The focus of todays post is on the first component of the EPIC model for emergent health researchers:

Explore to develop and increase your understanding of the health research community.

What does this mean? The Oxford English Dictionary defines explore as, to travel through an unfamiliar area to learn about it which is an apt definition for exploring the world of health research. For most healthcare professionals this world presents an unfamiliar landscape. One which may have been encountered briefly during undergraduate study but even that brief sojourn was more likely to have been into the world of academic research, an important part of the landscape but not the whole picture.

The world of health research is rich and multifaceted and it is appropriate that entry into this world starts with a process of exploration, a time to venture into different areas, have a look around, get lost and find yourself. This kind of purposeful wandering will help to increase your knowledge and understanding of all of the different parts of the community, how they interface and connect. You will start to identify specific aspects and communities which are of more interest to you, those which resonate and are aligned to your values and it will require you to start wearing the mantle of someone interested in research.

If you are wondering if this is necessary here are some questions to ponder. At an organisation level:

  • How much do you know about the research community within your organisation?
  • Who is your Director of Research and your Research and Development manager and what do they do?
  • What are the research strengths of your organisation
  • What funding is available within your organisation to support research capability building?
  • What is in your organisations research strategy, does it have one?

Looking at the wider community

  • What are the research strengths of your local Universities?
  • Do you have a CLAHRC in your area and if so what are the opportunities for linking in with its work
  • Do you have an Academic Health Science Network what does it do?
  • What seminars are being held over the coming 6 months that you could attend?
  • What do you know about the work of the medical research charities relevant to your area of practice?
  • What does your professional body do to support research

I could go on but hopefully you get the gist.

Why is exploration important to emergent health researchers? To answer this question I’m going to draw upon the Researcher Development Framework (RDF), which, as I mentioned in the previous post, identifies the knowledge, attributes and behaviours of successful researchers. Whilst the RDF is aimed at researchers at doctoral level and beyond it is possible to map the process of exploration onto the framework to give you some idea of the knowledge, attributes and behaviours you will start to develop and acquire through the process of exploration.

The reason I’m doing this is to enable you to see their alignment with that of developing as a researcher, it is not just about methods, study design and data analysis. To remind you the framework is divided into 4 domains and each domain has 3 sub-domains, (the titles at the top of each column).

1.Knowledge and intellectual abilities

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2.Personal effectiveness

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3.Research Governance and organisation

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4.Engagement influence and impact

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So as you can see from the above you can start developing relevant skills and expertise at a very early stage in your research journey by getting to understand the workings of the community you are wanting to join, asking questions about how it works, what drives it and finding out about opportunities to engage with it.

How will it help you? Increasing your knowledge and understanding of the research community, its stakeholders and the things which drive it will become your launchpad for greater engagement. It will support you in championing research within your team and it will place you in a stronger position when applying for competitive bursaries and fellowships. For example you may consider applying for a Health Education England Internship, an NIHR funded place on a Masters in Clinical Research or funding from a medical research charity to support academic fees. What will make your application stand out?

In the section which asks why you are making the application you will be able to write it with reference to your organisations research strategy and explain how the skills you will develop will support delivery of the strategy. You might be able to say that you are actively involved in a research special interest group you have joined or that you have attended Trust research events.

If you are shortlisted for interview you will be able to demonstrates your enthusiasm for research. As an emergent researcher you may not be able to provide evidence of presentations or publications on your CV but what if you were able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of your research community, evidence of attending seminars, webinars or workshops? You suddenly have something to talk about in the interview.

So there we go, an introduction to Explore. In the next post I will expand upon this by looking at some of the specific things you can do as an explorer in this area of your research development.