POI Communications Training: Breaking the Fourth Wall

Published 10th September 2021


POI Communications Training: Breaking the Fourth Wall

On the 25th and 26th of May 2021, POI hosted a Communications Training workshop, in collaboration with Breakthrough Cancer Research. The two-day, web-based workshop provided cancer researchers insights into communicating their science using accessible language. It also provided an opportunity for researchers to co-develop an accessible research summary alongside Public Patient Involvement (PPI) Representatives. The training was attended by 18 researchers from both POI and Systems Biology Ireland (SBI; the centre who coordinates the POI programme).


Event Summary

In order to facilitate the training of POI researchers in science communication as well as providing them an opportunity to interact and engage with PPI representatives, in light of ongoing Covid19 precautions, the event was kept completely web-based. 

Day 1 of training was facilitated by the FH Media Consulting team of Gráinne Faller and Louise Holden, who are experts in science communication and media training for researchers. Their workshop first introduced the participating researchers to the importance of communicating their science, the fundamentals of science communication, and useful tips and tools for developing a lay summary of their research focus. The participating researchers were then given time to independently work on drafting a written summary of their research in accessible language. Gráinne and Louise then worked with the researchers both as a group to discuss their research summaries and by providing 1:1 individualised feedback. After learning all about effective communication and working hard on their research summaries, participants left Day 1 of training with a fantastic starting point of an accessible research project summary.

Day 2 of the training session kicked off with co-facilitators from Breakthrough Cancer Research, Dr. Frances Drummond (Research Officer) and Orla Dolan (Chief Executive), and POI’s Shashank Srinivas (comm’s manager) and Dr. Jessica Ralston (Chief Operations Officer). After discussing the importance of patient involvement in research, the participating researchers were introduced to 11 PPI (Public Patient Involvement) representatives who had offered their time to assist the researchers in producing accessible research summaries. Intros were followed by a breakout room activity on Zoom where the researchers were each paired with PPI representatives. The aim of these breakout sessions was to give the participating researchers the opportunity to ‘road test’ their draft research summary from Day 1 and to co-develop a truly accessible research summary alongside a PPI representative. These breakout sessions were followed by a group discussion, where the PPI representatives individually described the research summaries discussed in their respective breakout rooms, which was a true test of how well the researchers were able to communicate their project descriptions! Day 2 of the communication workshop was closed off with a fantastic session on Infographics presented by one of the PPI representatives, Kay Mckeon. Kay provided the participating researchers with incredible tips and tools for developing engaging and accessible infographics.

Following the training session, there was an outpour of feedback from participating researchers about how meaningful and informative they found the workshop. A true highlight was definitely the opportunity for researchers to discuss their research with PPI representatives. 

Since the launch of POI in November 2019, we have strived to involve and engaging cancer patients and patient advocates in our research programme as much as possible. Some may recall that POI participated in the PVCR ‘Dragon’s Den’ event in Galway back in February 2020, where feedback from PPI representatives encouraged POI to strive to present our research projects to public and patient audiences in an accessible way. This communications workshop in partnership with PPI representatives was an incredible way of working to achieve this goal of accessible research communication. 

To read more about the ‘Dragon’s Den’ event which POI participated in, please do check out the blog written on the same here

Having completed the communications workshop, not only do the participating researchers now have to hand an accessible summary of their research but our programme’s valuing and appreciation of PPI has been even further grounded. We want to extend our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to the PPI representatives and Breakthrough Cancer Research for their invaluable time, patience, and their unabated enthusiasm in participating in this event and their invaluable contributions and providing insights for the researchers to hone their science communication skills. From the feedback received by the participating researchers, one thing is certain; the researchers have found a renewed sense of duty in the importance of being inclusive in research science communication and an immense appreciation of the role of patients in cancer research.

The finished lay summaries from the POI researchers will be put up on the POI website on their respective project pages shortly – stay tuned!. A blog post from participants in the workshop will also be published shortly!