Friday 3 June 2016

Guest BLOG: Everyone learns about #WhyWeDoResearch

A departure from the norm - A guest post from Bob Phillips and Jess Morgan which from a good active involvement standpoint uses the words 'cake and biscuits'. Yet how might the public help further... 

“More doctors should really know about research!” we often hear. 

Research, well conducted and methodologically valid, is a key way to make things better for all of us involved in health care, patients, families, health care professionals and the tax paying public. In this blog, we want to share with you something we’re doing to increase what doctors in training know about research!

Yorkshire centrally organises a series of training days for doctors undertaking their specialist training in paediatrics. Every year, a two-day course runs on three different occasions with the objective of taking a group of trainee paediatricians from starting to think about #WhyWeDoResearch, through generating a (pretend) study, undertaking it, analysing the (pretend) data it collects and presenting the results in a mini-conference.

Cake or biscuits are central to the sessions, as are honest, warts-and-all descriptions of what it’s like to be a clinically active academic doctor. Day one begins with an exploration of the reasons why we undertake research, what an active role in running research studies means, and some of the reasons people chose not to be directly involved. This blends into a session walking though the processes of protocol creating, ethics in research, application filling in and the pains of funding. 

The afternoon needs the participants to break into teams, and generate a raft of research ideas, debate them and come up with one to take forward. They then draw up a skeleton protocol, and overnight the study is magically* undertaken.

Bushy tailed and sparkly eyed, day two confronts the twin horrors of statistical testing and  qualitative analysis, to give a core grounding in both schools of data assessment. The importance of targeted dissemination is underlined, and the rest of the day is a flurry of activity, analysing, describing, drawing conclusions and creating poster presentations and elevator pitches for the conference that occurs in the final hour of the course.

The imaginary studies undertaken have included a study on the role of group-B streptococcal screening in reducing neonatal mortality, a trial of medications for reflux disease in infants, and a mixed-methods study of the value of ‘early’ vs. ‘late’ placement of central lines in the treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Participant feedback has included “makes the boring stuff really interesting”, and the highlights were identified as biscuits, teaching style and beginning to understand why research really matters.

The course could develop further – and we’d love to hear how we could incorporate other elements of the ‘real’ research process in this fantastical world that gets built and polished in 48 hours. Can we have Patient and Public Involvement? Could a funding body be assembled? Would it be good to get people to write an information sheet, or review an ethics application?

This two-day intensive course takes paediatricians in training from “Huh?” to “Our study shows …” through parametric tests, grounded theory and minimally important differences. It enthuses those who had a nodding acquaintance with study design and fires some of the curious to leap into research with vigour. Could your training programme include something about #WhyWeDoResearch? Could we help you?

Thank you to Bob Phillips and Jess Morgan

You can join in the twitter conversation here or read his Storify about BecandDerek at the @NIHR_TRAINEES 

* = the session leaders create falsified data, based on the results of similar studies that have been undertaken previously. It has been quite difficult at times to persuade people that they actually are imaginary & not to believe them.

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