Finding your crew: Creating new networks for digital health research
By Artur Direito, on 10 January 2018
By Becky White, PhD candidate at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia
The PhD journey can be a roller-coaster ride. There are so many new things to learn, new systems to navigate, and it can sometimes feel a bit isolating. To add to this, as more and more researchers seek to use digital tech in their health research, students can find that despite having long established public health and behaviour change networks, the collaboration opportunities on the digital tech side may be lacking. PhD students can find themselves leading digital health interventions, without any background working with technology, and lacking relevant networks. This is especially true for those of us who don’t work in big digital behaviour change teams.
After a Health Sciences, Higher Degree by Research (HDR) seminar at Curtin university in Perth, Western Australia in 2016, a few of us presenting on research using mobile and web apps got talking. We realized that with previous research and work experience in health and varying digital tech backgrounds, we were very much in that boat. And while our health issues of interest were different, there was a significant opportunity for us to support each other by working together and collaborating. As there was no network specifically for HDR researchers working on digital health behavior change interventions, we started our own.
We started the group over a year ago. Throughout 2017 we have grown to include researchers in fields other than health from faculties across our university. We’ve met monthly, with different researchers leading different discussion topics at each meeting. Despite the diversity in our research, there is commonality in many of the methods, papers, funding and conference opportunities, and we have found all the discussions have broad relevance.
Over the last year our group has had discussions about such diverse topics as using gamification in interventions with children, how best to measure user engagement, commercialization and using 3D imaging software to help create devices for people with disabilities. One of the most interesting aspects of the group from my point of view is that by involving researchers from different faculties across the university, there are a range of different viewpoints at each discussion, forcing me to consider things a little differently.
As traditional health research increasingly diversifies into using tech, new networks are needed and this group has provided an opportunity for us to have discussions with other HDR researchers about digital health planning, methods and evaluation. As PhD students, building networks for future work is vital. Creating this group has provided an avenue for collaboration in an innovative way that specifically suits the needs of PhD candidates.
- How have you found your networks as a PhD student, or how do you help facilitate networks for PhD students you may be supervising?
- How important do you think it is to be able to collaborate with people outside of your immediate area of expertise?
Becky White is a PhD candidate at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. Her research involves investigating the impact Milk Man, a socially connected, gamified breastfeeding app targeted at fathers, has on exclusive breastfeeding duration. She is particularly interested in evaluation and engagement. As a director at Reach Health Promotion Innovations, Becky also collaborates with a range of public health organisations to develop engaging, evidence-based mobile apps. Becky has worked in health promotion for over 10 years and is committed to seeing how we can best use mobile technology to improve health.
Read about Becky’s PhD research here – www.pifistudy.net.au
RHPI – rhpi.com.au