerable detail. The posters had a scientific structure and format: the basic questions were well articulated, the methods precisely described, the results elegantly presented, and the investigators carefully drew their conclusions.

Reflecting on the congress, I could not help asking myself what the purpose of having so much information would be and whether all of this would be meaningful?  What do so many prestigious scientists, experts, clinicians, nurses and young scientists have to contribute to this exhaustively researched area of science? Is it for the fame? Is it to confirm their scientific and social status? Is it another company-sponsored event for the promotion of new therapies?

I decided to go back to my books and find a reasonable answer. A cat was smiling on the hardcover of A.F. Chalmers’ ‘What is this thing called science’. Could I find my answers there? The book escalated from simple explanations and historical science methodology to more complex ones. I was intrigued by Kuhn’s now-famous ‘Paradigm’ and the route to science. Kuhn stressed that historically normal science advances as a cluster of coordinated efforts called ´paradigms´. Scientists accumulate random facts and unverified observations to begin the foundations of their field from scratch, develop a plethora of competing theories and finally form a shared paradigm or research consensus. According to Kuhn, the bulk of scientific work is that done by the ‘normal’ scientist, who is engaged in the threefold tasks of articulating the paradigm, precisely evaluating key paradigmatic facts, and testing those new points to which the theoretical paradigm is open for empirical appraisal. For the normal scientist, anomalies represent challenges to be puzzled out and solved within the paradigm. It takes an anomaly or series of anomalies to resist successful deciphering long enough and for enough members of the scientific community for the paradigm itself to gradually come under challenge and perhaps to be subjected to a paradigm shift.

So maybe that’s it. The DUK Conference is a scientific feast that confirms Kuhn’s definition.  A systematic approach from our society, through its scientists, to research all aspects of an area, in this case, diabetes. DUK states it clearly:

"Research is our hope for the future. Everything we know about caring for diabetes is a result of research – and UK scientists have already contributed to life-changing breakthroughs."

Every little bit counts: it might confirm the standing theories, or it may create a tiny crack that could shed light on undiscovered areas.

Until March 2017 we salute you, and we hope to meet you in this busy rendezvous.

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Thanos Stavropoulos
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