Big day tomorrow. The R&D team will be standing to attention, fingernails scrubbed and hair neatly parted on the left (right, for the lefties – if you get my drift). It’s our annual conference and an opportunity to let the rest of the organisation and local media know what we’re up to in research terms. Prof Louis Appleby CBE is a reformer of mental health services and our keynote speaker and there are others from the fields of autism and academia – Prof Hugo Critchley of Sussex Partnership and the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, and Prof Graham Davey of Sussex University. In a full programme, including papers on the effect of singing on brain function, and sexual healthcare for substance misusing women, the national inquiry into suicide, and the work of a neurobehavioural clinic, I will also be delivering a few words. My paper is, not too surprisingly, on the role of technology and networking in developing, collaborating, and disseminating research. I’ll also be leading a workshop a little later on getting started in research, aimed at clinicians with ideas and motivation who haven’t quite found their way onto the appropriate track. It can be difficult to juggle clinical priorities against something that may seem to be something of a luxury but involving frontline workers is the best way of ensuring that research is as directly linked to service needs as possible. A major funding stream argued, when challenged about diverting clinical energies in this way, that medics, nurses and other clinical staff have been inventing and developing new techniques, devices and care programmes for many years. The difference now is that, instead of those products being bought out by private companies and even other countries, they can become national health service assets that will be used to patient benefit and also possibly become income generators in their own right. I’m proud to have a small part in that new wave of activity. Even more so because my research involves people with learning disability who are participating on behalf of the rest of us rather than being the objects of study in themselves and that’s a bit of a first.
Of course the last time I gave a presentation involving technology, there was a power cut and, had it not been for some sort of generator kicking in at the last minute, it would have been delivered a cappella. I wonder how Louis is at close harmony..?