Ethics & Engagement across the Wellcome Trust Major Overseas Programmes
I’ve now been in post at MLW for over 15 months, so Dina’s encouragement to write a blog was a good prompt to reflect on what we’ve done in that time. I have three main areas of work with GHBN links: evaluating science communication activities, supporting GHBN bursary projects, and wider ethics research. I’ll say a little about each in turn.
Part of my role involves supporting monitoring and evaluation of MLW’s science communication. Regina and others in the Science Communication team are great colleagues to work with, and they have taught me a lot about community and public engagement. The team is keen to expand their M&E, and we have developed an M&E strategy that defines our evaluation approach and planned methods for different engagement activities. It’s been fun thinking about different ways to assess impacts, and I’ve particularly enjoyed seeing how discussions about M&E lead to changes in engagement activities. For example, as we clarify intended impacts to plan M&E data collection, we sometimes realise additional activities are needed to support those impacts – so M&E helps programme thinking even before any data is collected. Our M&E still faces lots of challenges, including more conceptual issues (what counts as an improved understanding of research? Is enjoyment of an exhibition enough, or should we consider impact on careers?), and practical issues around data collection and analysis (there’s a lot of work to do!). However, we now have some exciting plans and I’m looking forward to seeing these put into practice over the next year. The GHBN community has been hugely valuable for our M&E thinking – we have really benefitted from sharing ideas, both ‘bilaterally’ and through the summer school and excellent workshop recently organised recently by Dorcas, Robin, MESH and others.
In relation to the GHBN bursary projects, I have the great pleasure of working with the current MLW bursary fellows (Elvis, Mackwellings, Mphatso, Mtisunge and Neema), and with Helen Mangochi, who is part of the collaborative project on consent led by Susi Bull. It’s been really interesting to share ideas and learn from these colleagues and to hear about their experiences and findings. Over the last year, I have seen people do their first ethics applications, qualitative interviews, coding, posters and oral presentations - exciting achievements that show the progress of the fellows and the value of these projects for supporting research skills. The projects all feed into MLW’s ethics and engagement practice, and the College of Medicine Research Ethics Committee is also interested in the findings.
While the M&E and bursary projects are directly under my GHBN hat, involvement with GHBN also supports my wider research. One research project (working with Nic and Mack) examines engagement with a vaccine trial, looking at aspects such as the way different contexts affect decisions about participation and the acceptability of trial designs. Ideas from GHBN colleagues have helped my analysis of the findings (and I’m hoping they will continue helping through draft papers and the July conference – thanks in advance!). We’re just starting a new project on maternal vaccination, which will include development of a framework to assess whether health services are acceptable, rights-based, equitable, people-centred and ethical, so I’m sure I’ll draw on GHBN for ideas again. Going forwards, I’m planning more work on acceptability, with a strong ethics component.
So thanks GHBN for a great 15 months, and thanks to my MLW colleagues for all their support - I promise that in another 15 months we’ll be having meetings in Chichewa!
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