What is the impact of research within communities?

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Published: 6 Oct 2016
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Ms Alexa Bishop - Cancer Research UK, UK

Ms Bishop with ecancertv at the Highlighting Welsh Cancer Research Conference about the process of giving the public and supporters of Cancer Research UK access to research within hospitals and universities.

She also discusses the bridge between patients, public and researchers and the impact of research within communities.


Highlighting Welsh Cancer Research

What is the impact of research within communities?

Ms Alexa Bishop - Cancer Research UK, UK

My role as Research Engagement Manager for Cancer Research UK, based here in Cardiff at the Cancer Research UK Cardiff Centre, is all about bringing our research that happens in hospitals and universities and giving members of the public and supporters of Cancer Research UK, who obviously give their time and their money to fund ground-breaking research, allowing them to get access, to be able to see first-hand where that money goes, how it’s being spent locally and what impact it has. Being able to meet the researchers who are doing that research; to be able to give them motivation and inspiration for the future and also feel that their money is being spent doing something really valuable that has impact locally. We run events, we allow supporters and the public to go into labs and what we’re all about is being that bridge, really, between the public, the patients, people who are interested in cancer and interested in cancer research and giving them the opportunity to see the research for themselves and what impact it has, particularly in the local community.

How have Cancer Research UK events helped researchers?

The past couple of years we’ve run a big Cancer Research open day where we’ve opened up one of our research buildings and brought lots of researchers together from multidisciplinary angles of research. So clinicians, lab researchers, nurses, all sorts of people, researchers from across the research journey, and brought them together in one event where the public could come in and see the breadth of research which happens across Wales to really find out about what Cancer Research is doing. Also working with other partners, other organisations, that are really important in cancer research in Cardiff, in Wales, so that other charities, the other organisations, to really show how collaborative research is. So everyone is working together to ultimately bring benefit for cancer patients.

One of the real benefits that our researchers find of working in engagement, and often they’ve spent long days in the lab but they still come out and attend evening events, they might give up their weekends, because actually talking to people and sharing what they do, it really brings the value of what they do home and really gives them motivation for the future to work that much harder because they see the bigger picture when they’re talking to people and sharing what they do. Just from a really personal perspective, when talking to patients, when talking to the public, they really admire the researchers and what they’re doing and the impact that they have. It really motivates and inspires the researchers to keep on going. They might have had a really bad day in the lab but actually that conversation that they had with someone and someone, a patient, said thank you because they’re alive today whereas actually twenty years ago that research has actually allowed them to be alive today whereas in years gone by they might not have survived the cancer that they had. So it really is worthwhile and I think researchers really get quite a lot of personal enjoyment from being involved in engagement activities.

Also, when we organise big events, when we bring lots of researchers together, actually there’s a really big networking opportunity for them to be able to mingle on a very informal basis and have those conversations which may not occur in a formal meeting setting but actually chatting very informally at one of these open days discussions happen that definitely lead to other things. I know researchers have come to me afterwards saying, ‘Oh, today was great. I managed to catch so-and-so and we had a really good chat whereas I’ve been trying to get a meeting with them for the past three months but actually our diaries were never compatible and it couldn’t happen,’ but they managed to get together and have a really good conversation. So I think engagement benefits the researchers and it really benefits and brings a lot to the public as well. It’s really important for those two areas to be brought together to have that meaningful conversation in the middle.