Our first virtual event
On Monday, 5th October the Research Design and Conduct Service (RDCS) South East Wales hosted its first ever virtual funding application workshop. In previous years, the RDCS had held its annual grant writing retreat either as a one-day event at Birchwood House, Cardiff or as a residential retreat over several days in Crickhowell. This year, in line with the Covid-19 restrictions, the RDCS team condensed the programme into an afternoon of presentations and virtual small-group discussions on Zoom.
Applications and health boards
Thirteen delegates working across four Welsh health boards (Cardiff and Vale UHB, Cwm Taf Morgannwg UHB, Swansea Bay UHB, Hywel Dda UHB) and a wide range of specialties (including paediatrics, oncology, dermatology, nursing, genetics, surgery, pharmacy and sexual health) attended the event. The majority of delegates were aiming to submit their proposals to Health and Care Research Wales autumn funding calls such as Research for Patient and Public Benefit (RfPPB), Health Research Grant, NHS Research Time Award and Research Capacity Building Collaboration (RCBC), but some were also considering other funders such as the Medical Research Council (MRC). A separate event was held for delegates applying for the Social Care Research Fellowships so the support could be tailored to the particular requirements of that call.
Overview of calls and panel feedback
At the beginning of the workshop, RDCS Director Dr. Sue Channon gave an overview of the open Health and Care Research Wales calls and discussed panel feedback on RfPPB applications from previous years:
Then, RDCS Deputy Director Dr. Philip Pallmann shared some ideas around developing research questions using the PICO framework (PICO stands for population, intervention, control, and outcomes criteria in framing a research question):
RDCS Consultant Claire Nollett and Barbara Moore, Senior Public Involvement and Engagement Manager at Health and Care Research Wales, gave tips on how to involve patients and members of the public in grant applications.
Finally, RDCS Consultant Dr. Kim Smallman presented on various aspects of project planning, Gantt charts and how to build a strong study team:
Each presentation was followed by a breakout session, with three to five delegates in each virtual breakout room discussing how to apply PICO, public involvement and team building to their own projects, facilitated by one or two RDCS consultants in each room. This was made possible by RDCS communication officer Richard Haggerty and administrator Laura Tilly whose work in the background ensured the event ran smoothly.
Follow up and one-to-one support
Since the format of the event did not provide many opportunities for bespoke one-to-one support, the RDCS consultants continued to work with many of the delegates beyond the end of the workshop to help them to further strengthen their bids. This included one-to-one consultations via Zoom and linking them up with the RDCS’s own ‘Research Review Ready Group’ comprising of members of the public who volunteer their time to provide input into grant applications from a layperson’s perspective.
Despite this virtual event being the first of its kind developed and delivered by the RDCS team in Cardiff, it achieved a high satisfaction rate of 8.7/10, based on ten returned feedback forms. Some aspects that delegates highlighted as particularly helpful included:
- “Breakout rooms with opportunity for more focused discussion and questions”
- “Highlighting the importance of patient involvement and equality/diversity parts of the applications”
- “Sharing info on resources as well as links to further info”
- “Discussion on PPI”
- “All speakers were very knowledgeable and passionate about the content that they delivered”
- “A lot of information was very practical and you could put it to use if you were at the right stage of planning your grant application”
Survey and future strategy
Delegates also acknowledged that it was “very difficult to recreate the in-person individual support” that usually constitutes a large part of any non-virtual RDCS event, and suggested more time during breakout sessions could be helpful to allow for more in-depth discussion. Given the prospect of virtual events being the ‘new normal’ in the foreseeable future, the RDCS team are currently surveying their client base to learn more about their support needs during the pandemic, and are preparing to deliver more virtual workshops in the new year.
Social Care Research Fellowships
A separate event was held for delegates applying for the Social Care Research Fellowships so the support could be tailored to the particular requirements of that call. In response to requests from the delegates, the focus of the discussion was on evidence review, costings, developing a research career and writing tips. This call is open until early December so anyone applying is very welcome to contact RDCS for support.
The RDCS SE Wales is based in the Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University. The Centre for Trials Research is a UKCRC-registered clinical trials unit and is funded by Welsh Government through Health and Care Research Wales, and Cancer Research UK.