Three years ago, we had a crazy idea: what if Fuse had its own dating service for academic researchers and health professionals? Instead of innovative research findings gathering dust on lonely bookshelves, we wanted to provide a stage for academics and health professionals to meet and discuss how that evidence could be used in practice. We were keen to facilitate early conversations on how to collaborate on research that is useful, timely, independent, and easily understood.
Instead of health practitioners wandering around University campuses, trying to find the right academic to work with, we envisioned an open door leading to a welcoming friendly-faced guide. Someone who could do the matchmaking and help them to find or create evidence for spicing up their policies or interventions.
After checking our idea with various health practitioners in the region to make sure that it would make their hearts beat faster, we launched AskFuse in June 2013: Fuse’s very own rapid responsive and evaluation service with a dedicated match-maker (research manager) in post – that’s me!
Coming from an applied research background in social sciences, this post was certainly a challenge but also an incredibility exiting opportunity to develop something new with the support of an enthusiastic group of people across Fuse. The job has been a steep learning curve, but also a great way to meet a lot of people working in public health across the region, getting to understand their passions and … what keeps them up at night.
AskFuse has supported more than 270 enquiries from a wide range of sectors, organisations and on topics ranging from Laughter Ball Yoga to Whole Systems Approaches to obesity. We have helped to develop new interventions and evaluated existing ones, made research evidence accessible and understandable, organised events to explore new topics, and pioneered new methodologies; all in collaboration with our policy and practice partners. We have also made mistakes, misunderstood procurement procedures, were not able to help in time, could not find relevant expertise or did not always follow-up on conversations.
Despite these challenges - or perhaps because of them - we have been able to build a dating service that (I think/hope) is perceived as useful by our policy and practice partners, that has helped us to build relationships (even in times of considerable system upheaval with public health moving to local authorities), and has informed new research agendas for Fuse going forward over the next five years as a member of the national School for Public Health Research.
As the service is expanding and my role is changing (I recently became a NIHR Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellow, which I will talk about in another blog), we are looking for a new AskFuse Research Associate to work with me on strengthening the service and taking it in new directions. If you are interested in mobilising knowledge, fancy a challenge and want to work with a fantastic team, why not be part of it?