Thursday, 11 April 2013

Only connect

Posted by Janet Shucksmith 

As the Fuse Communications Group baton passes over from me to Jean, I’m claiming the liberty of publishing a blog post swansong before I tape my beak shut and get on with something else. We have done a lot in the couple of years since we set up the Comms group, but there remains a great deal we need to do, both in terms of internal communications within the family of Fuse staff and associates, and external communications with practice partners and academic colleagues.

Gird your loins! In the next five years, we have to:
  • Establish a really clear focus for Fuse. Occasionally problems arise because partners think we are funded to be a support organisation. We aren’t. We’re a research organisation that thinks it’s important to do the sort of research that will ultimately be useful (hopefully in short order) to improve practice, help people make better policy decisions and improve people’s health. 
  • Get the contact points with Fuse right – our new service, AskFuse, to be launched in June, ought to help here, if it acts as a ‘listening ear’ as much as an evaluation service.
  • Get the communications right with our policy and practice partners. We have to be responsive and creative – let’s use social media, animation, podcasts, webinars etc to liven up our delivery. Listening, as well as talking at or with partners, is critical however. 
  • Get the products right through which we aim to spread news about our research work. We are about to produce a series called Research Bites, giving brief outlines of project outcomes. We also need to make serious attempts to improve the information people post on the website about their projects; the website is constantly being improved to allow people to navigate around it more easily, but there needs to be decent stuff there when people arrive at the last click. We all need to accept more responsibility for pulling out the ‘what matters about this work’ themes. 
  • Challenge ourselves to think about ways of interacting less formally about our research. Could we run a CafĂ© seminar series for example?
  • Get out a bit and talk to different people. It’s tempting to always work with people who ‘get it’, but we need to be a lot more adventurous, and there are a lot of new kids on the (public health) block after April. 
  • Get the Fuse brand recognised (and understood) nationally amongst other public health researchers. 
  • Continue to find better ways to talk to each other, to mentor and support our early career researchers and to bring in the skills of our associates to enrich Fuse work. 
Mark, Jean and the rest of the Comms Group will be doing a fabulous job, but will need everyone’s ideas and co-operation. Get creative and communicate!

Editor's note: if anyone wants to take up any of the challenges that Janet lays down, or has any great solutions to some of the problems she raises, please get in touch.


  1. I read this blog out of interest and am not a health resesrcher. This post cooincides most closely with what Ive been doing for the last few year, which is working in Knowledge Translation in environmental sciences.

    Youve outlined quite an ambitious vision for what you want to do. I would suggest you look unto developing a knowledge transfer and translation program/project to improve your impact. It has certainly been really successful in my field and I know that in some parts of the world it is becoming a professional role and recognised research area in its own right (e.g. medical KE in Canada).

    In my experience KE has the added advantage of generating new projects and accessing new funding streams (from industry and statutory bodies) as well as leading to new publications.

    All the best

    1. Hi Simon.

      Thanks very much for this thought. We have a very strong KE programme in Fuse, and have been trying both to develop KE at a practical level and to research it academically. The Knowledge Exchange Group in Fuse is very active in organising seminars, discussion events, a conference etc. Our latest ventures in working with practice partners have involved a sandpit training event for early career researchers to see if we can establish from the start the instinct to co-produce, and - soon to be launched - a responsive AskFuse service. Watch this space! Would be good to share your KE insights more generally - we have thought about developing a community of interest, but this not quite off the ground yet (though there is one in Scotland).

      Best wishes

    2. Hi Janet. Sounds like you are well ontop of things. I can come round sometime and have a chat to swap experiences if you are interested :-)

  2. Love the Research Bites idea. Look forward to seeing them.