Ideas, possibilities and bridges


Possibilities: The Millau Viaduct

By Dr. Tammy Boyce

An academic sits in their comfortable chair in an office with floor to ceiling windows, typing their eighth best-seller on their new computer. Now which of those one facts is most likely to be true? The academic sitting down is probably the closest to reality for most.

Instead, academic life is more often about finding a chair, cracking open a window that’s been painted shut, encouraging the computer to work each morning (compliments or sweets a useful tool) and, most importantly, thinking of new research projects. Having this time and freedom to think is the luxury that makes up for the poor office furniture. But even when you have the space to think it’s still helpful to remember how your ideas will work in the ‘real world’.

Creating bridges: PHIRN

In the first blog I mentioned the work of PHIRN (Public Health Improvement Research Network), the space DECIPHer created to think of new ideas and possibilities. Since 2006, PHIRN has created and used these bridges to build relationships between public health academics, policy-makers and practice organisations in Wales.

PHIRN does the following:

  • Identifies and explores research priorities;
  • Identifies teams with academic, policy and practitioner representation to take forward priority research projects;
  • Develops high quality research proposals;
  •  Organises opportunities to exchange new evidence, policy developments, practitioner innovation and new methodological approaches.

Chris Roberts, research lead for health, social services and children analytical team at the Welsh Assembly government, is a keen supporter of PHIRN and DECIPHer: “I am constantly pushing DECIPHer and PHIRN, saying that (Wales) has this resource locally and we should use it.”

Research that have developed out of PHIRN includes evaluations of:

In six years PHIRN has had substantial results, including:

  • Coordinating 94 research development groups;
  • Submitting over 80 grant proposals; 
  • Receiving over £15 million in research grant funding.

Seminar series

In partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government, PHIRN runs quarterly Health Challenge Wales Seminars. The seminar series:

• Brings people together;
• Creates research ideas, develops funding bids and facilitates research projects;
• Increases the amount of evidence in research;
• Creates formal and informal relationships and partnerships.

Seminars are held quarterly and to date, 17 meetings have been held.

Chris Roberts from WAG says that the PHIRN has led to formal and informal relationships:

  • Between the CMO (who is fully engaged with DECIPHer’s work) and academics
  • Between senior policy people – e.g. individual policy leads and academics
  •  In health and working on cross-cutting policies (e.g. education)
  •  Between researchers in WAG and academics
  • Between practitioners and academics

For six years PHIRN has established a relationship between government and research and a substantial pool of rigorous evidence and expertise has been created. For more information, see the PHIRN website.
Dr. Tammy Boyce (@TamBoyce) works with DECIPHer as a Knowledge Exchange consultant.

Image credit: Delphine De Andria

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