Recently, we (Louise Pealing and Kerstin Frie) joined the NIHR doctoral training camp in Leeds for a three-day roller coaster of work and fun. 68 PhD students from across the country gathered to learn more about communication plans and research dissemination.
It all started quite harmless, with some introductory talks about the NIHR and presentations of our fellow training camp members. But then the actual work began: We were split into 10 groups of 6-7 people. Each team was assigned a published paper and we were instructed to pretend this was our own research for the duration of the camp.
We had 24 hours to come up with a communications plan, which should aim to distribute the news of our research results. This included deciding on an audience to address, gathering ideas of how to reach this audience, coming up with a budget plan and planning evaluation methods.
Although writing a communications plan in a day is already a challenge, the training camp organisers additionally bombarded as with surprise tasks, such as writing a press release within an hour, giving an impromptu interview to a reporter and having to justify ourselves to the director of the camp at a random time of the day.
Nevertheless, we all finished our communications plans in time. The pressure fell off for a few hours and everyone enjoyed a lovely and extensive dinner, mingling and chatting with other PhD students.
In the morning of the last day, we then had to present our plan to an interview panel. The panel was carefully put together, a group of interviewers who had one common goal: ask the difficult questions and make us sweat. After two hours of presentations, we all breathed a sigh of relief. We had done our part. The interview panel awarded three groups with prizes, which were all well-deserved. After that, the training camp closed with a tasty lunch and some final chats with our group members.
Even though this all sounds terribly stressful (which we assure you – it was), we also had a lot of fun during our three days in Leeds. Getting to know other people widened our horizon for the work conducted in the name of the NIHR and the wide range of disciplines covered.
The organisers made sure that everyone understood the camp as a fun challenge. It is a shame that we won’t be allowed to participate a second time because we would be more than happy to do it again.