Where do I fit in the world of health research?

Crop of pumpkins from The Lost Garden of HeliganI have been pondering the best way to answer this question for quite a while now as it seems to crop up in one form or another on a regular basis. The more I talk with healthcare professionals who want to become involved in research the more I realise how many people are in search of an answer.

The question is posed in a number of different ways including:

  • ‘How/where do I get started with research’
  • ‘Who do I talk to about doing research’
  • ‘How do I turn my ideas into research questions’

But all are underpinned by the same aspiration to ‘do’ research. But here in lies a challenge. Whilst, as healthcare professionals, we are familiar with the differing stages in the development of a clinical career we tend to be less familiar with the career progression of a health researcher.

There is often confusion about the kinds of activities which are appropriate for differing levels of a research career, what is required to progress from one level to the next and the point at which it is realistic to be in a position to apply for funding as an independent researcher. In fact the starting point may not even be to ‘do’ research, but more on this in the future.

This lack of understanding can lead to incredibly high expectations about what is possible and achievable, quite a lot of frustration and, in some cases, a fair amount of misplaced time and effort. So in the next few posts I am going to do a bit of #workoutloud and start to describe a framework I have been working on recently aimed specifically at the very early stages of getting involved in health research. I started to explore this several months ago in a previous post but as time has moved on my thinking has developed.

Why focus here? Well for a couple of reasons really: I think this is where the trickiest challenge for healthcare professionals lies – knowing how to get started; this is where the greatest community of aspiring health researchers reside; my experience suggests that this is the point at which expectations have a tendency to exceed the reality of what is possible.

But before ending this post I didn’t want to neglect anyone who may already be on a research pathway and is thinking about their development. So I want to flag up the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) as a resource worth investigating. The RDF was developed in the UK by Vitae and endorsed by organisations including Research Councils UK and Universities UK. It identifies the knowledge, behaviours and attributes of effective and skilled researchers at different stages of their research career and is a tool that can be used for planning and supporting personal, professional and career development by researchers and those responsible for their development. The RDF comprises four domains:

  • Domain A: Knowledge and intellectual abilities
  • Domain B: Personal effectiveness
  • Domain C: Research governance and organisation
  • Domain D: Engagement, influence and impact

You can explore it via the Vitae website but to access it fully you need to part of a membership organisation. If you are studying at any University in the UK you can check to see if your University is a member and if it is you can access not only the RDF but a wide range of excellent resources. If you are unfamiliar with Vitae I would highly recommend you to explore the site.

So, if you are interested in this topic please drop by for the next few posts when I’ll start to focus on how healthcare professionals new to research can start to build their research profile and expertise.  It would be great to work on something together so I would really welcome you chipping in with comments and reflections. It would be fun.

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