Thursday 18th June 2015 by @ClaireW_UK

I am Claire Gibbs, one half of the originators of the #WhyWeDoResearch campaign. This time last year I was not in the twittersphere and not particularly interesting in joining. However in the spirit of being a Senior Clinical Research Nurse, and therefore living and breathing research development (R&D) and innovation every day, I felt I should give it a go not only as an individual human being but also in leading our R&D department at The James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. I think it’s safe to say that twitter is an extremely powerful tool for connecting with patients and the public in a way I never would have dreamt was possible. 

We launched the #WhyWeDoResearch campaign at Christmas (2014) as a way of introducing our core research team members to our local area using twitter as the social media platform, and a way of giving people a voice to say why they do what they do. Between May and December 2014 our confidence had grown with SoMe therefore we felt it was appropriate and we were happy to aim for more of a patient and public focus. To participate in the campaign individuals held a placard which included the ‘#WhyWeDoResearch’ in type followed by their written reason why they do what they do. 

Within a week of the campaign starting other NHS Trusts began getting involved and the campaign, originally planned as the 12 days of Christmas, was extended to the New Year. Within four weeks we had ‘gone global’ reaching Australia and Spain first. At this point it seemed madness to stop, so we re-evaluated our approach. We had appointed Michael Keeling (Stroke Research Nurse in York) as a National Collaborator and decided to expand this to create a collaborators group (The group now consists of representatives from England, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Canada and Spain).

Two youtube videos were created to help advertisement; the first describes the campaign background, the second ‘From local to global’, and an article was published in the Nursing Times:

1. Background - via YouTube

2. From Local to Global - via YouTube

3. Nursing Times article http://www.nursingtimes.net/Journals/

Six months later and the impacts have been fabulous. The hashtag now has 29 million impressions, >31,000 tweets and >3,200 individual accounts/participants.

We announced our #WhyWeDoResearch ambassador role in May 2015 which enables organisations, patients and the public to have a more formal role in the campaign at local levels. Within 48 hours of the announcement we appointed 20 ambassadors who varied from representing NHS Trusts & Universities to members of the public; a fantastic example is @WendyPMitchell who as a member of the public is representing people with dementia. 

Whilst the campaign started and continues in the healthcare setting, it has gradually been spreading into other areas too. Some fantastic Primary School teachers became aware of the hashtag and used this within their schools. @WestQuartPrim in Scotland created an assembly purely around the campaign – their assembly trailer is fantastic and can be viewed here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDuem3eyA9g It shows that research is really fun as well as exciting and educational and they have since become our first #WhyWeDoResearch school ambassadors; we welcome them wholeheartedly. Children are of course the researchers of the future.

In June 2015 we were delighted to launch our website www.whywedoresearch.weebly.com which gives background to the campaign, as well as collaborator and ambassador tabs, alongside an ‘opportunities for patients’ tab (which was created following public followers requests), and a downloadable templates of placards and campaign leaflets.

We have been absolutely humbled and inspired by everyone involved in #whywedoresearch and the incredible reasons that researchers, staff, public and patients are involved in their various ways. I am very proud to have created the campaign however without everyone else; it would not be what it is today. The collaborators team work hard to realise the campaign purpose and it is wonderful that patient and public followers are now helping to shape this. 

Everyone involved in this campaign is doing so entirely voluntarily and the campaign is not funded other than that which we as collaborators have put in ourselves. We do it because we think that it is important, and we do it because we love it; feeling inspired by peers and public and patients every single day is wonderful, motivating and has created a real sense of community in an area which has previously felt quite lonely. 

We joke about people joining the “#WhyWeDoResearch train” quite often – if you would like to get involved and share your voice, the train isn’t stopping any time soon so please do. 


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