SMACC Gold: All Social Media, No Science?

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

It seems the whole medical world has gone all woolly and fluffy since Broadbeach was hit for six by #smaccGOLD. Everyone’s been so nice to each other, you can almost palpate the love. We’ve had stories of staff from the conference venue being perplexed at who we might be because we’re all such wonderful people. Having listened in open mouthed admiration to Vic Brazil we’ve bashed down all our tribal barriers so that the entire profession is now singing from the same hymn sheet. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Cliff Reid told 1,200 people how to ‘Resuscitate your neighbour as you would yourself’. Heck, this whole thing even made Simon Carley and me take to publicly singing – and that takes something, I can tell you. At journal club this week Simon and I were smiling at each other from opposite ends of the table – such is the love that #smaccGOLD has spread.

Feeling the love at #smaccGOLD
Feeling the love at #smaccGOLD

So, before everyone who wasn’t actually there dies of nausea, it’s probably about time for some hard facts for hard clinicians from a hard science guy. Well, here goes…

Before we start, let’s get one thing clear. #smaccGOLD was a totally unscientific conference. I mean, I tell my academic friends that I travelled across half the world to go to a conference on ‘social media’ and they look at me like I’m bonkers. It’s not the ACC, it’s not the ESC, it’s not even ICEM. Why did I bother? Look at the publication records of many of the speakers – there’s hardly a New England Journal paper between them and some speakers are completely untraceable in Pubmed. Heck, there were people who aren’t even Professors presenting in plenary sessions. And I met one typical #smaccGOLD chap at coffee who admitted that he doesn’t really go for all that “research stuff”.

By now, of course, you think I’m Emergency Medicine’s answer to Victor Meldrew. You probably think I should calm down. Of course, I don’t really think #smaccGOLD was a bad conference. On the contrary, it was totally flipping awesome. And there were actually lots of people who are international experts in their fields – Karim Brohi, Louise Cullen, Steve Smith, John Myburgh – I could go on and on. But what does a conference on ‘social media’ really have to offer to a serious academic? What scientific value can it possibly have?

Victor Meldrew

The key to this is understanding the essence of #smaccGOLD and, even more importantly, of #FOAMEd. Free, open access medical education is something we should all stand for. If we take Stephen Covey’s lesson and ‘begin with the end in mind’ then those of us who do research should ask ourselves why we are doing it in the first place. Of course, we do it because it’s fulfilling to find better ways of applying science to improve the health and wellbeing of our fellow man or woman. We don’t do it to make profits for large organisations – yet large organisations are clearly the Masters in the world of clinical research right now. That being so, #FOAMEd is a principle we all ought to buy into and we should each play our part in making it work.

That sounds pretty altruistic, right? But there are also some really selfish reasons why an academic should be at #SMACC. Publishing in top journals is, of course, essential. For now, all credible researchers need to do it. Let’s not kid ourselves that #FOAMEd is ready to take over, at least not yet. But journals will only reach a select audience with an interest in research (a minority of doctors). Blogs, micro-blogs, podcasts and forward thinking conferences like SMACC Gold (which celebrate the principle of edutainment, by which we learn while enjoying ourselves – crazy, eh?) are how most of us learn nowadays. And they can make the latest research totally accessible, getting it out there for people to start putting it into practice.

Take, for example, one of my most recent papers, which was on the sources of patient suffering in the ED and how suffering is more than just pain. This paper was published online first and went virtually unnoticed, which isn’t surprising. It’s not exactly the discovery of graphene and I don’t think I’m on the shortlist for any Nobel prizes. In fact it’s a very simple study. But then I blogged on it – and suddenly it attracted loads of attention – more attention than 97% of articles ever published in the EMJ, and it’s still not even out in print yet. That’s the power of social media.

SMACC Gold is all about that. It can take hard research and make it accessible. The beauty is in the branding. Just look at the artistic ability of Oli, Roger and their team. It’s all about presentation and making what’s presented palatable to the audience. Look at the presentations that we saw. There were very few plain slides with bullet points. Most speakers showed enticing pictures or single quotes on their slides. The visual stimulus was enough to draw the audience in and focus their attention on the speaker and the actual message. I’ve never been to a conference where there has been as much emphasis on making the content ‘taste nice’ for the audience.

That’s why SMACC Gold was so awesome. That, and the fact that we all actually enjoyed what we were doing. SMACC Gold reminded us that it’s so important to enjoy life. Take #FOAMaoke, for example. I’d heard about the #FOAMaoke before I got to Australia. In fact Nat never stops banging on about it. So much so that I spent my last night in Broadbeach in just about the seediest karaoke bar in the entire world. And, warm and fluffy as this conference is, they got me singing again. If you can call it singing.

This time it was #smaccCREEP – clearly I had a touch of Impostor Syndrome just like Nat. Have a listen to, and a laugh at, the piano version…

Cite this article as: Rick Body, "SMACC Gold: All Social Media, No Science?," in St.Emlyn's, April 13, 2014,

6 thoughts on “SMACC Gold: All Social Media, No Science?”

  1. Rick – your talk on the ‘Heart under stress’ at smaccGOLD was one of the highlights for me – a great defence of hsTroponin
    Your message that it is a test, not a diagnosis and the problem is with the way it is used… not the test per se, really stuck with me
    Love smaccCREEP… We all feel a bit like that. When I was at the opening ceremony rehearsal the day before smaccGOLD started, I was thinking to myself exactly that… “What have we done? What am I doing here?!”
    The bottom line: put over a thousand awesome people in the same room together and awesome things happen
    PS. Anyone who claims that smaccGOLD lacked a scientific basis went to the wrong talks – Jeremy Cohen’s talk on the glycocalyx was one of the highlights for me – fortunately they all go online for free, of course…

    1. Thanks a lot for you comments, Chris – that really means a lot! You did a seriously brilliant job with SMACC Gold. I hope that my opinion wasn’t lost amid the attempted irony at the start of my post! (I have been worrying – irony is not something you can get across very easily in a blog post)

      I totally agree with your last comment about the scientific basis and that’s what I really wanted to tackle in the blog post, actually. The challenges for SMACC Gold are that it doesn’t ‘sound’ scientific (‘Social Media in Acute and Critical Care’), which might actually cause one or two people to leap to a conclusion that it isn’t. When you look at the programme, however, you can be instantly reassured that there’s plenty of science on tap. There were leading experts in every field. What we have in common is a desire to make the science available, to make it more interesting, more entertaining.

      In fact, there was arguably far more science at SMACC Gold than there is at some traditional ‘scientific’ conferences, where programmes can easily be dominated by the CPD agenda.

      Personally I think that the SMACC Gold format is the future. I hope that traditional ‘scientific’ conferences will move towards what SMACC Gold has done – although there’s quite some catching up to do, and I think SMACC will always be out in front in that area! I’m involved with the organisation of EuSEM 2014 and 2015 and the CEM ASC 2015 – so I know how hard it will be to try and capture just a fraction of the awesome enthusiasm, atmosphere and good will that surrounded SMACC.

      Thanks for inviting me to SMACC Gold. Getting all warm and fluffy again, it was quite a life changing experience. Since getting back I’ve really set out to enjoy life and work much more – and to try and pass on that feeling to all my colleagues.



  2. Pingback: The LITFL Review 133 - LITFL

  3. Pingback: #badEMfest18 Day 1. St Emlyn's - St.Emlyn's

Thanks so much for following. Viva la #FOAMed

Scroll to Top