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Winning a poster award at the NIHR Doctoral Research Training Camp - by Claire Reidy

23 August 2017

As an NIHR CLAHRC PhD student I was invited to attend a (gruelling) training camp; the Eighth NIHR Infrastructure Doctoral Research Training Camp last month in  Leeds. The focus of this “camp” (don’t let that friendly word fool you…) was on “The Art of Communication”.


The premise of this, quite rightly, was that a successful career in research relies on the ability to communicate your research effectively to a wide audience.


We were given access to workshops and inspirational speakers, and a task… The task consisted of working with a multi-disciplinary group of fellow researchers (all previously unknown to one-another), to put together a comprehensive communications plan. This comprehensive plan had to be submitted and presented to an expert (i.e. scary) panel, and an audience. I’ve never quite seen a group of strangers pull together, working night and day for a fictitious document before, but by heck did we do it!


Each team of 6-8 NIHR Trainees were given a paper in which to create this plan around. Most of the time the paper was far-flung from our own particular field of expertise, perhaps purposively designed so as to add to the pressure, the excitement or the challenge…or maybe all three! It was tough, but it certainly hit home some crucial health-research-related-points:


  • The first one being that no matter the research there must be a purpose, and that purpose usually comes down to the people who our research will inevitably impact – the public. Not only is the public vital in research because they represent every single one of us, but they are the ones who are at the end-point, and receivers of our research and, inevitably; the drivers too. Therefore it seems absurd not to include them in the middle as well. As a result, PPI was a vertical theme across all aspects of our communications plan.
  • The second learning point was that working in a multi-disciplinary team (and just a group of passionate people in general) is incredibly rewarding. Each of us had an idea of what we were (and weren’t) so good at. We distributed roles according to our own personal strengths or worked in small teams when we either shared these strengths, or had weaknesses. We communicated as a group, chose roles and renegotiated roles as and when necessary, and seeing all of our work come together in the end felt incredibly rewarding.
  • The final learning point was that communications plans aren’t for the faint-hearted. We were dealing with; tight budgets, plans, timelines, target audiences, key messages, aims and objectives; dissemination; engagement; media plans; channels and more.

I hadn’t quite anticipated the breadth of our mission. But in the end this was a bona-fide training camp in every sense of the word; we ate, slept and breathed “The Art of Communication”, and I highly suspect that I won’t (and don't wish to) forget any of these fundamental lessons any time soon. Oh, and I won an award for a “Highly commended poster” too!

 

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