Tag Archives: conferences


Just finished the IAPHR conference in St Louis. Twas nice to get to present copies of my book to the student presenters.

Not sure my usually combative style went down well….I may have been on a mood high….swung to a low right now so have avoided going out with the others for a final pizza.

Biplor 2 – good article in the Telegraph. That’s enough for today. Will probably be quiet for a few days….normal service will be resumed soon enough. when I can.

BWS book update

For all you patient people out there, an update regarding the upcoming book which will be the definitive textbook on Best-Worst Scaling, published by Cambridge University Press.

My two co-authors and I have gone 13 rounds with the copy editor to resolve outstanding queries surrounding tables, figures and references. We believe those are now all sorted. There are just a few edits to be made to update affiliations of a number of contributors/authors (including my own) and we’re there.

Assuming that is the case, CUP will issue us the complete proofs at the end of this month, wanting editing from us to be done the following 3 weeks.

The book will then be scheduled for publication in September. I do not know of any specific conference at which it might be “launched”, but assuming the timelines don’t change any further, the IAHPR conference in St Louis (just before SMDM) would be a logical one – all attendees would be highly interested in the topic and I know many use BWS already.

One little moan that I know I have made before but which bears re-iterating. Jordan, Tony (especially) and I have spent an enormous amount of time over a period of 10 years proving various theorems, estimators for use in BWS studies, and comparisons of results across BWS studies in various disciplines. Yet before I resigned from academia I was already beginning to see papers (in heath particularly) that seemed to think they had some “spin” on it that enabled them to claim another version of it, or suchlike.

I want to make it crystal clear that I welcome proper theory-based work to build on what we have done. Professor John Rose has already done some absolutely amazing work to build on ours and deserves special mention for his belief in the power of the methods, for his constructive (and generally deserved) criticism of some parts of what we have done to date (reflected in the book), and his desire to push for BWS to be implemented more generally. He has already been producing optimal designs for BWS studies (Case 3) – since (if I remember correctly), he has already proved that the BIBD is the optimal design for Case 1 and OMEPs for Case 2 are at worst satisfactory – they might just not be the most efficient, but he and I share a view that efficiency is not the be-all and end-all. Frankly, I am absolutely gobsmacked at how quickly he can work when it comes to moving forward something in choice modelling that he believes in. We have still not managed to publish together, but I look back on the all too little amount of time we worked together with great fondness. I believe he will be a major force in pushing forward the boundaries of BWS in future.

To others, who introduce atheoretical “tweaks” – sorry, I really really don’t like that. Why have you not had a mathematical psychologist or top econometrician prove the properties of the estimators you have used? Vague hand-waving would not pass muster in a journal conforming to CONSORT guidelines in RCTs, so what gives you the right to think you can do that in HSR journals that publish DCEs?

Yes I know publishing is hardly my main focus anymore, but as I mentioned yesterday, I won’t be abandoning it entirely and I will be doing a little bit of reviewing. And I am sorry to say that the “players” in academia will get no truck with me. Do it properly or don’t do it – this is usually tax-payers’ money being used. Remember that. Spending it on studies that have no way to replicate them or have dodgy design properties represents a misuse of public funds.

More anon.

SMDM nonsense

I sent the following email to a senior member of the SMDM board after a laughable survey sent to members earlier today.

Dear SMDM committee member

I have just filled in the SMDM survey, as requested.


My responses will, frankly, be likely to be rejected as “sour grapes” by someone who feels hard done by in terms of his contribution in Miami last year.


This would, however, be a serious mis-reading of my criticisms:

  • A special session on stated preferences (SP) research was convened in Miami with a remit to discuss the long-term viability of, and demand for, such a special interest stream. Four “experts” in stated preference choice modelling (chosen by methods unknown to me) were on the podium. Each was to use a case study of a SP study that helped move the field forward in terms of understanding patient preferences. Knowing all four members, I was certainly not expecting any great acknowledgement of the academic (as opposed to empirical) research in choice modelling, still less, significant referencing of key academic papers that detail the crucial psychological models that underpin the types of SP studies under consideration – discrete choice experiments. Which is fair enough – perhaps the society wishes to simply advocate for such studies to NiH and PCORI, in which case getting bogged down in academic minutiae is inappropriate.


    However, I became somewhat concerned when I realised that not one, two, three, but ALL FOUR case studies used “Best-Worst Scaling” (BWS), a type of choice experiment that has taken the world by storm. My registration for SMDM was not exactly last minute, so not involving me in some manner would be regarded as a little strange (and indeed was, by a large group of SP researchers present). After all I, together with the foremost mathematical psychologist in the world (Anthony Marley) plus the inventor of the method (Jordan Louviere) will have the definitive textbook on it published by Cambridge University Press in October.


    I was irritated, but managed to make a point at the microphone to clarify a question asked by a newbie and make clear to everyone that the CUP book was almost ready. I would have left things there. However, the frankly – in my view – self-serving survey I answered last night brought the issue to the forefront of my mind again. The astonishing lack of referencing to our globally renowned work, in favour of the reporting of small, imperfect studies, that cannot possibly be replicated, but which were conducted by certain “key” members of SMDM in a special session dedicated to discussing the possibility of making stated preferences an established stream within SMDM was, in my personal view, the most either academically dishonest, or incompetent session ever run – I am going to be charitable and claim cock-up rather than conspiracy – it is entirely possible that the SMDM committtee were genuinely unaware that
    (1) All four “experts” were going to present BWS studies
    (2) The foremost BWS health expert in the world would be in the audience and
    (3) He would not be correctly acknowledged by a single presenter.

    Indeed colleagues of mine from the UK, brought up to believe in the high standards of research in North America, were gobsmacked.

  • As a secondary point, I was not invited to co-chair (only contribute to) a pre-conference course on BWS and stated preference methods generally.
  • However, that was understandable, me being a first year member of SMDM (and on sick leave for several key months to boot). It was the academically either incompetent or deliberately inflammatory and insulting failure even to invite me to participate in the main session I find, frankly unconscionable.


    I am currently awaiting a final decision on a Chair at Uppsala University and have a long influential career in medical decision making. One of my strengths is my links to people outside the “core” field but who have been instrumental in setting up the mathematical models underpinning the work used in the studies reported at SMDM. I am on the board of the International Academy of Health Preference Research, which will, if SMDM does not change practice – in my personal opinion, an opinion that is most definitely not official to IAHPR – become the primary vehicle for patient preference studies in the stated preference arena. I do, sincerely, believe there are roles for both organisations with IAHPR being somewhat of a satellite to SMDM. However, if Miami provides the model for future studies neither I, nor my centre, will be funding staff to attend SMDM conferences. There are conferences more suited to providing a general “quantitative background to SP research” that are not geared simply towards getting NIH and PCORI grants.


    I realise that SMDM probably has its own internal politics and aims, which may not be compatible with what I have proposed in my survey. However, given the (in my opinion) significant deterioration in iHEA and ISPOR academic standards, I had hoped SMDM would provide the ideal vehicle for researchers to gain a more general appreciation of medical decision making and networking.


    At present I will be recommending to the Dean here and to the wider Nordic health economics community that no further funding for SMDM attendance be made available until I see some greater transparency in the election, composition, and direction of the special interest groups that fall under the SMDM umbrella.


    I sincerely apologise if this sounds like “threats” – I do not mean it to. I simply wish to point out facts that underlie health care funding in countries like Sweden (and northern Europe more generally), which have ample funding for conferences. At present SMDM is not, in all conscience, one I can recommend.


    I would simply ask for some very public and clear changes to the systems used to set up new special interest groups like the SP one. I should like voting procedures to be introduced, for members of choice modelling from a variety of fields to be invited to take part, and for full disclosure of membership of potentially competing organisations (e.g. ISPOR) to be required.


    Kind regards




    Minor edits made to original email to make clear to readers that
    (1) The special session invited four “world experts”
    (2) All FOUR experts use a BWS study as their case study to help educate the wider SMDM community, yet
    (3) Not one properly referenced BWS

ethics blog update coming soon

Sorry my follow-up piece for the ethics blog didn’t appear last week. I was ill.
Hopefully it will appear this wednesday.

In other news, my conference attendances this year will largely be within Europe:
(1) Maastricht in mid June for a conference on risk
(2) The Nordic health economics conference (Uppsala)
(3) Milan in late September for the “Mind the Risk” group.
(4) The IAHPR conference in St Louis, Missouri, USA in October.

I don’t intend to attend any of the “big” health conferences as recently I have not found them helpful or collegiate, or in one case the programme simply doesn’t look designed to grow the field.

I will be giving a seminar on Monday 13th April which will actually be a practical session enabling researchers to set up their own Case 1 Best-Worst Scaling studies, at least as a paper questionnaire or as an electronic attachment to an email. Attendance is primarily for researchers within CRB but let me know if you want to attend and I can make arrangements for a few more people to attend, if necessary.

For contacting me, please use my UU email – terry dot flynn at crb dot uu dot se – my UWS email has blanked, maybe permanently, not sure if my honorary appointment there is over or not!