Staff Research Champions: Empowering Research Advocates

24 May 2023

Creating a research culture in the workplace is crucial for advancing knowledge and improving all areas of practices. That’s why NIHR ARC North Thames is supporting a new network of Staff Research Champions of healthcare professionals and staff from NHS Trusts and local authority settings, to empower them to advocate for research in their settings.

In this blog, Dr Fran Zanatta and Lucy Thompson (ARC North Thames) reflect on the event, and participants' views on what it takes to be a good Research Champion.


What is a research champion?

A research champion is someone who actively promotes and supports research within their organisation. They can be anyone - including healthcare professionals, administrators, public health workers, or local authority staff. They are a crucial to fostering a research culture and driving engagement in research initiatives.



At a recent one-day Research Champions training for mental health staff, ARC North Thames underlined its commitment to support frontline health, social care and local authority workers who want to advocate for research within their practice. Here are some top tips for Research Champions which were suggested by participants:


Advocate and engage: As a Research Champion, it’s important to advocate for the importance of research and its impact on improving practices, policies, and outcomes. Champions do just that – they champion research within their organisation, promoting its value and benefits. This championing inspires others to engage in research activities, fostering a sense of enthusiasm and ownership. By encouraging colleagues to participate actively in research projects, they can promote a research-friendly environment.

Communicate: Research Champions walk a fine line between listening and talking. By keeping their ear to the ground for the latest developments and advancements in research via articles, and attending conferences, they are able to take advantage of learning opportunities. They also gather insights on attitudes towards research among their colleagues, to understand views and help debunk myths about research!

Share: Research champions actively connect researchers, patients and public, promoting best practices within their organisation. This relies on good communication skills; it takes time and practice to effectively communicate complex research concepts to different audiences, using clear and concise language. Champions work to ensure that research is inclusive and gets translated into practical applications and contribute to evidence-based decision-making.



Collaboration through supportive networks

The ARC North Thames training day brought together individuals from a number of different practice areas, including nursing, pharmacy, psychotherapy and public health. This diversity of thought supporting a key focus of the training – to develop a Staff Mental Health Research Champion Network. This Network will allow individuals to stay connected with others in similar roles across different organisations to share best practice, ideas and challenges, and to ask questions. Recognising that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and different things will work for different teams and settings, the new Research Champion Network will facilitate continued knowledge sharing!

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