Helping analysts make impact: reflections on attending the 2022 International Population Data Linkage Network Conference
In this blog, Abbie Bevan, Impact Manager at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), reflects on her experience of running a public engagement workshop at the 2022 International Population Data Linkage Network Conference co-hosted by ADR UK and ADR Scotland.
On 5 September, Emma Atkinson (ONS Secure Research Service Engagement), James Spurr and I (ONS Secure Research Service Impact) travelled to Edinburgh for the International Population Data Linkage Network (IPDLN) conference. The IPDLN conference happens every two years and this year ADR UK and the University of Edinburgh hosted a fantastic event in a beautiful city, which is home to incredible architecture and Greyfriars Bobby.
We travelled to the event to host a pre-conference workshop with our friends from ADR UK, ADR NI, ADR Wales and ADR Scotland. With 20 delegates in attendance, we used our 90 minutes to discuss ways of increasing ‘Impact through effective engagement and partnership’.
With help from our ADR UK partners, we presented cases studies describing how an effective engagement plan for research using secure data can have big impact with policymakers and the third sector. We then facilitated conversations with our delegates to see if we could help them create an “engagement and participation tree” to visualise how their research could be even more impactful.
There were some fantastic and insightful conversations using real scenarios from our delegates, including international examples. One group talked through the early career challenges with a UK PhD student, who had volunteered her project for discussion. Another table listened to the five-year journey taken by a Canadian researcher, who with the help of local champions, was working to integrate accessible health care with indigenous communities.
On the other table an Australian health care analyst was taking inspiration from his peers to overcome lack of visibility for their early work to link data from hospital settings. Each facilitator scribbled down what they heard in these discussions and the main outcomes from the workshop were:
- Engagement can be daunting - there was a common feeling of imposter syndrome that ‘your’ research may not be interesting. You need confidence in your research and yourself.
- Strength in numbers: you can never talk or network with too many people - throw a broad net when identifying potential stakeholders. Think about the potential impact your research could have and who could benefit from your research.
- Different methods of engagement - could focus groups or attending public events be useful? Who do you need in your focus group or what events would be useful?
- Keep the communication channels open - once you have made these connections you could set up quarterly meetings for updates and discussions.
After our workshop, we had to practice what we preached, as we set about engaging and networking with delegates for the rest of the conference. By the end, our brains were full of information but excited by the new connections and ideas generated. We were also already pondering how we could participate in the next IPDLN conference which is due to be held in Chicago in 2024.