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UCL Public Engagement Blog



Why you should get creative with your research

By Jordan Abankwah, on 31 March 2022

Holly shares her thoughts on the positive impact engagement and involvement have had on her work – and the benefits of being creative!

My name is Holly, and I’m a PhD student at University College London in the Institute of Epidemiology & Healthcare, funded by the NIHR School for Primary Care Research (SPCR). Here, I am sharing my experiences of getting creative with public engagement work for a small SPCR Patient and Public Involvement and Engagement (PPIE) grant in the hopes of inspiring you to do the same.

Where did the idea for your project come from?

When SPCR put out a call for projects which would ‘trial novel and creative approaches to public engagement in primary care research’ I knew I had to apply because I already had an idea in mind. My PhD is focused on women’s health after childbirth and although I didn’t have any children at the time (I do now) I knew from friends that many mums and dads receive lots of their parenting info and support through social media. In this project, I wanted to reach these existing networks to share information to help new mums with their mental health. So, we created a short video animation to encourage mums who need help with their mental wellbeing to seek support.

Who helped you along the way?

Three recent parents (two mothers and one father) with an interest in mental health research joined our project to guide us on the tone, style and content of the video. They helped us make our video message clearer and helped make the video style more accessible. I was also very fortunate that my brother-in-law works at a professional animation studio; he and the Co-Founder/Creative Director had both recently had children so we’re very keen to work on the project with me.

What are you most proud of?

By being more creative and visual with research findings and healthcare messaging we were able to explore an avenue of public engagement which more traditional research outputs do not lend themselves to. This non-traditional format allowed us to engage a wide and varied audience who may not typically engage with research, as social media is accessible to most new or expecting parents. I hope this video will have an impact and encourage women to seek support where they need it, and that this project inspires others to be creative with their research and engagement work.

What have you learnt from this project?

This project has continued to show me how important it is to understand the changes in parents’ mental health following childbirth. Feedback from our PPIE contributors consistently highlights how important this is. It was also a great opportunity to develop my communication skills, particularly, working towards a final product which contained accurate research information balanced with a visually interesting and engaging design.

What are your tips for other PhD students looking to get creative with their research?

  1. Find funding: Look out for small grants to support your PPIE work. This funding has been a fantastic opportunity to try something new and work on an idea that is often difficult to fit within the scope of larger funding calls.
  2. Think about your audience: Leave papers and posters for your thesis and think about how you and your friends like to consume new information – is it podcasts, tweets, interpretive dance? Speak to your audience and let them guide your project.
  3. Don’t work alone: Use your networks and ask for help.

You can see our finished video here. Please share:

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