Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Moving on in Knowledge Exchange: part 2 of the KE blog series

Posted by Mandy Cheetham

This is the second in a series of three posts on knowledge exchange and translational research.

Whatever we call it, translational research, knowledge exchange, knowledge to action, researchers are generally interested in how our research can make a difference; its impact. In the messy world of public health, it isn’t always easy to ensure this happens, but there are good reasons to try, and lots of experience to draw on in Fuse.

Working with people who are interested in our research findings makes sense in all sorts of ways, especially if we involve them early on. It’s all about developing positive relationships, and maintaining these before, during and after the research process. Policy and practice partners can help identify topics that are relevant and useful, think about how to frame the research questions, contribute to funding applications, work out what design to use, what methods will work, recruit participants, make sense of the data, and use it to inform policy and practice. It relies on being able to collaborate with people, so everyone benefits.

In the last month, I attended two events, the Fuse Members' meeting and a Partnerships for Public Health research meeting, where researchers described how they’d worked alongside public health colleagues in different ways to ensure their research was relevant and useful. There were discussions about the benefits and pitfalls of collaborative research, academics and practitioners working and learning together, ‘researchers in residence’, embedded researchers, developing new skills and perspectives, writing and publishing together.

The events made me think about writing this (my first) blog, to highlight the opportunities for translational research in Fuse. Most of you will know about AskFuse (there'll be more about it in next week's blog) and Fuse Quarterly Research Meetings, planned in collaboration with colleagues in practice. This month’s meeting is on patient and public involvement in research.  There’s a programme of ‘knowledge exchange’ seminars - see link for the latest seminars coming up in November. ‘Open conversations’ are opportunities for anyone with an interest in research to come and test out their early ideas with friendly academics in the Knowledge Exchange Group. This group includes people with experience of collaborative public health research and practice. We take a broad view of translational research, and have drawn on the many different approaches in Fuse to put together a Question and Answer resource about translational research. It includes questions like why bother with translational research, ideas for identifying and involving stakeholders, what to consider in engaging stakeholders, what research designs to use and ways to share results widely, and some of the people in Fuse who can help. We’d welcome your comments on the Q&A resource and how it could be improved, so do let us know what you think.

I started to think about the wide range of ways in which Fuse staff and members are involved in translational research - setting up a research practice network in partnership with Public Health England, topic based research development groups, interactive web discussions, time limited placements for academics in strategic planning meetings. There are more examples and we’re keen to hear about your experiences of translational research, so please do get in touch.

In the NIHR research project I worked on recently, one of the participants talked about ‘connecting with people in different ways’. Put simply, translational research is just that. We need to do better to demystify the language we use, learn from our collective experience across and beyond Fuse, and (for those in Fuse) celebrate our achievements as a Centre for translational research. Our research and the strength of our collaborative partnerships will be all the better for it.

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