What is it like to collaborate with DECIPHer?

We asked some of our key collaborators to tell us about their experience of working with DECIPHer. Here’s what they said….

Julie Bishop photo

Julie Bishop – Consultant in Public Health, Public Health Wales

I am a consultant in public health at Public Health Wales, and spend one day a week in the DECIPHer office. My work with DECIPHer is mostly on school-based health research; I oversee the Welsh Network of Health Promoting Schools programme, which works closely with DECIPHer’s School Health Research Network. I also oversee the delivery of ASSIST, a peer-led smoking prevention programme, in schools in Wales. More generally, I help to link the work of DECIPHer with the policy and practice priorities of the public health system in Wales, putting together people who have common interests. Working with DECIPHer has allowed me to develop my personal research interests while strengthening the link between Public Health Wales and higher education institutions in Wales.

The overall aim of my collaboration with DECIPHer is to strengthen the use of evidence to inform practice – whether by helping to disseminate research findings so that knowledge is used in practice, or securing research expertise to evaluate interventions delivered by Public Health Wales. The partnership helps to ensure that the action we take as a public health organisation has a demonstrable impact on the health of people in Wales, and is really starting to show results.

I’ve been impressed by DECIPHer’s collaborative approach to developing ideas for research. There is a strong commitment to recognising the input that practice partners make to generating good research proposals, and also to ensuring that the work that is done has relevance and will be used.

I think the key strengths of DECIPHer are the willingness to work with partners in a range of sectors and the emphasis on finding out what works using the most rigorous scientific approaches possible. I have found the team to be incredibly welcoming and the whole experience has been a really positive one for me.

Chris Bonell – Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, Institute of EducationChris Bonell

I’ve worked on a number of DECIPHer projects in recent years. I’m currently involved in the ASSIST+Frank drug prevention study, the Filter project on smoking prevention in further education settings, a synthesis of research on positive youth development, an RCT of the ‘learning together’ restorative approach in schools. I also chair the trial steering committee for Project SFP Cymru, DECIPHer’s trial of the Strengthening Families Programme in Wales.

I first became involved with DECIPHer through the founding Director, Professor Laurence Moore, who invited me to give a seminar in Cardiff. Collaborations led from there.

DECIPHer’s key strength is that it has a critical mass of people interested in applying social science theory and methods to policy relevant research – particularly research focusing on young people – and strong links with policy and practice. Working with DECIPHer has been positive for me in terms of producing grant funding and papers, whilst working with decent people.


Steve ManskeSteve Manske – Senior Scientist and Research Associate Professor, Propel Centre for Population Health Impact at the University of Waterloo, Canada

I am part of the team that has launched the School Health Research Network. Similarities between the mandates of DECIPHer and the Propel Centre for Population Health Impact led us to explore a collaborative  project that highlights potential cross-fertilisation between the centres. Given the work I have been involved in on the School Health Action, Planning and Evaluation System in Canada, DECIPHer’s new School Health Research Network seems to be the perfect vehicle.

I’m impressed with the dual focus at DECIPHer: research excellence, and building partnerships across policy, practice and research to capitalize on the strengths of each. I also appreciate the care that is taken with individuals with whom DECIPHer interacts. It’s not just what is done, but also the way DECIPHer operates, that is and will have an impact on the health of the Welsh population. In the case of the School Health Research Network, this can be seen in the strength of both the scientific team (international in calibre, various disciplinary perspectives) and the people ‘on the ground’, who interact day to day with the schools and government. All are very well connected, no one sits in an ivory tower.

The most important outcome of my work with DECIPHer will be stronger efforts to support the development of healthy school communities both in Britain and in Canada. This increased capacity will be a result of the joint contributions of research, practice and policy perspectives, and more effective linkage across them.

Justine Womack – Public Health Specialist, Public Health England (South of England Region)

Justine Womack

I am currently working with DECIPHer on research into how Directors of Public Health ‘make the case’ for investment in public health. This aims to: scope current practice and needs of Directors of Public Health in terms of making the case and decision making for public health, then disseminate the results (e.g. current practice and needs), and develop a response to these in consultation with Directors of Public Health and Public Health England (PHE). DECIPHer researchers will also work with PHE to respond to the needs identified in phase one.

I became involved with DECIPHer because the project needed a combined academic and public health approach. DECIPHer offered the depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise about the health of children and young people. This was needed to understand the opportunities and challenged in this area provided by the movement of public health to local government.

Working with DECIPHer has been extremely positive because of the efficiency of the way the process has been managed and, most importantly, the clarity of thinking about complex and ‘messy’ issues. I would like DECIPHer to continue to develop partnerships with Public Health England and local authorities. This relationship will allow DECIPHer to better translate the evidence it produces, making it relevant to practice so that we maximise the skills and knowledge that exist across the public health community.

Collaboration case studies