Nurturing new research and promoting collaboration – Sheila Payne reflects on the EAPC World Research Congress

Categories: Research.

Why a congress dedicated to research? The EAPC has its general Congress, why make a separate research Congress?

The EAPC has always seen research as a really important activity. In the early days of the EAPC, we developed the research network as part of the EAPC. At that time we had the EAPC conferences that were every two years. We decided that in the interim year, the in-between year, we should have a separate meeting for people who were interested in just research. The first of these meetings was held in 2000 in Berlin.

This proved to be very, very encouraging and it has grown from there.

What we are trying to do is to showcase the current research activity in palliative care, not just in Europe, but from around the world. This meeting is about capacity-building; it’s about hearing about research, but it’s also about allowing people to develop research skills and methods and discuss them, to learn how to publish papers and get them accepted in some of the top journals.

Can you talk about the value of this meeting for networking?

Well, to draw from my own experience, I’ve just had a meeting which is about developing a new research proposal for an intervention that is for heart failure, drawing together colleagues from colleagues from the Netherlands, the UK and Australia.

But this is just one small example. There are also many good examples of existing research projects which use the conference venue as a chance to come together. Immediately after this interview we will be having a meeting about InSUP-C, a European Union funded study, which has been running for about 18 months now.

So the Congress gives us an opportunity to come and hear about research, but also to conduct the business of undertaking research projects. It has a number of functions, not just dissemination, but the genesis and the birth of new projects too.

What is the value of this meeting for young researchers?

I think it’s really important that we grow the next generation of researchers. I think it allows them to do a number of things. One is to meet lots of people, so networking opportunities here are huge. I often encourage my PhD students to look through the programme to see who is going to be speaking and to contact speakers and arrange to talk with them. They can only say no, and most of them actually say yes.

It’s also an opportunity for them to meet other PhD students, to network amongst their peers, and to go to some of the sessions which maybe they don’t have in their own universities or institutions, maybe learn about research methods which are a little bit different from the ones that they’re using. If they’re very good on clinical trials, they could go to a qualitative research session, or if they’re really into qualitative methods, but have never thought about doing clinical trials, they could go to those.

I think we should be encouraging our junior colleagues to come to these meetings for the networking, and also for the opportunities to expand their knowledge and training and what they understand about palliative care.

What is the significance of the early researcher award?

This was established a number of years ago, and it marks out people who are working at an international level. They represent the future of the EAPC, but also they are the future of palliative care across the globe. They will be doing the cutting edge research and going into leadership positions in many different places.

It’s open to anybody round the world, so you don’t have to be European to get the award. We have established criteria; people have to either nominate themselves or be nominated by one of their professors, or by one of their senior colleagues. We look through their CV against very strict criteria, and we look for the people who have an all-round level of a very high standard of development.

We get about 19-20 applications per year. I was hugely impressed by the standard of the people who apply. It is open to anybody from different professional backgrounds, and that’s hard to judge, because people’s career trajectories are different in different disciplines. Also, people have different opportunities for funding in different countries, and we acknowledge that.

We hope that the award is a mark of esteem. It’s something people can put on their CV and hopefully it will be useful for them in their career. We invite the winner to do a plenary talk and I think that’s a good marker for people to aspire to in the future.

This year, we’ve made one special award to a colleague from Nigeria. We were so impressed by the quality of the work that was done in a situation which is quite challenging to work in, that we felt that it was very much worthy of a special commendation.

Could you talk a bit about the importance of posters at the Congress?

We had over 800 abstracts which is fantastic, because that shows how dynamic and what a lot of research activity there is in palliative care. But we did have to think really hard about how to display the posters. What we’ve done in previous conferences is that we’ve had them up just for a single day. The problem with that is that you put in so much time and effort into preparing a poster, and come halfway round the world to put it up just for a couple of hours, maybe that doesn’t feel quite long enough. This year, people’s posters have been up for the whole conference, and this shows that we really value posters.

There is another category of posters that haven’t been graded as highly as the others, but we still think they present good work, so we’re publishing them in the abstract book. Then the really high quality ones, we have as panel discussions, because we feel that that gives people even more opportunity to have their work highlighted. It’s about capacity, it’s about how much poster room we can have, but also it’s about how much time people can have to walk around to see all the posters.

The next World Research Congress of the EAPC will be held in Dublin, Ireland. Find out more, including how to submit a nomination for the Early Researcher Award on the EAPC website.

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