Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The dream team

My colleague and I are planning on submitting an application to the National Institute forHealth Research in response to a call for proposals they have circulated on using incentives to increase uptake of childhood vaccinations.

But we two are merely a healthpsychologist and a publichealth academic .  NIHR always look for multi-disciplinary teams who bring the full range of knowledge and expertise needed to deliver on any particular project.  They like supporting junior researchers to develop their knowledge and skills, but they don’t like placing their trust in jack-of-all-trade research leaders.  They want experts.

The call requests an evidence synthesis on the effectiveness of incentives to increase childhood vaccinations and some qualitative work exploring acceptability.  By ‘evidence synthesis’ NIHR almost always mean a full-blown systematic review of published and unpublished literature.  So we are going to need an expert reviewer and perhaps a statistician to handle any meta-analyses.

Dr. Health Psychologist and I are both more experienced in quantitative, than qualitative, research.  To explore acceptability of incentives for vaccinations using interviews, we are going to need a social scientist with experience in interview methods.  We should also probably find someone who counts as an expert on community child health and perhaps someone who knows a bit about vaccinations!  Last but not least, we are going to need a public health policy wonk who can guide us through the practicalities associated with introducing what would be a significant change in current public health policy in the UK.

Over bleary eyed, Monday morning, coffee we draft out a list of our dream team.  Some of them our friends and colleagues who we hope will always want to work with us on new ideas.  Others are ‘big names’ – invariably from London.  The big name professors might want to work with us bright young things, but they might take a bit of encouragement.  NIHR will probably only fund one project on this topic and we have no idea how many other people around the country are thinking up dream teams of their own.  We have to move fast to get something drafted that we can send to potential collaborators to convince them to join our team – before someone else nabs them for their team.

Of course the drafting falls to me.  By the end of the week I have something scrappy that consists of more text highlighted in yellow for further discussion than bits I am sure of.  But it is something and I start to send it out.  Within a few hours I have had four positive responses.

With the dream team starting to take shape, the pressure is mounting.  There is no turning back now.

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