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Realising Your Research Ideas

21 February 2023
Group discussion led by Professor Monica Busse.
Group discussion led by Professor Monica Busse.

Research Design and Conduct Service workshop for Health and Care Professions Council-Registered Practitioners

24th & 25th January 2023 Grand Hotel Swansea.

One of the longer-term strategic goals for the Centre for Trials Research (CTR) is to build new collaborative relationships with a wide range of stakeholders across NHS and social care, policy makers, third sector and industry: Chief Investigators are key collaborators; they take responsibility for the conduct of the research but are also often the driving force in formulating the original ideas underpinning research. If we are going to have a comprehensive portfolio of research, then we need to encourage and support Chief Investigators from a wider range of professional backgrounds to ensure we are asking diverse questions in our research that could make an important difference to practice.

For our final RDCS South East event we wanted to focus on those with research ideas who belong to a profession that is under-represented in the group of Chief Investigators in Wales: The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) is the regulatory body for 15 different professional groups in health and social care and so we designed an event for HCPC-registered professionals working in Wales.

Knowing how hard it can be to get dedicated time away from clinical practice to work on research ideas, we offered a two day residential event to provide that protected space and time. We were delighted that the event was fully subscribed, with 21 HCPC-registered professionals joining us from across Wales, including 10 Physiotherapists, 4 Clinical Psychologists, 3 Occupational Therapists, 2 Podiatrists, and 2 Clinical Scientists, with representatives from All Wales Medical Genomics Service, Aneurin Bevan, Betsi Cadwaladr, Cardiff and Vale, Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay University Health Boards as well as Cardiff Metropolitan, Cardiff and Bangor Universities.

The event was co-led by Sue Channon and Monica Busse, both of whom are HCPC-registered active researchers based in the CTR, alongside the RDCS South East team (Philip Pallmann, Claire Nollett, Kim Smallman and Lorraine Craig), .We were joined by Kerry Hood from CTR,  colleagues from RDCS South West (Hayley Hutchings and Timothy Driscoll) and also by HCPC-registered Chief Investigators Ceri Battle and Kate Button. This team of facilitators brought a depth of experience and expertise from across different methodologies and specialties that was invaluable in delivering the workshop, enabling us to offer bespoke support and advice for the delegates.

We designed the two days to not just be about the research ideas but also about the researcher: The workshop started with an Insights Discovery session led by Monica, to help the delegates understand their profiles of personal, interpersonal and team effectiveness and how this might impact on their work as a researcher. This session set the tenor of the workshop: working in small, facilitated groups to consider how they could develop their ideas, but also consider how the research would fit with their current career pathway; how their ideas might fit with funding opportunities and also if there were opportunities for collaboration both within the wider group but also with colleagues known to the group. We identified potential pathways for idea development and the areas where delegates felt they needed more support, be that in methodologies to develop their ideas or in personal signposting or mentoring. This focus on both the research and the researcher was continued in the presentations from Ceri, Sue and Kate, each reflecting on particular aspects of their research work to date and what they had learned.

Day two was designed in response to requests for topics from day 1. There were three parallel sessions broadly designated as the stage of the researcher/their idea: development of an idea/first into research, feasibility studies/frameworks and those looking to apply for advanced personal fellowships. The second set of parallel sessions were more process-focussed, including finding your team, patient & public involvement, tips and pitfalls in developing an application and costings. Kerry gave an inspirational talk on her reflections on the development of researchers which led perfectly into a forward-focussed session in which each delegate was tasked with creating an action plan. They shared these in their small groups and we hope the plans will stand them in good stead as they returned back to their work environment.

The feedback showed how important it had been to have the two-days to really focus on research: “An opportunity to reflect, re-evaluate and plan. Opportunity to network”.  The delegates valued the support “fantastic experts to listen to and generous with their time and wisdom”, the insight into the research world alongside the chance to be with a likeminded network of people.

The group felt it would be helpful to have “follow-up meetings and support” so that “we don’t lose momentum”. They would value opportunities for mentorship and being able to discuss examples of ongoing projects to get a sense of how projects could unfold.  In the short-term, we proposed regular virtual “checking in” sessions so they have ease of access to the group and gain support from facilitators and their peers.  These check in sessions will be set up via CTR to run monthly. In the longer term this workshop could provide an exemplar of a focussed workshop that could be developed in the future for this and other groups.

The Centre for Trials Research at Cardiff University is funded through Welsh government by Health and Care Research Wales, and Cancer Research UK.