Picture the (pre-covid) scene. Two strangers meet in front of a poster at a conference, each balancing a teeny cup of unnecessarily strong coffee, a conference tote full of paper, branded plastic pens, and a plate of quartered sarnies. “Hi, what do you do for a living?” It’s an innocuous enough question. My answer might be “I’m a research coordinator for the Drugs Research Network Scotland”. Of course, that vague job title answer would immediately provoke a volley response asking quite what a research coordinator for the DRNS does. The answer I might give is unnecessarily long for random social encounters. It goes something like this:
The work that I do is guided by the stated aim of the DRNS:
To develop a Scottish drugs research strategy to build capacity, maximise research investment and deliver robust, high-quality research evidence to inform policy and practice relevant to problem drug use and recovery in Scotland. As well as facilitating collaboration across Scotland, we will also develop links with leading researchers elsewhere in the UK and in other countries.
My part in that process is to work on “facilitating collaboration” and “build capacity” so that all those other fine outcomes can happen. I’m a part of a small DRNS team, and we all work for you across the research lifecycle.
From ideas to proposal
Research is a team activity. To do it well, we work with others. We all know that this process is better if you get an interdisciplinary, possibly an international team together. If you have the kernel of an idea, it is likely you will be looking for a team that has all the skills and knowledge you might need to flesh the idea into a proposal. A large part of my work goes on behind the scenes, getting to know people, finding out what they are interested in and what they do. I do that so that I can help you to gather a group of people with the right skills and knowledge. Once there are key people that are interested, we can ask for my colleague Jess’s help. She can help you run meetings or events where you can bounce ideas around with them, settle on a plan and/or work out your next steps. It’s quite likely the team will need to include lived and living experience folk from the very off, and Josh, the DRNS community researcher can certainly help with that.
Creating and costing the proposal, finding funding
Having helped you to build a good team and flesh out that idea, the DRNS is well-placed to help you to put together a bid. We can help with costings and drafting the proposal and I can also help you to find funding for your brilliant ideas by hunting through the calls and working out what the funders need from you.
Conducting the research
Even if you secure the funding, another key problem can be finding the right staff to work on the studies and supporting them. A key part of the DRNS aim is to build and support the research workforce of the future. We are currently working on plans to encourage and support early career researchers to be involved with research. ‘Early Career Researchers’ is a heading that we are sure includes lived experience researchers, practitioners and early-stage academics, and I hope to tell you more about our exciting plans for this in a future blog.
Reporting and disseminating
The bit at the end of the research process can be tricky. It is rarely funded but it needs to happen, and it needs to happen well. As part of the DRNS team, I can help here too. We can help with briefings, including lay briefings. We are happy to help you to advertise, plan, and run dissemination events, including events which involve practitioners and those with lived experience. We can promote your work via networks that DRNS is working hard to establish and nurture. We have high hopes for our new website as a way to connect and inform people and I’ll tell you more about that in a future blog too.
So, the next time somebody asks me what I do, maybe I should just say, “I’m the research coordinator for the Drugs Research Network Scotland. My job is to grease the wheels of research. Get in touch if you think I can help”.
About Hazel. Hazel is a research coordinator working for the Drugs Research Network. She says she hopes one day she’ll meet you at a conference so she can ask what you do and how she can help. She will probably give the coffee a miss. You can contact her at email@example.com