Background knowledge vs Foreground knowledge

Background knowledge vs Foreground knowledge

An Event: In 2010, I had conducted a PubMed workshop. At the end, a doctor asked me”

“Can you do a half day program for practitioners, where they learn how to search all resources to actually treat a patient?”

And I answered – “Doctor, would you ask for a change for the MBBS  to be a one year course?”

He got my message and smiled.

My next action:

I had then posted the above on social media. And one of the comments I got from a doctor friend abroad was this:

Vasu, I think a lot of people interested in searching, do not understand the difference between "background knowledge” (what one knows or is supposed to have already learned) and "foreground questions” (having known X, what is Y). 

I believe that is where a lot of people are, with respect to searching online. They have discovered that there are “powerful technologies” and grope for different search engines. But the application of background knowledge to this searching is lacking! 

And your answer "how about crunching MBBS to one year" was a very appropriate response. I hope you really made that non sequitur sort of remark!

My deliberations:

As children most of us have played games where we were doctors and were treating our family members. We probably knew the names of some medicines and what they were given for. In our games our “patients” got cured. And we lived happily ever after. Till we grew up!

In real life, things could get tricky. Some people continue playing the game, with some acquired foreground knowledge. They medicate themselves or their family members based on how one person was treated. The rest know how dangerous that can be – the lack of “background knowledge” that a doctor of any stream has! Doctors of course know this very well. The dangers of medication without background knowledge range from adverse effects to antibiotic resistance.

The context of QMed:

And now, I stress – that the need for background knowledge applies in every field of knowledge – including “Information Sciences”. Everyone who searches online, needs to understand that there IS background knowledge they must have. And only when one is familiar with the background knowledge like types of resources, the elements of searching – Boolean operators, Thesauri etc can one do a really good search and replicate the same when needed.

QMed has been imparting both background knowledge and foreground knowledge to a large number of students and professionals. These numbers only form the numerator. There is a large denominator to be covered!

The support that we need:

  1. Recommendations for inclusion in the curriculum
  2. Introductions to institutions for them to learn about us
  3. Communications to decision makers to tell them how important our courses are
  4. Funding support

We invite you to help in the best way YOU can!

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