Collaborative Writing – Writing as a Team

We are all aware of the benefits of team working – more thoughts and ideas, a chance for smaller thoughts to grow and develop into big ideas with the help contributions from others. But what does this look like in practice, and how is it acted out in the workplace? It requires mutual recognition of every team player’s opinion being as valuable as the idea you are bringing to the table. The best work is produced through many thoughtful stages of corrections,  making changes each time in an attempt to add quality. At first it may seem time consuming and it may feel like there’s a lot of unnecessary shuttling taking place  (going forwards and backwards refining different parts of the same idea) but the effort is definitely apparent in the end product.  These processes are core to collaborative writing and I think doing so is a good way to achieve exceptional results.

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Evaluating Healthcare Services (NIHR)

On Monday (25/2/13) I successfully completed a two week online pilot for a new Health Services Evaluation Course created by the CLAHRC LNR (Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland).  After defining the purpose for the evaluation (establishing whether the project was indeed an ‘ evaluation’ and not a clinical audit or a piece of research), the course talked me through how best to define the evaluation question, aims and objectives;the identification of the relevant stakeholders and evaluation team members, defining their input into the project; and how to select the most suitable methods of carrying out the evaluation, agreeing on timescales, resources and strategies for dissemination. The most important stage, in my opinion, was the succesful identification of all the stakeholders and recognising their appropriate levels of involvement within the evaluation. Sometimes the views of certain stakeholders are maginalised in favour of stakeholders who are more influencial to the project. This can be problematic when those individuals are the direct recievers of the particular healthcare service being evaluated,  yet their voices are not heard the loudest.

Using the online interface was a good way to interact and discuss ideas with others working on a wide range of health evaluations in primary and secondary care, despite the fact that they were based in various locations. Discussion boards and the Wiki format were actively utiltised and comments posted were always on topic and constructive.  I can see the online course format working well in practice when it is rolled out to health professionals in the area.  

Many thanks to Tammy Holmes and Rachel Lovesy for providing me with the opportunity to take part.

CLAHRC Teambuilding Day – Podcast/ Video Champions!

CLAHRC Teambuilding day

CLAHRC Teambuilding day

The annual CLAHRC team-building day took place last week and was attended by both researchers and administrative staff members working within the collaboration. The task this year was for each team to plan, record, edit and present a video production of a five minutes based on an aspect of the CLAHRC of their choosing. The judges of the videos were part of Patient Public Involvement (PPI) groups within the area (PPI’s are open for all patients or members of the general public who are interested in health research, providing them with a platform to voice their opinions on the health services within their locality). As the judges were not health researchers themselves, it was important for all teams to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively.  I’d say that the greatest challenge was the actual creation of a video from storyboard to screening in the space of a few hours, with so many team ideas to choose from and work into the final production. The idea that my team decided on was related to the importance of transferring health research into practice, communicating the value of CLAHRC-influenced health interventions to the patients. The judges were thoroughly impressed by all efforts but there could only be one winner!  Many thanks to Kevin Quigley, Adelle Horobin, and Shona Aggrawal for their ideas and expertise which made the video the product of a great team effort.

2012 Departmental Conference

The Annual Health Sciences Departmental Conference took place on 11th December. It was a chance to celebrate the successes of various research projects this year and to hear about the progress made by PhD students in their studies. I thought the conference was a unique opportunity to meet others within the department, especially as many researchers are either scattered across numerous sites within Leicester or have work patterns where regularly working away from the office is an option. The first thing I noticed was the sheer number of attendees, easily surpassing the 100 mark, all under the same health research umbrella. The icebreaker gave me a chance to find out more about the research teams from The Infant Mortality and Morbidity Studies (TIMMS) Group to the Biostatistics team.  After the ice breaker and team working activity, presentations were given.

More to follow shortly.

Project Management

On the 30th October, I attended the Project Management training conducted by the University of Leicester. I think it was successful in its aim of providing attendees with skills and tips to help manage their own projects, and this was down to its practical nature. I’m sometimes sceptical of theory-laden presentations on practical methods as I feel that they aren’t very good at relating well to the topic at hand; there’s only so much you can get out of reading about applied techniques, but how are you to get a feel for them without giving them a go? So I was really glad that, for this course, this wasn’t the case.

 The discussions within the teams were a good way of finding out about everyone else’s project and it was interesting to see the variations from one project to another. I put my project and all its sub-tasks through SMART and recieved constructive feedback and tips from the course leader and my team. For example, the time it would take me to carry out some parts of my current project (the extensive literature review) first seemed hard to measure as I had not previously carried out a literature search of that scale. Having a statistical method of double-checking my rough estimates through PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) was therefore useful and will be beneficial if I am ever in a situation of producing a new project proposal in future.

The course was full of simple yet key points (or what I term ‘project gems’). A favourite of mine was the importance of acknowledging the difference between ‘Plans’ and ‘Planning’. Allowing for changes to the overarching ‘plan’ through ‘planning’ doesnt necessarily mean that the original ‘plan’ was wrong, the two are simply different in nature with one being more dynamic than the other.