A case study about the setting up of an online research forum for those studying part time while they work within the NHS.

Who wrote this case study?

Matt Holland [email protected] from North West Ambulance Service NHS Trust (2016)

Who asked?

Senior Managers from Workforce Development, Learning and Development, and Clinical Education seeking to develop the NWAS NHS Trust research capability.

What did they say?

An initial meeting discussed the early stage of research in prehospital care in general and the need to nurture research skills within NWAS NHS Trust before developing larger research projects. The consensus was that research themes / projects would emerge as the research capacity developed and could be guided by a newly established research group.

What did you do? 

Typically NWAS NHS Trust staff are engaged in research through formal university courses from PhD and MPhil/MSc/MA to BSc/BA. Staff are geographically dispersed. Many come to higher education from non-traditional routes and are studying part time at a distance while working. There was no NWAS wide fora for researchers, although staff know colleagues in their area/region who are also students.

The challenge was to find a channel that reached across the organisation to share information with researchers that would broaden the collective knowledge of research practice, ongoing research and training opportunities. NWAS LKS had previously suggested a Yammer Group for researchers and put this forward as a first action.

The Yammer Research Group was set by the organisational research lead, a Consultant Paramedic, with a core membership. Yammer had been adopted through a soft launch in NWAS. Staff choose to join Yammer and establish groups as and when there was a motivation or a need. Membership of any group is voluntary. The Research Group has grown incrementally to 110 plus members (August 2016).

NWAS LKS began contributing material two or three times a week. Initially bespoke posts on basic research skills. Typically,  about searching,  using social media, forms of publication, the academic writing and publication process. More recently material has been selected from a range of mailing lists, newsletters  and websites. Some posts are shared from the NWAS LKS (library) Group. Colleagues also contribute material. The aim is to post regularly to keep the group fresh, informative and interesting and to gain a critical mass of members.

Screenshot of the Yammer research page
Screenshot of the Yammer research page

How did it help? 

The Research Group is a work in progress. It is hoped that by supporting and active group over time will increase its value. Broadly it helps in these areas:

  • created much needed space to share information around research. Previously no space like this had existed
  • it infiltrates the idea that research is valued and encouraged within NWAS, and colleagues at whatever level can see a direction of travel, where they might take their research ambitions further
  • it is the only channel with a broad audience that reaches researcher active staff  at all levels of the organisation
  • shares new information relevant to the practice of research directly to the group to broaden their understanding of the field/topic

August 2016