How to get involved with research
Research is an integral component of high quality clinical care and it is through research that much of our daily practice base itself on. There are many reasons for being involved in research, including improving your understanding and knowledge in a particular area, wanting an alternate working style to clinical work, or simply to enhance your CV. Plenty of junior doctors and medical students want to at least have a taste of research but find it difficult to dip their toes into it. It can be daunting and without proper guidance, you can easily be overwhelmed and develop dislike towards research before experiencing the best of what it has to offer. Here I will outline some simple steps to get involved with research.
Find a supervisor
Finding a supervisor who is experienced and happy to provide guidance is crucial in undertaking any form of research (or any project in general). Most people can achieve this through a research period during their medical school years. Medical schools are required to dedicate some time during training to expose their students to research so most will have at least 4 weeks where you get to undertake a research topic of your choosing. This is a good time to get to know your supervisor, and if you can work well with them, then try to stay in touch even after the university mandated project. They usually have other research work that you may be able to get involved in if you show your enthusiasm. Alternatively, as a junior doctor, consultants are also required to carry out research work for CPD so feel free to approach them as well. Your educational or clinical supervisor may be able to point you towards specific consultants who are active in research.
Getting directly involved with a large scale multicentre randomised controlled trial can be extremely daunting. But for those who are on the fence about committing a lot of time to these big projects, consider smaller projects that can be completed over weeks to a month or two. There is no point worrying about things like citations and journal impact factor when you are just starting out.
Case reports are a great way to get some publications on your CV and practice writing in scientific language. You will also be contributing to the available evidence pool so whilst unlikely to influence clinical decision making, can serve as a piece to a bigger puzzle especially when someone conducts a review of a series of case reports. These cases are usually common presentations of rare conditions or rare presentations of common conditions. So if you ever come across an interesting case, consider writing it up to be submitted to a journal. You will also get the chance to practice some of the 'soft skills' in research such as taking consent from patients to participate in research, and organising manuscripts/figures/tables according to journal requirements.
For those seeking an avenue to directly share your research findings with a live audience, conferences are a great way to achieve this whilst being a social gathering for those interested in research as well. There are a multitude of conferences for each specialty, and will usually accept scientific abstracts to be presented as a poster or oral presentation (or both). Depending on the organising party, some would publish or archive the posters which means you get a unique identifier, essentially hitting two birds with one stone giving you a presentation and publication in one go. There may also be prizes up for grabs which could further enhance your CV.
Once you feel comfortable enough and want further exposure to research, consider being involved as a local collaborator to a regional or national audit. This will equip you with the basics of conducting trials such as adhering to study protocols and seeking Caldicott approval for data sharing. Consider doing the modules on NIHR website, especially the Good Clinical Practice (GCP)- the certification is very useful when you want to be involved as an investigator in any clinical trial.
Hopefully this post gives you a better idea on how to get involved with research. Share your experience below on your personal experience and views in research.